Living on Faith
One Christian Woman’s Story
About Divorce and Recovery
Judy Giddens Sheriff, Ph.D.
Copyright © 2002, 2017 Judy Giddens Sheriff, Ph.D.
First printing 2002
2nd Edition (Revised) 2017
ISBN 978-1-938796-20-3 eBook
Library of Congress Number: 2017901010
ISNI 0000 0000 5048 9968
Christian Life • Religious and Inspirational • Personal Growth •
Faith • Self-Help • Family
Fruitbearer Publishing, LLC
P.O. Box 777, Georgetown, DE 19947
302.856.6649 • FAX 301.856.7742
quotations marked (NIV) are taken from Holy Bible, New International
Version®, copyright © 1973, 1974, 1978 by International Bible
Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights
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USA copyright law.
To my husband and best friend, Richard,
my parents, John and Beulah Giddens,
my children, Carla and Jason, and
my closest friend, Janet McGee.
you, Richard, for seeing beyond my fears and believing in me. Your
encouragement and love mean the world to me and have helped me
fulfill a dream. I thank God for placing you in my life as you are
not only my husband but my best friend. We share a Christian bond
together for eternity as husband and wife. Thank you for taking over
so many household duties for me while I spent hours at the computer
and for your endless hours of assistance showing me how to make my
book more exciting and readable. You are a source of inspiration and
encouragement to me. I love you.
Mother, you gave me a
sense of independence and a desire to follow my dream. Years ago you
encouraged me to write a book, and I always kept that desire in my
heart. You taught me to write, and I thank you and love you for it. I
am so grateful for your love during those years of pain for all of
us. For my daddy, who is now in heaven, I am grateful for the love
and compassion that he and my mother showed to me and encouraged me
to show this same love and compassion to others. I know he would be
so proud to know that I was fulfilling a dream to help others through
my writing. My parents and friends, I love you.
My children, Carla and
Jason, you are my most prized possessions. You are precious gifts
from God, and I thank you for your encouragement to write this book.
In the midst of the pain in our family, I never stopped loving you
and never will. Thank you for loving me and wanting me to be happy
again. I pray there has been healing for you, also. I love you both
To my best friend,
Janet, I want to extend my appreciation and thanks for standing by me
through the years of pain and confusion. God placed you in my life to
be my encourager, counselor, and my very best friend. Your laughter
sustained me so many times, and you always had a special way of
making me feel better. You never gave up on me. You have touched my
life by being a ready help in any situation. I love you.
Thank you to my cousin,
Linda, who was such an inspiration to me during my divorce and the
years that followed. Your smiles, laughter, and determination to
survive your own divorce were an encouragement that has reached
beyond words. Thank you for restoring my desire to write when I felt
I had nothing to say that would be of interest to anyone. Our times
of sharing and praying and the closeness we felt will always have a
special place in my heart. Thank you for being not only my cousin but
also my friend. I love you.
To my cousin, Diane, I
appreciate your words of encouragement when I wanted to give up
writing. Your words of praise and telling me you were proud of me
kept me going. Your sweet spirit and positive attitude have been a
blessing. Our childhood years will always be dear to my heart. Thank
you for being an inspiration to me. You, too, are not only my cousin
but also my friend. I love you.
Not discrediting His
place in my thanksgiving by listing Him last, I thank my heavenly
Father for allowing me to have an earthly family who loves me, but,
more importantly, to be part of His family for eternity. I thank Him
for giving me life and the ability to use my talents and gifts to
bring honor to Him. For all the times when I hurt and felt that I was
a failure, I thank Him for holding me tightly in His arms and
assuring me that I was His child and that He would not leave me. I
thank Him for the healing that has taken place in my emotions and for
giving me a wonderful Christian man to share my life with until He
calls us home. I thank Him for the ability to share my story with
those who may be hurting and lonely and pray that He will minister to
them through my experiences. But most of all, I thank Him for being
my Savior and Friend. I love you, Lord.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1 Alone and Scared
2 Searching for Somewhere to Belong
3 Please God, Don’t Take My Music!
4 Flying High at 30,000 Feet
5 From My Will to God’s Will
6 Daddy, Don’t Leave Me!
7 Angels in Disguise
8 At Peace With My Past
9 Growing Through Your Divorce
10 Allowing God to Lead
11 Special to God and His Purposes
Food for Thought
Don’t miss the section provided at the end
of each chapter for
shopping, try a new haircut, redecorate your house, take a cruise,
start dating, learn to shag. The list of suggestions goes on from
well-meaning friends who were also experiencing the “single-again”
Married for twenty-two
years and suddenly single again. What was this new life all about?
