Archive for April, 2017

Project 52, Week 45, Part 3 – Trusting through Turmoil

Friday, April 28th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 45!

45 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 45 — June 14, 2009, to June 14, 2010.

Last time, I got through November. I was still dealing with difficult communications with Steve about visitation and about him wanting me to have my lawyer draw up a separation agreement he’d be willing to sign – but never explaining how that would be different than the one she’d already drawn up. I was still hoping and praying he would have a change of heart and our marriage would be restored – but I was slowly coming around to thinking maybe I should file for divorce in the mean time. I was praying over and over for wisdom, and God was gently leading me.

I was also finding great joy in my job at the library. I’d started attending a new small group on Friday nights, led by John and Lisa Maulella in Herndon, and that group of people was helping me through. That Fall, after a couple years without much trouble with headaches, I’d suddenly started getting the longest lasting headaches of my life.

But there was some other very bad news in November. My Dad had a heart attack. He refused bypass surgery, and they put in several stents. Here’s an email I wrote to a friend on November 15, 2009:

Well, as of last night my Dad was still in ICU, as they try to get his blood pressure stabilized.  I don’t think they’re alarmed — just trying to wean him off the medications that kept things in line when they were waiting to put in the stents.  We think it’s just as well they’re keeping him resting that much longer!
But my talk with Becky dropped a much bigger bombshell.  My siblings really think that my Mom may be getting Alzheimer’s.  She’s only 68!  The progress may have been accelerated by the open heart surgery 7 years ago (sometimes that happens), which is why my Dad didn’t want open heart surgery.
There have been symptoms for a long time — which we were mostly passing off as my Mom’s little eccentricities.  But they’re getting more extreme.  Becky said that now she does a lot of typing, and she regularly forgets how to spell words.  That is NOT like my Mom.  I guess last week she misplaced a book and was sure someone had stolen it.  She can’t find her way to my Dad’s room in the hospital, which hadn’t been changed and Becky says is very easy to find.
Anyway, my siblings out there had a family meeting about ways they can help Mom and Dad, and one thing is they are going to somehow insist that she sees a neurologist.  Those kind of problems are definitely treatable, especially if it doesn’t end up being Alzheimer’s.
Now, she’s been seeing doctors for awhile about feeling “yucky” and “like a rag doll,” but I guess she was offended when my Dad suggested she see a neurologist, and thinks she’s just having “senior moments.”  So the first challenge will be getting her to get to a doctor.
Sigh.  I had known she was having some definitely alarming symptoms, but now Becky came out and said that the siblings are sure there’s a problem, that her behavior is definitely not normal.
It’s probably a good thing, in the long run, that with Dad unable to take care of her for awhile, my siblings were motivated to take action.
But today I’m busy mourning the news, trying to absorb the blow.  At the same time, I’m worried about my Dad.
But the biggest thing, of course, that’s wearing me down is this headache.  It’s still very low level, but I’m getting more and more of a sense that something’s very wrong.
And it’s low level — but at our new location for church they are experimenting with the lighting and are opting, for now, for very dark house lights with bright lights on the stage — and that is just the WRONG lighting for a headache!  So my headache was much much worse during the singing, and that definitely put me in the wrong spirit for church!  (Besides, it’s a series on marriage.  Today was “speaking the truth in love.”  YES, I agree that is important!)
There was also a church business meeting afterward, and I tried to explain to the pastor, after that, that the lighting is physically painful for me, but ended up crying.  (I don’t think I convinced him this could be painful to any other migraneurs in the audience, but I think that’s true.  He asked what I do when I go to movies, but I definitely DON’T go to movies when I have a headache — but thought I could go to church.)
Tim and I had lunch out after that (too expensive, but tasty and with leftovers), and then went to Barnes & Noble to spend a gift certificate he’d been given.  Then I napped — so much for my day.
Tonight I even have a slight fever with it.  This is just not normal for me.  I sure hope the neurologist can hit on the correct diagnosis quickly — and I hope it’s not a particularly nasty one.
Meanwhile my other worries are if my job will be targeted to meet the budget — should get a clue about that on Wednesday.
And of course Steve’s upcoming retirement and if I should divorce him.  I haven’t heard back from my lawyer yet.
Sigh.  So I just want to have a good cry feel sorry for myself for awhile — but I don’t think I really have time for that.  I’m hoping today was enough to brood over my Mom’s condition.  Then, really I can be guiltily thankful that I have plenty of siblings (and even a son!) out that way to deal with it.  Though I am worried.  It is a very, very sad thing.
And truthfully, what’s most filling my mind is this headache.  And thinking of the conditions it could be that could keep me from working.  Then where would I be….  But that’s borrowing trouble, definitely.  Thank goodness I have an appointment only 3 days away.
Tomorrow I have a day off, too, which is lovely.  I hope, hope, hope I can get some good writing done, and rake my leaves, too.  But rest is good, too.
Anyway, forgive me for moaning, but I do feel really sad about this news about my Mom.  And pretty freaked out by the headache.  All together, I just really needed to do a little moaning!
Yeah, and for some reason I never thought we’d have to deal with Alzheimer’s.  My Mom’s grandparents didn’t have any trouble with it — well, one grandmother had some mental trouble in her 90s.  And her parents, in their 80s, were sharp as tacks.  My Dad’s parents didn’t have any trouble with it either.  Anyway, that still may not be it….

