My Testimony of God’s Faithfulness in Caring for Widows and Orphans: The Sabbatical

While this blog’s focus is on remarriage after divorce from a Reformed perspective, I thought it appropriate to post my testimony of God’s care during the time of my separation, divorce and eventual relocation from New York to Indiana. I pray that readers can see evidence of the Lord’s mercy and long-suffering toward me through His miracles and kind Providence displayed while I forged through deep waters. My prayer is for this post to be an encouragement to women faced with infidelity, abandonment, divorce and the despair that goes with it. Names are changed to protect privacy.

The Sabbatical

December 30, 2002. Long Island, New York.

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I thought I had a wonderful life!

“I’m not in love with you anymore.” The words pierced my heart like a knife. They echoed in my brain as I drove to work.

Fleeting thought: All I have to do is glide over into oncoming traffic and close my eyes.

I wasn’t in love with him either. But I loved him with an abiding, comfortable love most long marriages enjoy. Being in love was juvenile euphoria and hormones. Wasn’t our long history together precious to him?

“You can have the house.” He’d already divvied up the goods with devious calculation. I thought about the long years spent here raising our three children. My heart was in the home while his had been far away.

“Now you’ll have to work full time,” he sneered. He loved this part. My provider resented providing for me. I felt that resentment while watching our boys play Little League Baseball. He admired the women who did it all. Those women who came to the games late, stylishly adorned in career garb, trendy haircuts and make-up. I graced the bleachers in my frumpy sweats and a t-shirt. Funny, but those women envied me. They witnessed his affection for me in public. Apparently, it made him appear heroic. Perfect husband.

I was a Christian since childhood. I thought my family life was near exemplary. My husband held my hand in the mall. He bragged about my cooking, my frugality, and my decorating skills. For so many years, he doted on me. I felt secure in his love, never doubted it. Betrayal was totally unexpected. I was fooled for 23 years.

The words of his mouth were softer than butter, yet war was in his heart, his words were more gentle than oil, yet they were swords. – Psalm 55:21

On a frigid day in January, my husband left our home for his new apartment in the city. Thus began the four worst years of my life.

My sons were 21 (away at college) and 18 (a senior in high school). My daughter was 13 and she suffered most. I’d get up for work to discover her curled up in bed, unable to go to school. Piano lessons stopped.

Something like adrenalin kicked in. My body kept going, zombie-like. The body that shed fifty-seven pounds so he might love me again. The body that only craved liquid dinner after work – wine that calmed me and helped me forget. Anger stirred me. Then complete sadness overtook me. I reminisced. I rehashed, analyzed and cried. I played games like revenge dating, hoping he would be jealous. It only hurt more when he wasn’t.

I filed for a legal separation to protect myself and ensure that he’d give me monthly support. I needed to stay afloat and pay the mortgage. I prayed he would have a change of heart and told the kids to pray for the same. I didn’t want a divorce. Six months later, he was sure he did.

John Flavel wrote: “The Providence of God is like Hebrew words. It can only be read backwards.” I remember wrestling with going back to work six years earlier. Homemaking gave me all the creative outlets I craved, but my husband admired those career moms. I took the hint. My degree in Advertising Art was twenty years old and computers had taken over the design profession. Unequipped to revive my art ‘career’,  I was hired as a proofreader at a small community newspaper. My boss allowed me to learn graphic design on their office computers. Self-taught, I joined the design staff shortly after. Even though I really didn’t want to re-enter the workforce, in doing so, the Lord prepared me for what was ahead.

When my Judas left, I was a single mom with updated skills and six years of experience in graphic art. I got a full time job in what I called the Ad Agency from Hell. The place was a horror, but I couldn’t be picky. I thought if I had to continue working, I needed to get out of the advertising industry. I enrolled in college for a Bachelor’s degree with a minor in writing. I carried twelve credits per semester and worked a 4pm to midnight shift at the agency. Foolishly, I dated subpar men via online dating just to have something to look forward to on the weekends.