I’d been with the same man, rearing children, teaching school,
serving on church committees, attending T-ball, jr. high and high
school basketball and baseball, gymnastics, cheerleading, and all the
other things that make up the life of a mother and wife. I didn’t
know how to be single again.
There was a deluge of
advice. Actually, some of it appealed to me. For example,
redecorating my house was intriguing, but since the house was sold,
that would not be a possibility. The cruise? Well, that had tones of
relaxation, but I hadn’t relaxed or had time for myself in
twenty-two years and wasn’t sure how to accomplish such a
monumental task. Besides, I had an insurmountable, but reverential,
fear of any water that rose above the knees. I would never have
survived the Ark episode. Noah and I probably would have come to a
parting of the ways, for there was no way I would have emerged from
that first historical cruise with any manner of sanity. The
interesting advice to learn to shag opened up possibilities, but I
wasn’t sure what it was. If I remember correctly, I vaguely
recalled a haircut in the 50s or 60s called the shag cut. What was
shagging? I later became familiar with this new dance for the “single
again” group which took me to a new level of “singledom.”
The events that
followed my entry into the frightening world of people without
partners were events that changed my life forever. It is my prayer
that as you read this book, you will find humor that will reach into
the depths of your soul and bring forth hearty laughter. Other
situations will touch your heart with warmth and, at times, bring
tears. On many occasions, I had to remind myself of God’s promise
in Hebrews 13:5. “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake
you.” Throughout my years of living alone, I found I was recalling
and claiming the words of the Bible I had been taught as a child.
Never before had there been such an urgency to apply those words to
Alone and Scared
I stood. The door closed behind me, shutting me out of everything
that was familiar. Facing me was a car that had out-served its
usefulness, a driveway that led to a world of uncertainty, and a fear
that gripped my soul to the core of my being. Tears welled up as I
listened to the pounding of my heart, not knowing which direction to
go. If I did proceed in some direction, what would I do when I
arrived there? I knew I needed a place to live, and I also knew I was
very limited financially.
The home that held so
many wonderful memories and the walls that recently rang with
children’s laughter and play were silent. A new owner would invade
my private world. Perhaps someone else would enjoy the large yard
with the swimming pool and would feel the love and warmth that used
to permeate the house. For now, all I knew was loneliness and fear. I
had no clue what I would be facing in the days, weeks, months, and
years to come. I did, however, know I would get through this ordeal
and would be a stronger person because of it. Little did I know just
how strong I would become and how that strength would be tested!
My first attempt to
step out into the world of the unknown was to get the car to start.
It was old and had taken many trips to the mechanic to get one more
booster shot before putting it out of its misery. Being on my own, I
knew I had to have some means of transportation that would be
dependable for there was no longer a man in the house to take care of
these matters (along with squashing bugs, reaching things on the top
shelf, and sweeping out the garage). But before I could find the
courage to purchase a new car, I had to find a place to call home.
Every apartment I
looked at was too expensive, too large, too small, or too antiquated.
One garage apartment was so dilapidated; I expected the landlord to
sketch out a useful map showing the places where I could step without
falling through the floor. It smelled of urine, and the walls were
dark and coated with mildew. I didn’t even venture into the kitchen
or bathroom for fear of what uncanny creature might be lurking,
waiting for its next tenant. I kindly thanked the elderly gentleman
and rushed to my car, tears streaming down my face. What would I do?
I reminded myself God promised not to leave me, so where was He right
then? I needed someone to talk with, to cry to, to ask advice, to be
my friend. For the first time, I felt totally alone. My oldest child
had finished school and was planning on moving to another city. My
youngest asked if he could live with his dad because of their common
interest and activity in sports. Yes, I had parents, children, church
family, and co-workers, but I felt I needed someone who would really
understand what I was feeling at that moment. All of my friends were
happily married, so I knew they couldn’t possibly understand the
fear and loneliness that was tearing at my heart. I was so wrapped up
in my own self-pity that I couldn’t see that God was right there
with me. All I had to do was cry out to Him, and He would give me the
comfort and strength I needed.
Later that evening,
after an uneventful search for a place to live, I returned to the
place that was still “home” until the new owner took up
residence. There was a stillness and a coldness I hadn’t felt
before, and yet I could hear in my heart and mind the children
calling me and needing me. Their little hands, dirty from playing in
the yard, were tugging at my clothes, and their sweet voices asking
for a Popsicle. As I walked throughout the house, I recalled all
those sleepovers the children had. I hadn’t minded all the popcorn,
chips, tapes, and clothing strewn around the room. I could almost
hear the giggles and the telephone conversations they’d had with
I entered my son’s
bedroom and felt so close to him. If only I could retrieve those
years and do things differently. It really wasn’t that important if
crayons marked the walls or cookies were crumbled on the carpet. The
little cars and trucks that lined the windowsill took him on many far
away journeys. I stood there wishing I had taken more time to share
thoughts, dreams, and plans with him. I missed the smell of those
jerseys and tennis shoes that screamed out the victory of the game.