Well, that was it, all right, as gradually became apparent. First they just called it “vascular dementia.” Today, in 2017, my Mom is still living at home, with my Dad tenderly caring for her. But she no longer talks much and seems pretty far gone. A very sad thing – I didn’t even understand how bad it would get at that time.

Then after that, I got word that I was likely to lose my job because of budget cuts for the next fiscal year, starting in July. Scary, since I had lots of debt and no fallback.

And I began seeing a doctor about the headaches. She was trying various things. Corticosteroids, new preventatives. Looking back, I wonder if it had anything to do with going on birth control pills to regulate my cycle. Since they always were affected by hormones. Or if maybe I had a vertebral artery dissection back then but that time it didn’t cause a stroke. (Though I don’t remember it being as focused on the neck as the one I had when the vertebral artery dissection happened.)

Jumping ahead, in January, we finally tried going back on the antidepressant Zoloft as a preventative – and it worked beautifully, as it had done before. When I first started taking it in 2005, the doctor told me you only need to take it six months to a year, and the effects last. Well, perhaps the effects had suddenly stopped – because going back on Zoloft drastically reduced my headaches, as it had done before. Zoloft’s main side effect for me is completely numbing my sex drive – and I figured that was doing me a favor at the time!

Tim was at Steve’s for the last half of Thanksgiving break. I wrote a fun blog post about making an absolutely perfect batch of brown sugar fudge and eating it all myself. Yum!

I’d already started feeling around, talking with friends, about where I could apply against the strong possibility of losing my job. I had just taken my librarianship as a Sign of God’s Goodness, so this was scary. Though I reminded myself that God had a big hand in every job I’d gotten in my adult life. He wasn’t going to abandon me now.

But yes, I was scared. What if I used up all my sick leave, had to take Leave Without Pay, and couldn’t pay rent? What if I lost my job in the budget cuts? What if Steve stopped paying child support when he retired from the Air Force in February. A whole lot of scary things – and they were harder to deal with when I had a constant headache.

I had my very first MRI done on December 4, 2009. Funny, but it was comforting to see that I really do have a brain! I wrote an amusing blog post about it, talking about how the “loud, rhythmic tapping” they warn you about actually sounds like the red alert siren from Star Trek. It reminded me of the line in Galaxy Quest: “I know that sound! That’s a BAD sound!” It was also on the 23rd day of a headache – breaking a personal record I really didn’t want to break.