My daughter and I hardly saw each other. She called me at work many nights, just before my shift was over, asking me to pick up gooey brownies or some other sweet and I obliged her. We had to keep our endorphins flowing. There I was at the 24-hour supermarket, wearily buying some mood enhancer. It’s the little things that keep you going during devastating times. Little things like a quiet cup of coffee, a brownie, or Godiva ice cream. Mommie Dearest met her match when, in desperation, I devoured my daughter’s Godiva ice cream when my own pint was gone. I knew I’d suffer her wrath, but did it anyway. She never lets me forget this.

I shouldn’t have dated at all while merely separated and vulnerable. My rationale was broken vows meant we were already divorced. I wanted to cling to someone again, while Jesus, the only One I needed, was waiting for me ever patiently, to come to my senses. My disobedience only resulted in chastening. There was a car accident, there was pain, there was more agony. I sought counsel, though it was not the wise kind. My liberal Lutheran pastor gave me worldly psychobabble, not Biblical wisdom. The Lord beckoned me through a Sunday School lesson I taught to five year olds. Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and his friends couldn’t even stay awake with him. Did he feel alone? Abandoned? Friendless? He was speaking to me and I drew near to Him. As I did, He drew nearer to me.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. – James 4:8

After two years, and with the divorce final, I resolved to stop dating. I studied, worked, wrote papers, slept. Realizing local churches were in apostasy, I tuned in to sermonaudio.com each Sunday instead. There I found the meat of Gospel Truth like the reformed preaching I’d been listening to for years on radio. Through the website, I discovered a local church that preached reformed theology and began attending.

Meanwhile, each weekday afternoon I was frantically pumping on my elliptical while praying, Lord, get me out of here. This was my ritual before I headed to the ad agency. I prayed for a sabbatical. Lord, please make it a long one. At least six months. I’m so tired.

My daughter had been communicating with someone she’d met online since she was 14. Lori assured me they met unintentionally through a gaming site chat room. This young Christian man helped her through her emotional struggles in dealing with her father’s abandonment. They talked on the phone for hours. Romance blossomed. It was time for us to meet this Indiana boy. I knew that Lori was wise beyond her years, but I wasn’t sure she was mature enough to trust her feelings. I glared at this Country Boy, interrogated him at my kitchen table, and spoiled his appetite for the New York pizza I’d bragged about. Once recovered, the Country Boy got a tour of New York City.

Lori suggested we move to Indiana. I searched online for Indianapolis homes and their affordability tempted me. I knew I couldn’t keep our house on my salary. I didn’t want to either. The house haunted us with past memories. Lori and I had enough. Eventually, my sons moved out and were managing on their own. Our turn came to visit Indianapolis.

Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt…Genesis 42:2

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Indiana cornfield … one of many!

We certainly saw corn as we stepped off the plane in Indy. Where’s the city? Peter (Country Boy) nodded toward a couple of tall buildings in the distance and we laughed. We stayed at a B&B in a less than desirable neighborhood and I swore I heard gunshots one night. Peter showed us some nicer neighborhoods, but I told Lori there is no way I can live here.

A few more visits convinced me otherwise. I’d fallen in love, too – with a house I aptly named Storybook House, a 1930’s French cottage with gingerbread details. It was out of my budget, but I kept my eye on it for several months. The price fell but still not within my price range. Meanwhile, there were financial struggles. New York taxes constantly rose and I couldn’t pay the mortgage unless I came up with extra money for the escrow account. Miraculously, my college adviser informed me I was getting a scholarship. But I only have one more class to complete, I said. He said, It’s a cash scholarship. You’ll get a cash rebate. I paid the escrow account and my mortgage remained affordable until we moved!

My new pastor informed me that his original profession was a painter-contractor. He helped me ready my house for sale. The porch and second floor were freshly painted and mold was removed from bathrooms. All I had to do was buy the paint and feed him lunch. Jesus himself came and helped me through this dear pastor. The house sold in 4 months. Just then, the Storybook House price dropped low enough for me to make an offer. The Storybook House was mine.

The widow and the orphan planned to relocate to Indianapolis.

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. – Psalm 68:5

I was mocked at the Ad Agency. Who in their right mind would move to Indiana? What’s in Indiana? What fool would leave NY, the place where everyone wants to make it? If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, right? The enemy always makes you feel defeated.