The small Bible he had received when he was baptized was still in the
dresser drawer along with some other treasures I would keep for him.
I recalled all the nights I tucked him in. Sometimes he would fall
asleep wearing a football helmet, and his bedposts were always
adorned with baseball caps and gloves. He was such a wonderful
athlete, and trophy after trophy graced his shelves. What a wonderful
blessing from God—my son. As my eyes searched the room, hoping he
would somehow materialize, my heart ached with the pain of not having
him there to hold once more or to tell him I loved him. Yes, he was
still with me in my heart, and even living within reach, but not for
that moment. I needed him so much right then to put his arms around
me and say, “Mom, I love you, and everything will be all right.”
I prayed I taught him well.
The next room was my
daughter’s. I gazed at the wall she had painted with the scene of a
cartoon character on a surfboard. I wondered if the new owners would
paint over it and erase such a loving work of art. Her room was a
reminder of our mother-daughter talks. Her dressing table held
lipstick and nail polish. Where were the dolls and coloring books?
What had happened to the little girl I used to hold and cuddle with
when there was a storm? She had grown into a beautiful young woman
with plans and dreams of her own. I had taught her how to cook and
make minor sewing repairs. But, at this moment, I needed her, too, to
hug me and tell me I had not been a failure as a mother. If only
instruction books were given to new parents. Then I remembered how I
had used the most important instruction book of all to teach my
children, the Bible. I only hoped all they were taught would someday
manifest itself in their lives as adults. How difficult it was to let
go and trust she was following her dreams.
Then I carefully
entered our room, a room that had been my haven of rest when I was
weary. Many times during the day the children would stand outside the
partially closed door and whisper that Mommy was praying and they
couldn’t disturb her. As I glanced into the bathroom, I recalled a
day when I had decided to take a leisurely bubble bath. Since the
children were outside playing, I had some free time to relax, or so I
thought. As I was drifting off into a land of total euphoria, the
bathroom door flew open and there stood my small son with three of
his little friends. As best as I could, I tried to rearrange the
bubbles strategically so as not to cause any questions from the
little fellas. All they wanted to know was whether or not they could
have a Popsicle.
My mind wandered as I
sat on the bed I had once shared with my husband of twenty-two years.
It was then I realized what was really happening. I fell to my knees
and sobbed until I was breathless. What had I done to deserve this?
Where did I go wrong? Could I have done anything to prevent it? What
would happen to me now? Hadn’t I been a good wife and mother?
Wasn’t I always available for my family? Couldn’t they count on
me to be there for them at all times? I cried to God to hear me, to
answer me. Somehow I found a portion of rest during the night, crying
myself to sleep.
This feeling of
loneliness can rip at your heart and emotions. God was aware I was
alone and hurting, and yet, He wanted me to know my needs are met in
Him alone. When we are separated physically, the mental and emotional
separation comes with it. Goodbyes hurt, and everyone has to say
goodbye to something or someone eventually. Is there a lonelier word
than “goodbye?” We say goodbye when we lose someone we love
through death, through divorce or separation, when our children leave
home, or if our parents are placed in a nursing home.
Alone. Even the word
itself when written looks cold and bleak. Sometimes being alone makes
us want to retreat from life, but we can’t do that. Life does go
on, and we must be a part of the difficult task of beginning the
One of the lessons I
learned was, as a Christian, it is impossible to be alone and
isolated. We are never truly alone because God is with us, whether we
feel Him or not, whether we recognize His presence or not. He is
there. Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do
not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help
you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” I had to
reach out to Him and ask to feel His presence in my life, to
experience His wonderful friendship, and I had to allow Him to
support me by His strength.
Today was a new day and
one I had to face alone. It proved to be somewhat better than the one
before. I found a place to live. It was not what I really wanted, but
it was shelter that seemed clean. My hope was that it would protect
me not only from the elements but also from what was to come. It
would suffice until I could find something that would be a permanent
home for me. For a much younger person, it would have been ideal for
it was located at the beach. But for me, I wanted to pull away from
anything that even remotely smacked of fun and frivolity. I had a
view of the ocean, and there were a few restaurants nearby. However,
the one drawback was that I was living there during the winter and
there were very few people inhabiting the houses. The silent beach
and the boarded up stores were constant reminders of my loneliness.