That was also when I figured out that Topamax was the WRONG preventative for me. I ended up going back on Zoloft – which solved the problem! My headaches were back under control for awhile.

[I’m pausing here for a moment of thanking God for getting very few headaches for the last two YEARS – since menopause, in fact. HOOOOOOOOORAY!!!!! At the time, it was a very awful thing making a dark time worse.]

And then – my Dad offered to pay for Tim and me to fly out to Los Angeles for Christmas! With Jade (then called Josh) there, the thought was all the more wonderful!

But this time, going to L.A. didn’t make us miss all the snow of the winter! In fact, I was in for the most snow I’d seen fall in my life so far! Here’s what I wrote on the 18th:

Woo-hoo!  We’re getting an expected one to two FEET of snow tonight and tomorrow and the next night!  They have already closed the library for tomorrow and cancelled the play I was going to go to.  I hope they will also close the library Sunday. 
The last time they got even six inches of snow in December here was in 1982!  So it is quite the storm.
So all day we were watching the forecast, and watching it keep saying more and more and more snow.  Now we’re right in the cross-hairs of the middle of the storm. 
Unfortunately, the time the storm was to start also got earlier.  Originally, it wasn’t to start until after midnight.  But I went to a potluck tonight and left around 9 pm, and had to drive home through the first couple inches.  It is really coming down!  I’m pretty tense and shaky from my first snow drive of the season.  There was one intersection where I wasn’t able to stop for the light, but there were so few cars, I was able to just turn right and then make a u-turn.  I went much much slower after that!  And I’m reminding myself:  I drove in the snow, and I was FINE.  Of course, that was only an inch or two — and they are expecting a foot or two!
So it will be a nice cozy weekend, hunkered down inside watching it snow!  And it is pouring snow!  And this time I don’t have a headache!  YAY!  Maybe I can get Christmas cards written!

And pictures:

Here’s when we cleared the snow as it was still coming down:

The next day:

The yardstick said 20 inches! By far the most I’d ever seen fall at one time. It actually broke records for December snowfall in the DC area.

And this was my car!

Mine is the smaller one to the left of the van.

The path to our house. Tim helped clear it.

And hooray! I really did go to my parents’ house for Christmas! I captured a few random pictures:

Here are Melanie and Wendy, with my Dad in the background.

Abby and Peter:

And two people I love most, my wonderful children, Tim and J:

And the cat, Jeff, and my Mom:

I love this set of Hatches and Eklunds playing the video game Rock Band:

And here’s Becky with her daughter Kristen and son Jason:

It was a short trip, but it was restorative, and good to be with my family.

At the start of the year, I got caught up, along with many others, in the hope that Jerry Pinkney would win the Caldecott Medal for The Lion and the Mouse and “lionized” myself. He did win!

So 2010 began – one of the hardest calendar years of my life. But one blessing was that the Zoloft kicked in, and I stopped having those nearly constant headaches. So that was one less worry.

Steve started communicating more, but he was still trying to get me to pay my lawyer to modify the agreement she’d written in unspecified ways.

And it looked like I would lose my job. Why the county wanted to cut libraries when it was less than 1% of the budget and when we were in a recession and people needed libraries more than ever? I didn’t even know. The cuts of positions would be based on seniority – and I was coming up on just two years working there.

I was still trying to respond to Steve with love, grace, and compassion. I wanted to do nice things for him. One thing I’d done in the past that he had thanked me for was give him pictures of our kids. So I sent him that nice picture of Tim and J. that I’d taken on Christmas morning.

Steve responded, “There was a time I was a husband, a father and a successful Air Force bandsman. Your abusive behavior has taken all of that from me. I think it’s cruel of you to rub my face in it this way.”

Okay, so I realized that there was no loving thing I could do for Steve that would be interpreted by him as loving.