Family members mocked me. What if your daughter breaks up with that boy? You’re listening to a seventeen year old?

My church family was supportive. They offered prayers and encouragement. I’d miss them but was assured the Lord’s hand was in this.

We had a moving sale. What I couldn’t sell was donated to charity. I wanted no reminders of my past life, just what I treasured in my heart. Lori and I both graduated in 2007 but didn’t attend our graduations. We became Hoosiers instead.

My sabbatical began.

I came with no job and practically nothing but boxes and a piano. The piano my daughter stopped playing when her father left. The boxes held memories too painful to unpack. So I just started painting. The walls, that is. It was extremely hot that first summer. I blasted the AC and kept working. Empty rooms were framed in mahogany trim like picture frames. They were blank pictures waiting for me to fill them. This house was my canvas. I will give it life while it gives me new life. Please Lord, who makes all things new, build this for me.

The Storybook House needed love. It needed someone to love it just as it was: beat up, old, imperfect. We could relate. I felt at home immediately. I didn’t want glossy floors and granite counter tops. I wanted to curl up inside a place that was used and weathered like me. Windowsills lined with teddy bears soothed me. I was a child in need of a daily hug and these walls embraced me.

Being in an historic neighborhood, the house also was screaming for antiques. I chose only things I fell in love with. A Duncan Phyfe dining room table, chairs with carved roses on their backs, French country fireside chairs, a pie safe used as a television stand. Decorating was therapeutic and exhilarating.

Still it seemed so barren. Lori was always with Peter. I suffered from culture shock. Like an ungrateful Israelite, I longed for New York again. I bought a puppy, impulsively, at a pet store. I couldn’t tell he was in poor health until his kennel cough turned into pneumonia. He was supposed to be my companion and now he might die. Caring for him took my mind off self-pity. He needed me; I needed him. Thankfully, he didn’t die. He grew into a slobbering, lovable 100-pound lug. My faithful handsome blonde.

There were snowy days I was overwhelmed with shoveling the long Storybook driveway. I laughed at my leaning Hoosier cabinet when I realized the floors were not straight. I cried when my tub overflowed into the kitchen downstairs. Many nails were broken while trying to open old stubborn windows.

Lori and Peter were married in 2008 and my Storybook House was quieter than ever. Countless nights were spent on my repro Victorian loveseat watching Cary Grant and glancing over at my sputtering pre-made fireplace log. I began to relish the solitude. I’d been transported as if in a time machine. What a precious escape; to be safe within these impenetrable plaster walls within a city of refuge. But my real refuge is you, Lord. Praise your Name! Thank you for my Sabbatical.

…the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
For your Maker is your husband,
the LORD of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called. For the LORD has called you
like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit,
like a wife of youth when she is cast off,
says your God.
For a brief moment I deserted you,
but with great compassion I will gather you. – Isaiah 54:4-7

I was safe, secure and stress-free, but this hopeless romantic still longed for love. I considered it a miracle when my husband showed up on the Storybook doorsteps. But that’s a whole other story.

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Storybook Wedding!

There have been three weddings at the Storybook House: My daughter’s, my oldest son’s and …mine.

Seven years ago, a widow and an orphan arrived in the Indiana cornfields from metro New York. They now have wonderful husbands and homes.

I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you. – Joel 2:25

C.H. Spurgeon wrote, “Somehow He will deliver you, and somewhere He will provide for you. The place from which your rescue will arise may be a very unexpected one, but help will assuredly come during your time of critical need, and you will magnify the name of the Lord.”

The best news is my sabbatical will never end. Thanks to Jesus, my Sabbath Rest.

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4 thoughts on “My Testimony of God’s Faithfulness in Caring for Widows and Orphans: The Sabbatical

  1. When I saw the photo my first thought was it looks like it’s right out of a story book, love it I’m sorry for what you went through, but thank God for how everything worked out! Looking forward to part 2- when your husband showed up

    Like

    • Thanks, Mary! My blog is a bit out of order, so you can read the part about hubby showing up in the previous post “How I met my husband…” Thanks so much for reading!

      Like

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