The area that would be shouting to the heavens with excitement,
music, and fun-filled activities during the summer now sat empty,
dark, and emitted a sense of eeriness. Once again, the loneliness
impounded me. The paper-thin walls of the apartment prevented me from
expressing my emotions. I would sink my face into my pillow and sob
for hours, but I was always careful not to allow my cries to disturb
The people who lived on
one side of me were quite strange. They watched me as I left the
apartment and watched me as I returned. They never spoke or offered
to help me carry packages or groceries to the third floor. There
wasn’t an elevator. They peered out their window and would
sometimes open their door just far enough to see me pass by. Didn’t
they care? They knew nothing about me or my situation, but somehow I
felt they should have sensed my fear and loneliness. I’m sure it
was quite evident in my countenance. I knew I had to find another
place to live—and soon before I lost my sanity.
Once I was settled in
the apartment, there was the ordeal of having to get established at
the post office. I had lived in the country and had a rural mailbox.
The mail carrier usually left me stamps as I requested, so I wasn’t
sure what to do about renting a mailbox, but I began the journey. It
was a fairly new building, and the American flag flew high. A sense
of patriotism welled up inside me as I gazed at Old Glory. At least I
felt as if America loved me, and I knew I still loved her.
As I was getting out of
my car, I noticed a strange man approaching me. Still apprehensive
about my new life, and definitely not wanting to indulge in sidewalk
conversation with a man I didn’t know, I was cautious as he came
closer. I was taken back when he said, “Ma’am, I think I have a
bra that would fit you.” Dare I run for help, get in my car that
might or might not start, scream, thank him and ask what size, or
just stand there with a dumb expression on my face? As these choices
and a bit of curiosity welled up in me, I froze. He must have
recognized my fear or astonishment, and quickly explained that it was
a cover that would fit the grill of my car. Whoever heard of such a
thing! I was only familiar with the bra that I was wearing, and I
wasn’t about to discuss my size with him.
Being raised in the
style of a true Southern lady, I couldn’t punch him in the nose or
tell him what to do with his bra, so I thanked him and said I wasn’t
interested. I tried to cover my nervousness with humor, telling him
the bra would probably double the value of my car and I’d lose my
investment soon when I traded it in. Who knows, maybe the new car
would come with its own wardrobe, bra included.
That was my first
personal encounter with a person of the opposite sex since my new
life as a single had begun, and I was horrified. Is this what was in
store for me in the future? Men who would approach women with such
tacky lines? I had seen things on TV portraying men meeting women in
bars and the approaches they would make, but even they didn’t
prepare me for that one. Frankly, I wasn’t interested in any men or
their lines. After all, I still had to get inside the post office to
establish residence. The postal worker was quite friendly and
welcomed me to the beach. It was a painless ordeal, with the
exception of the man and his bra.
It was December, and I
had reached an all-time low in depression while living at the beach.
Anxiety attacks were frequent, and I had to depend on sleeping pills
to acquire any kind of rest at all. Sometimes the anxiety attacks
would be so severe I would rush out onto the balcony of the apartment
and gasp for air to fill my lungs. The room seemed to shrink, and the
walls silently moved towards me. I felt I was dying and wondered who
would find me, my neighbors? They never left their apartment, as far
as I knew.
The only thing that
seemed clear to me was I would be better off if I could die. I felt I
had nothing to live for. Once again, the Lord reminded me in the
still, small voice that had so often spoken to my heart in the past,
that He would not leave me. I had to trust that voice. There was no
one else to calm my fears, to soothe my hurt and pain. There were
times when I became so feverishly anxious about my well-being that I
begged God to take me home. I knew I could not face life alone, even
though I knew in my heart He would not take me for those reasons. He
had a plan for me. I just had to seek Him and trust Him with the rags
of my life. Christians often feel they’ve been deserted when things
go wrong in their lives. If only believers would believe—trust and
give those problems to the Lord, leave them with Him, and rejoice in
the knowledge that all will be right. He never makes a mistake.
Finally, it happened!
There was a condo available in the city. Now, there is something you
must realize. I grew up in the country, and I also lived in the
country while I was married. No one had told me about Rescue Squad
vehicles, fire trucks, and police cars that run rampant in the city.
I knew there was a fire station near my new residence, but I never
had any idea it would be called upon so frequently to activate its
services. I always thought it was strange that they inevitably waited
until they were directly in front of my house to exercise their
ability to operate the siren. Another thing that fascinated me was
that there was never any need for their services until the early
morning hours, shortly after midnight, which caused me to sit upright
with an uncanny quickness at the blast of the fire siren.