After awhile, Steve started trying to convince me to go to mediation. But the mediator’s site said that mediation couldn’t go forward if one party didn’t bring all documents. Since I’d already presented all my financial documents to Steve’s lawyer in the earlier case he’d filed – but Steve hadn’t provided financial documents at all – I didn’t see a whole lot of point to going. I wouldn’t have minded if Steve had paid, but I didn’t have $450 to spend when I’d already spent thousands on an agreement his lawyer had agreed to.

Finally, I decided to contact my lawyer and file for divorce.

And so began Phase 10: Filing Myself.

Here’s what I wrote to my friends in my small group:

I wanted to write to some of you who were my listening ears and support way back at the beginning of my marriage falling apart, and tell you personally.
I made a big decision this weekend.  I’m going to file for divorce, on the grounds of adultery and desertion.
Yesterday’s sermon was about listening to God’s voice, and it gave me some moments of doubt.  Was I just taking matters into my own hands and failing to trust God?
But I talked with several people after church, and I realized that I haven’t had any trouble listening to God’s voice when He says that Steve will repent some day.  When I have trouble listening to God’s voice is when He clearly tells me, “You need to let Steve go.”
I have this fantasy of Steve coming back some day because of his loving, faithful, forgiving wife.  Isn’t she wonderful?  She waited for him in spite of everything!  What great faith in God she had!
That’s the fantasy I need to let go of.  I don’t think that’s coming from God.  If Steve ever comes back, it certainly won’t be because I held onto our marriage in spite of everything.  And I don’t want to make it too easy, anyway!  I will really need to know that he had truly changed.  And meanwhile, I can be the person God made me to be much better without his poison in my life.  (Lately, he again allowed e-mail, and has flooded me with harsh messages.  He seems to be trying to get me to agree to a settlement where he doesn’t have to pay anything.)
Anyway, I am now a 20/20/20 military spouse.  But unless there is a court order, I can’t even be sure that Steve will keep me signed up for benefits.  I definitely won’t get any of his retirement unless there is a court order.  And he is retiring Feb. 1st and doesn’t have a job yet — and he says that means he can’t pay child support.
So it’s time to say that’s not okay with me.  (My lawyer says generally the courts will treat it as his own fault he’s not employed and we can figure child support based on what his income was.)  There are lots of laws protecting me — If I file for divorce.  But almost nothing if I stay married.
And I think it is time.
So — I have an appointment with my lawyer tomorrow morning.  I think we can get into court for child support fairly quickly, but the divorce itself will probably take much longer — It took a year when Steve filed, though we might be able to skip a few steps?
I appreciate your prayers for me!  I’ve had trouble sleeping since I decided to do this, but I hope that will pass soon.

And meanwhile, we were getting piles and piles of wonderful, beautiful, glorious SNOW! In fact, I was in my first “official” blizzard! 26 inches in Centreville the weekend of February 5-7.

The next morning:

My car’s in there somewhere!

Here’s our house:

Looking at the front walk:

These beauties were shining outside the window above my shower (at the top of the house) in the morning.

Here’s how the neighborhood looked in the sunshine:

Digging my car out was a long process!

Here’s where “extra” snow was getting thrown – this mountain was actually flat ground.

The path to our house:

Believe it or not, we got more snow the next week! When I finally went back to work, I brought my camera and took some pictures of the snow-covered Herndon Fortnightly Library.

The Herndon Town Green became the “Town White”!

And meanwhile, we were still trying to convince the Board of Supervisors not to try to squeeze water out of a stone and cut Library funding. I bought a t-shirt.

And I made a display at my library about School Library Journal’s Battle of the Kids’ Books, and won a t-shirt for blogging about it!

Then in March, I had a breakthrough in my thinking about the divorce. Here’s how I explained it to my friends:

Dear friends,
I thought you’d be interested in a breakthrough that came for me this morning from Hebrews 11, which our Life Group is going through.
You know that I had decided to file for divorce, and I really thought it was the right thing to do, and how God is leading me now — but I still wondered if I was showing a lack of faith.  With all this talk — at church and in my Life Group — of hearing God’s voice, I wondered if I was ignoring all those things I heard from God about marriage restoration.
Yet I think I heard from Him about divorce, too, so how could that be?
Here was my reasoning:
I really believe that God had revealed to me that one day Steve will repent and have a change of heart and one day our marriage will be restored into a thing of beauty.  So is my filing for divorce an action in keeping with that belief?
Then this morning, I was reading Hebrews 11, and I’ll highlight the part that leaped out at me:
“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.  He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’  Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.”
If Abraham were reasoning like me, he would have said, “I really believe that God promised me that my descendants will inherit this land through Isaac.  So is my sacrificing Isaac an action in keeping with that belief?”
No, I think it’s time for me to give up my ideas about keeping the marriage and offer it to God.  If He really wants to restore it, surely He is able to resurrect it from death.
And that thought was very comforting to me.

Meanwhile, despite trying to negotiate a divorce agreement, despite fears of losing my job, despite applying for new jobs and hitting dead ends – Spring bloomed as beautiful as ever.

Here are the trees next door:

And on the other side:

And I went back to Bull Run Regional Park to enjoy the Bluebell Trail.

I bought another t-shirt: “Cutting Libraries in a Recession is like Cutting Hospitals in a Plague.”

But despite protests and despite many job applications, on May 11, I got a notice that I was going to be part of the Reduction in Force and lose my job at Herndon Fortnightly Library. I was the most senior Librarian 1 getting a RIF notice, but I indeed got one.

Here’s what I wrote in my journal a few days later:

Tuesday I got my RIF notice. I’m scared and sad, and I’ve been having headaches. But friends are pouring out their love & support.

God gave me three forms of encouragement right away, plus one before.

A few days before, when I was thinking about the RIF, God gave me Psalm 34:32-34:

“The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
seeking their very lives;
but the Lord will not leave them in their power
or let them be condemned when brought to trial.
Wait for the Lord
and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.”

On the morning I got the RIF notice, a song was going through my head:

“Be strong in the Lord and
never give up hope.
He’s gonna do great things,
I already know that
God’s got his hand on you,
so don’t live life in fear;
forgive & forget,
but don’t forget why you’re here.
Take your time and pray.
These are the words I would say.”

That evening, when my CD finished and the radio came on, they were just beginning that very song.

The second thing that same day was on a card my branch manager gave me. It echoed almost exactly what Heather had said in the Mother’s Day sermon – be still and listen to God.

Here’s what the card said:

“All the truth
and beauty.
All the peace
and strength
you are seeking
are right there
in your heart . . .
Be still
and listen.
Be brave
and believe.”

Finally, the third thing was a message from Mabel that echoed what I’d been thinking – that this emphasizes that getting through this will be all God. I was proud of dealing with my divorce by getting my MLS and a librarian job. But there’s nothing I can do to keep it! It is all in God’s hands. And offering up my marriage, marriage restoration is also in God’s hands.

Here’s the verse Mabel included: Revelation 3:8 — “I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”

Thank You, Lord, for all this encouragement.

I went hiking again on May 30, at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park in Centreville. It was actually a Sunday. We didn’t have church and were told to take a Day of Rest, so it was a Prayer Walk for me.

All through May, I was still afraid I was going to be jobless and out of money. And at the same time was trying to negotiate with Steve about a custody and visitation agreement. But in June, I got God’s answer to tide me over. I wrote an update to my friends on June 13, 2010, so that’s how I’ll finish up Week 45’s post.