When I stepped inside,
I knew this would be home to me, minus any knowledge of the public
official services that would soon prove to be a hindrance to my rest.
It was small but had all I needed. There were two bedrooms, two
baths, a living room, a dining area, kitchen, laundry room, front
porch, and deck. I was thrilled at the thought of having a place that
would be mine, where I could once again try to experience the feeling
of home. This little condo became my haven, my place of retreat from
the world each day where I could plan my life afresh.
However, there was a
problem. I had no furniture. Well, actually, there were a few old
pieces: a rocking chair, a small stool that stood approximately eight
inches in height and served as a stand for a very small, old,
black-and-white TV. When my close girlfriends would come by to cheer
me up, I would welcome them into my home and quickly tell them my
decor was “Early Divorce.” They always smiled and took a seat on
the floor where we huddled and squinted to watch whatever I could
receive on the set. Cable? What was that? A luxury I couldn’t
justify since I was struggling to survive. Friends are such blessings
from God, aren’t they? Not once did they complain about the seating
arrangements. They soon learned to bring their own lawn chairs and
Even in the midst of my
loneliness, there emerged a sense of excitement as I began to shop
for a bed and a sofa. My mother and father helped me financially so I
could acquire a sofa and matching recliner.
Curtains were no longer
considered an extravagance but quickly became a necessity. No longer
living in the country where shades and blinds were not needed, I
found the city sometimes brings out the strangest people. Neighbors
who knew I was a newcomer took it upon themselves to creep up my
steps and peer into my window. When our eyes met, we would both jump
in astonishment. Once again, my parents showed their love and
provided for my need, so, once again, I shopped.
This was the first step
in the many times they would come to my rescue as the pages of my
future life began to unfold. I know the Bible tells us children are a
gift from God, but so are parents. If mine had not been there for me
on so many occasions, I don’t know how I would have gotten through
those seemingly impossible times. It was their love, concern, and
never-ending support that helped me survive what was to become my
worst nightmare. It was in times like these I realized how much I
needed a strong Savior, supportive parents, children who loved me,
and friends who would not forsake me. All of this would be manifested
to me in time.
With a home of my own,
a job, and a somewhat dependable car, my new life began. How could I
have known how far God would bring me in those four long months, or
how much more I would need Him in the days ahead?
I’m sure God must
have a sense of humor, but some of the things I faced didn’t seem
very funny to me at the time. Somewhat content with my life in my
little condo haven of safety, I was making some progress by talking
before the mirror and telling myself I would be just fine. After all,
I had found a place to live, I had a good job, I was still attending
church, and there was food in my pantry. The only major problem,
other than facing life alone, was my car. It was old, exhausted, and
would soon need to be traded or junked. I knew I had to make some
decisions and spend money I didn’t want to spend.
As I traveled,
reluctantly, to and from work, church, and occasionally to the
grocery store, I was becoming increasingly embarrassed by this pile
of metal on four threadbare tires. People would stare, and children
would point and laugh at the peculiar sounds it made as this pathetic
thing called a car rattled down College Road past the university.
Sometimes I left crude hecklers in a cloud of black smoke. Oh, why
couldn’t I do that intentionally when I felt like lashing back at
the world that was beating me down so mercilessly? I was reminded of
a scripture verse in II Kings 2:11 which says, “As they were
walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and
horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah
went up to heaven in a whirlwind.” That was a perfect portrait of
my vehicle—a chariot of fire with smoke billowing from the rear,
and all I needed was to be caught up in a whirlwind into heaven.
There were many occasions when I wished I could have been! Each time
I positioned my body into my chariot of fire, I thought of Elijah. I
wondered how much the car dealer would give me for such a magnificent
piece of antique artistry.
Saturday morning came,
and I was up early, having decided this was the day I would purchase
a car. The salesmen saw me coming, adjusted their ties, put on
plastic grins, and jacked up the price on their cars as they dropped
the value of mine. What they didn’t know was that my daddy had
warned me about things to look for when purchasing a car. He had
owned an auto body shop and knew all about engines, repainted
fenders, axles, car frames, etc. He had taught me well, and I was
determined to show them I was not a woman they could baffle with
their sales jargon.
After a polite exchange
of words, we walked into a large showroom. I glanced at all the
separate cubicles that housed extremely friendly salesmen and an
occasional buyer. Seeing this made me cautious. In the recesses of my
mind, I knew what was about to take place. I didn’t want to be held
prisoner in their little cubicle while they talked to the sales
manager or whispered among themselves to see if I could be their date
for the next weekend. I knew what I wanted. I had friends with
champagne tastes and beer pocketbooks and saw how they often
struggled to make ends meet when the bills came due. Was I next or
had Daddy taught me well enough?