The big news is that I am employed!
Now, in case you don’t know why that is big news:  I’ve known since November that the proposed library budget cuts would probably mean I would get a laid off as part of a Reduction in Force for the county.  Sure enough, although people advocating for the library meant they “only” cut the library budget 12.68% instead of 15%, in early May I got a RIF notice.
It was definitely a blow.  I’ve applied for jobs 22 places, but no nibbles yet.
And living as a single Mom so long now, I have no savings whatsoever, but plenty of debt.
However, my job was a total gift from God in the first place.  I don’t believe that He has abandoned me.  What’s more, if God can bring good out of my losing my husband (and it’s more and more clear that He is doing that), then surely it’s easy as pie for Him to bring good out of a trivial little thing (comparatively!) like losing my job!
Anyway, the first step in the RIF process is to look for vacancies in your same job class.  They offered me a half-time Librarian I position.  I had to do a little agonizing.  Is half a job better than no job, since I’d be needing unemployment either way?  But since I can’t live off a half-time job, I decided to say no.  When I went in to the Government Center to sign off that I was not interested in a part-time placement, the HR rep went ahead and moved me to Step 2 of the RIF process — and showed me two job vacancies at my same pay grade, but at different county agencies.  Both were Management Analyst I positions.  One was the Fire Dept and one was Family Services.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I decided to take the job at Family Services.  It’s in the Office for Children, Provider Services.  That department licenses hundreds of child care providers in the county, processes USDA grants for nutritious lunches, and all the paperwork for being licensed.  It sounds like I would mainly be managing data, as well as some visits to Head Start and School Age Child Care programs to be sure their paperwork is in order.
When I went to meet the people they were super nice.  They were excited to have someone coming who likes numbers!  🙂  And they were already thinking I might want to get involved in the provider training to speak up for the library and early literacy.
Of course the best thing is the hours!  8:00 to 4:30, and only about 15 minutes from my home.  During the school year, I would actually leave after Tim left for school and arrive home before he does (his bus ride is so long).  With budget cuts, my schedule at the library would have been just awful — 9:30 to 6:00 most days, but 12:30 to 9:00 pm twice a week.  Plus working every other Saturday.
But my emotions are definitely in a mess.  I’m very very sad to leave my job.  I loved being a children’s librarian, and I love the people I work with.  And I got a Master’s in Library Science so I could be a Librarian, not a Management Analyst!  (And the Management Analyst position only requires a Bachelor’s degree — kind of points out that Public Librarians are underpaid.  But anyway, all the other librarian jobs I applied to pay better.)
So I’m still looking.  But this does take away the urgency.  Now I have the luxury of only accepting a job that I am absolutely sure I will love.
Meanwhile, I don’t know if everyone knows that I did file for divorce last January.  Although I still believe that God is telling me that some day Steve will have a change of heart and come back to God, and God will restore our marriage, I felt that God was telling me it was time to file for divorce.
I didn’t understand, but it did seem necessary to get some issues settled.  Anyway, I kept asking God, “I thought you told me You’re going to restore our marriage.  Does this mean I am lacking in faith?  Am I really hearing You right?  How can that be possible?”
But God was gracious.  He directly answered my questions — using one of my longtime favorite chapters, Hebrews 11…. 
So by filing for divorce, I’m putting the whole matter in God’s hands.  He can surely resurrect our marriage if that is His plan.
Meanwhile, God is blessing me and drawing me closer to Him.  I’m excited to see what’s going to happen with my next job, and grateful that He is providing for me while I’m looking.
This week, on June 17, we have a Scheduling Conference for the divorce.  They just set the dates for trial, etc.  I very much hope that, now Steve has a lawyer, we can get a Custody/Visitation Agreement signed.  If we can sign one before the Scheduling Conference, that will save us a whole trial — they schedule one for Custody/Visitation and one for everything else.  I think we mainly agree about Custody/Visitation, but my lawyer has written up 3 different agreements, and Steve has not been willing to sign them, but has not told us how to change it.  I’m hoping that now he has a lawyer, his lawyer can draw up something that he would sign.
Anyway, with all this going on, my emotions are going crazy.  So sad about leaving Herndon, so sad about my marriage ending.  Yet so happy that God is clearly coming through for me and I have a new job that it looks like I will really like.
Today God was especially gracious.  In the morning getting ready for church, I asked God for some encouragement.  I knew my emotions were volatile.  Started thinking about the divorce and got discouraged….
Well, encouragement came in a way I didn’t expect.  Now, the background is this:  Many, many times, whenever Steve mentioned getting a lawyer or taking legal action, God would send me the verses Isaiah 54:15 & 17–
“If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;
whoever attacks you will surrender to you….
No weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me, declares the Lord.”
Today the worship leader was teaching us a new song (Desert Song, by Hillsong), and there in the middle was the line — “No weapon formed against you will stand”!  Right when I was thinking about the divorce….  It reminded me that God is paying attention to my emotions, and He is looking after me.
As if that weren’t enough, the song after the next one had the words of a hymn we sang at our wedding!  I reflected that those words were committing my marriage and my life to God, and I don’t want to take it back, despite how it is turning out.  God has been faithful, and I want Him still to have my life:
Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days —
Let them flow in ceaseless praise,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love;
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee,
Swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice and let me sing
Always, only, for my King;
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee,
Filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold —
Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect and use
Ev’ry pow’r as Thou shalt choose,
Ev’ry pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will and make it Thine —
It shall be no longer mine;
Take my heart — it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne,
It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love — my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store;
Take myself — and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee,
Ever, only, all for Thee.
So — that’s why I haven’t written much lately.  I’m kind of overwhelmed with getting out applications, and all kinds of things going on.  But God is being good to me, and I know I’m going to make it through this.  Life is still full of reasons for Joy.

Next week I’ll get to talk about my new job that started June 21, and Steve signing the custody/visitation agreement on June 19.

Project 52, Week 45, Part 2 – A Sign of God’s Goodness

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 45!

45 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 45 — June 14, 2009, to June 14, 2010.

Last time, I got through the first part of the year. I was still in Phase 9 of my divorce, a weird sort of Limbo. Now that I think about it, burning the copy of The Giving Tree that I gave to Steve in college was symbolic of what I was learning that year.

Is it possible to love someone, and yet to stand up for yourself and not let them cut you down and take all your branches and all your fruit? I believe that it is possible, and that’s what I was learning.

But now I’d like to backtrack a tiny bit to October 11. I had started a separate journal listing times I felt God was telling me something. And there’s an entry on October 11, 2009, that goes like this:

I asked God for a verse for my librarianship. To help wipe out any resentment that I’m working full-time. I was thinking in the next week or so.

[Interruption from the present: When I read this I had completely forgotten about that resentment I’d had. I had never expected to have to work full-time while my children were in school. My own mother had never worked at all. I was working full-time because Steve had left me, and there was some resentment lurking in my heart.

But I’m happy to report in the present that fighting that resentment worked! Now I’m so happy about my career. Why, I’m even on the Newbery Committee!!!! (You knew that would come up again!) Continuing:]

But the thought came to me even as I was turning to the “Promise of the Day,” and I felt this verse was given to me:

Psalm 86:17 —
“Give me a sign of your goodness,
that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
for you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.”

My whole new career as a librarian, all my connections as a writer and a blogger — all those things are a sign of God’s goodness to me.

The best revenge is living well? Yes, God being good to me will put Steve’s ill will to shame.

But indeed, the Lord is helping me and comforting me and showering me with signs of His goodness.

Thank You for my full-time job, Lord.

And that very week, I got to go to my first KidLitCon in Arlington, Virginia!

I’d started Sonderbooks in 2001 as an email newsletter and eventually converted it to a website and blog. Well, around 2006 and 2007, when I was busy moving back to America and attending graduate school, there’d been an explosion of blogs about children’s books, the Kidlitosphere. I’d been somewhat unaware, because of those details like my marriage falling apart and moving and going to grad school. But now that the dust was settling, I was finding out what’s what.