A young man approached
me and tried every sales pitch he had learned in “car school.” I
was ready for him. Mentally, I was rolling up my sleeves, adjusting
my own tie, and preparing to tell him he wouldn’t trick me into
buying a more expensive car, and I knew all there was to know about
cars. I didn’t! Did you know cars run on computer systems now? If
that’s so, where is the keyboard? Why, my car had probably had its
own simple system: Start (sometimes), Go (occasionally), and Stop
(more times than I wanted).
The salesman showed me
several cars that perhaps I would be able to afford, but I kept
returning to THE SPORTY RED ONE. It was off to the side and sat there
alone. I thought I saw my name written on the windshield in that
white washable paint they use. Actually, it looked sad, like those
little puppies in the pet store. You know, the ones that whine so
pitifully, lick your hand, and look up at you with those sad brown
eyes. Almost as if by magic, we formed a bond. This SPORTY RED CAR
that needed a home so desperately, needed me as much as I needed it.
The car had T-tops, AM/FM stereo, no tape deck (hey, we’re talking
budget here), automatic transmission, A/C, neat black interior, and
panel lights so red I felt like I was staring into dragon’s eyes
when I turned them on. With so many buttons, switches, and
instruments, it took on the image of the inside of a 737 cockpit. Oh,
how I wanted that car! We discussed the trade-in of the chariot of
fire, and because this SPORTY RED CAR had been on the lot for quite
sometime, we were able to make a deal.
Glancing back at my old
friend of so many years, she seemed sad to see me go. The last glance
I took was one that made me laugh, and I’m sure God must have
chuckled, too. The salesman was tucked in the chariot, rattling off
to the service area and leaving behind him the black cloud that once
was my trademark. He probably wondered what had just transpired and
what would his boss say.
My confidence began to
build in small portions as I felt better about having a car that
wouldn’t leave me stranded. It was bright red, certainly not the
color one would expect from someone who was “mourning” the loss
of her marriage. But this was all new to me, and I was ready to let
the healing begin. This new SPORTY RED CAR would certainly do the
“However, it is
written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him’” (1 Corinthians
2:9). Even SPORTY RED CARS. With my life beginning to take shape, I
had no idea how true that verse of scripture would be for me. I knew
I loved God and that He promised not to forsake me, but the trials
and struggles that would soon be pressing in on me boggled my mind
and put my faith to the test. Even though there would be other
painful obstacles placed in my path, I had to claim the scripture,
knowing the things He was preparing for me were good things to be
made known to me in His own time. At the moment, I was driving home
in my new SPORTY RED CAR, and what could possibly go wrong? A place
to live, a new car, and a wonderful job—or so I thought.
I would be all right.
That is what I kept telling myself because I had a formula for my
life worked out. I had made a commitment to God. I knew to put Him
first in my life, and I expected Him to bless me as He had in the
past. Sure, I would have problems, but I would be able to work them
out because God would see me through it all and would protect me from
anything too serious.
This was very
reassuring to me except that I began to notice it worked in reverse
at times. I remembered seeing couples that seemed to be having
marital problems, and they weren’t in church as often as they had
been. Then I wouldn’t see them there at all and then the grapevine
gossip would start about them getting a divorce. I would say to
myself, “I’m not surprised. That’s what happens when you leave
God out of your marriage.” Those were things I believed when I was
married. I knew it would never happen to me. I had been determined to
do things the right way in my marriage and in my life. I found out
that divorce can shatter your belief system. I soon began to question
my own system, which isn’t a bad thing to do. It helped me
reexamine my life, what I believed about divorce and to cause me to
think more maturely. I found that if a person takes the proper steps
during this time, they will be able to come out of all this nightmare
as a stronger and smarter person.
Food for Thought
Have your beliefs been shaken or challenged by your divorce? How?
In all honesty, describe how you feel about God at this point in your
Again, being totally honest, how do you feel about yourself right
If you could change any of your present circumstances, what would you
Somewhere to Belong
years prior to being single again, I had resigned my position as a
teacher in the public school system. During the day I had been
teaching junior high, and at night I was an instructor at the local
business college. Teaching adults was such a pleasure and so
rewarding, so when a full-time position became available, I accepted
it. It was a difficult decision to make, knowing I would lose health
benefits and retirement, but I would also lose the stress and anxiety
that accompanied the job as a public school teacher. That appealed to
me. Besides, my husband had all the health benefits for our family.
progressing. I was going to work dressed in a suit and heels instead
of the suit of armor that was necessary in the Jr. High due to
flailing hands, books being tossed, and fights to stop. There was a
sense of pride in being able to dress professionally at the beginning
of the day and still look quite intact at the end of the day. At
last, I had students who wanted to learn and discipline problems no
longer existed. I didn’t have irate parents to contend with.
Instead, there were supportive husbands and wives, for most of my
students were married.
In Romans 5, Paul tells
us that we will endure tribulations and troubles that bring about
spiritual maturity and that tribulation will happen to the Christian.
I had already experienced some of that. We just aren’t exempt from
trouble. It causes us to think, to trust, and to pray, and all of
this works patience in our lives. We are to rejoice in times of
trouble. Now, that was the part I had difficulty with.
It was tough being
single, and I was making new adjustments each day. However, six
months after becoming single, I was faced with an ordeal that would
send me into a spinning motion that would not ease for six years.
As I entered the
building to prepare for my students, I went by the office to smile
and speak to the staff and quickly get a cup of coffee which was my
usual morning routine. There was something about that morning that
made me feel uneasy. No one was talking, they all seemed to be
involved, more than usual, with their paperwork. I still spoke and
tried to make conversation. An eerie feeling crept over me as if I
had entered an ancient tomb or that I was just about to receive bad
news about a family member. I checked my mailbox as I always did and
there was a note to see the director of the college.
This was a private
business college, and because of its growth, the president of the
college had hired someone to assist him. The new director was a kind
and friendly man who was always ready to help the faculty with
supplies, etc., that we might need. What we didn’t know was that a
financial problem arose within the school and funds were not
available to substantiate a faculty as large as it had. Downsizing
had hit the small town business college, and it was about to hit me.
My knees felt a bit weak, and my hands were perspiring. Why should I
be nervous? I had done a superb job with my teaching abilities, and
my students were meeting graduation requirements, so why did I have
this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach? It’s that feeling
you get as a child when you’ve been called to the principal’s
office. My mouth felt as if it had been stuffed with cotton balls and
suddenly all sorts of thoughts raced through my mind. Had I not
dressed professionally enough? Was I too friendly with the staff and
students? Had I been parking in the wrong space? Never in a million
years was I prepared for what I was about to hear.
I knocked on his door,
and he asked me to come in and close the door behind me. That was the
first real inkling that this was going to be a serious matter, for he
usually kept the door open. As I sat down, I felt sick to my stomach
when I looked at the clean desk, except for my file. He began to tell
me how much the students and staff liked me and that I had done an
outstanding job. I wanted him to cut out all that small talk and get
to the heart of the matter at hand. Somehow I knew the ax was about
to fall and it was my head on the block. I just didn’t know why.
He began to explain to
me that the school was having some financial difficulty and after a
meeting with the board of directors and the owner, they felt they had
to cut back on some of their programs. Since I was teaching a Basic
Education Program, which they felt was geared towards those who had
previously had some difficulty in English grammar, etc., it could be
a program they could omit. I didn’t agree, for many reasons, but
who was I to argue? I began to ask about the other courses that I was
teaching—psychology, written and oral communications, some advanced
English classes. These were all essential for college students. They
needed to know how to cope with the business world, how to speak
correctly and effectively, and they definitely needed to be
successful with their writing skills. I even integrated my classes
with some professional grooming habits that would assist them in
interviewing for job possibilities. My argument fell on deaf ears.
Later I discovered that
one other person had been released from her duties, but the one thing
in her favor was that she was married to a very successful man and
was only teaching to have extra spending money to buy whatever she
wanted. She wasn’t as devastated by this as I was. She could just
return to her life of gardening, shopping, living a life free from
financial worry. Me? Well, that was a whole different ball game.
I’ve never been one
to compare my life with others and wasn’t going to start, but I did
wonder if the Apostle Paul had been in my shoes, what he would have
done. Then I recalled all the pain, rejection, and physical harm that
he had endured. Of course, that’s why he kept telling us in the
scriptures to be steadfast in our faith. We would be faced with these
things, but God would use all the trials to build character and
strength in us. I was already tired of character building, and I was
growing very weak in all that I had encountered for the past six
months. I really didn’t need to be faced with another obstacle to
overcome. It was Pity Party Time, and I was the only one attending.
With two weeks’
notice, it was time to do some serious thinking and planning about
the next step. During those two weeks, it was very difficult to
teach. The students knew my situation and were saddened by what was
taking place. It was a very long two weeks, and every effort was
being made to try to appear unmoved by the entire ordeal, but they
sensed my fear of facing yet another unknown road to travel.
On my last day, I gave
a farewell speech to all my classes, along with words of
encouragement compelling them to strive toward their goals and
dreams. I begged them to promise me that they would never give up, no
matter what their circumstances. They were worthy of all that they
were hoping for and working for. A new day was before them, and they
could face it with pride and dignity knowing they had overcome
obstacles that seemed almost impossible at times. We all cried.
When the last student
had left and the classroom was empty except for my few belongings, I
sat at my desk and all I could say was, “Why, Lord?” I was
reminded of my own children, when they were small, as they would
always want to know “why” to everything I said or did. I tried to
give them answers. But today I had no answers, and God wasn’t
talking to me. I gathered up a few boxes, turned off the lights, and
walked outside. A young man was standing by my car. His eyes were
filled with tears as he fought to keep them from spilling onto his
face. He asked if he could help me load my car. We talked for a
while, and he told me his story.
He had been a problem
child and never felt as if he had much of a chance in life. At the
age of sixteen, he dropped out of school which, according to him,
made the entire high school happy. After a few bouts with the police,
drugs, and wild girlfriends, he decided he was going nowhere and
fast! He knew he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life making
minimum wage and jumping from job to job, so he decided to return to
school and receive his GED. He accomplished the task and thought
about college. He met a young lady. They fell in love and were
married. This confirmed his need for more education. With a student
loan from the school, he enrolled in the business college. With much
apprehension and fear of all that college entailed, he contemplated
I wondered why he was
telling me all this but later found out. It was his way of thanking
me for all my help and encouragement, something he had not received
in previous years of schooling. He was determined to make it in life,
to graduate, and be the husband and someday father that would make me
proud. Why me and not his parents or his wife? Whatever his reason, I
was elated. It lifted my spirits to the heavens, and I felt as if I
could face anything that came before me. My reason for teaching had
been fulfilled. I had reached not only a person seeking an education
but a soul that was hungry for love and attention and a sense of
direction and belonging.
We hugged, cried, and I
left, not daring to look back through my mirror for fear of seeing a
sad, but encouraged, young man. My heart ached for all the students,
for all that I was leaving and had worked so hard to accomplish, and
I drove to my haven of rest.
Driving home was a
chore. I didn’t want to go home but knew no place else to go. I sat
in the parking lot for quite a long time before deciding to go
inside. When I went in, I hung up my business suit, put on some
shorts and a shirt and sat down to try to gather my thoughts. This
was not going to defeat me—I was determined to find a job soon. The
thought of returning to the public schools made me feel queasy, but
it was an option. I could drag out the old suit of armor and adorn it
for the battle; after all, I was still fairly young and still had
some “fight” left in me.
The school directory
was on the table before me, a pad of paper and pen beside it, and the
telephone was ready for use. I pulled up my chair and prayed for
courage and strength to do what had to be done. This was in May and
school wasn’t out for the summer, but I thought I would get a head
start on everyone who would be applying for a position. After all, I
had been in the system and principals and teachers knew me. This
would be a piece of cake—no problem!
Using my most polite
Southern charm, I began to ask principals about positions for the
fall term. At the end of the day, I found that there was nothing
available. That didn’t discourage me for I was a go-getter, and I
also knew that this was no joking matter—I had to have a job. I
would wait a few days, go by the central office, make my presence and
desires known to the proper personnel, and, surely, they would give
me some inside news about positions. Not so. They were all so busy
trying to complete school close outs that they didn’t have time for
me. I was told to come back later.
Not wanting grass to
grow under my feet, I began to check into other school systems that
weren’t too far away. I was willing to drive an extra distance, but
I couldn’t relocate. Later, my mind would turn towards moving.
I wasn’t very
successful in finding work, and the few dollars in my checking
account were beginning to dwindle. Soon, I discovered that I could do
without many things that appealed to my appetite. I calculated if I
bought a 10-pound bag of potatoes, I could eat for about two weeks,
maybe longer. Maybe I should write a book on the 1001 ways to prepare
a potato. I had baked, mashed, boiled, fried, and any other way I
could invent to cook potatoes. I felt I would wake up one morning and
find sprouts and eyes on my body. Ah, the single life, the unemployed
life, the life with no one in it! It was wretched, and I hated it. I
hated the potatoes, the empty refrigerator, the empty gas tank, the
ring around the bathtub, the heat pump that was about to die, the
house plant that leaned too much to one side, and everything that was
a reminder to me that I was alone. The smallest of things that would
not have ordinarily bothered me were beginning to fester in my soul.
Yes, Lord, I remember, You said You wouldn’t leave me. So can You
think of another way to prepare a potato?