And going to Kidlitcon was wonderful! Children’s book bloggers are people who love children’s books enough to spend their spare time reading and talking about children’s books – just like me! So October 17 was when I met many Children’s Book Bloggers who are still my friends and who I’ve worked with on Cybils committees or seen again at other conferences or friended on Facebook.

That was when I met Susan Kusel, whose footsteps I’m following. Susan had just been accepted to the William Morris Seminar on Book Evaluation – and I had just been rejected. But the next time I tried, two years later, I got it. After that, Susan was on the ballot for the Caldecott committee the same year I was first on the ballot for the Newbery committee. Susan was elected, and I was not – but the next time I tried, three years later, I got it. So Susan’s just paving the way for me! Also, Susan had a children’s literature book club that met one Sunday a month that I attended for awhile.

I was also still thrilled to meet authors. I had just read and adored Diana Peterfreund’s book Rampant, so I was so excited to meet her!

I’d also found Laurel Snyder’s book Any Which Wall to be completely delightful.

And I loved Elizabeth Scott’s book Stealing Heaven.

And I’d read Letters from Rapunzel, by Sara Lewis Holmes, just before the conference.

So KidLitCon had me energized and inspired. I told all about it in this blog post. And yes, I was wearing my Prime Factorization Sweater in all the pictures, so I wrote a post explaining my Prime Factorization Sweater.

Now, I hate to admit this – but in general children’s literature folks and librarians don’t get super excited about my Prime Factorization Sweater. They are wonderful people, but many of them are sadly blighted when it comes to math. I did explain it to Greg Pincus, who was appropriately enthusiastic, and maybe more would have been excited if I had dared to explain it. (Greg had done a talk in which he mentioned both knitting and Fibonacci numbers, so I had to explain it to him.) Anyway, this particular blog post was due to get attention when I finally found its true audience a couple years later.

Right after Kidlitcon, I got a 10-day migraine. My headaches were definitely acting up again. But I was still taking an online class about the Newbery medal and reading a Newbery winner from each decade of the award (since 1922).

On the 25th, I went for a hike in the beautiful Fall forest there in Centreville.

As I left, I took a picture of the tree in front of my own home.

This California girl still gets very excited about Fall Color!

And I saw a mother deer and her fawn!

Then November started with a 10-day headache. Then two days off – then a 36-day headache, or at least 36 days in a row where I wrote “headache” on my calendar. Yikes! No, I wrote in my blog on Thanksgiving Day that it was “only” a 14-day headache.

In my quiet times that month, I’m still regularly agonizing over the question of whether it was time to file for divorce and divorce Steve. I still believed God was going to bring about a change of heart in him. But for now, he was not someone I wanted to be partners with. I wanted to express love to him – but he wasn’t seeing anything I did as loving.

Lest you think I was dealing with the headaches well, here’s what I wrote to a friend:

Well, now I’m on Day 3 of a new headache.  And my patience with it is going very quickly.  This one is more a “normal” headache — bad — than the earlier ones.  On the good side, it is responding to the rizatriptan, though not going away completely.  I suspect the problem is hormonal this time, since last night my ovary was aching, or at least something in that exact location.  Urgh.  Today I’ll try again to make a neurology appointment.  (They’ve been putting me off, because I will probably have to go with a civilian provider.)
Today I woke up with it pretty bad, but knew I had to open.  I was going to leave when my boss came in, but then someone else called in sick (sounds like flu), so I think I’d better not.  The triptan is kicking in, anyway.  And tomorrow I’m only working 4:00 to 8:00.
But it’s really frustrating.  This morning I thought about going to an emergency room and saying, Get rid of this headache.  But how would I get home if they drug me?  And besides, when I did that back when I was a 23-year-old, they almost gave me a heart attack and didn’t get rid of the headache anyway.  That was when I learned that I should not take Demerol and Vistaril.
I’m realizing that this is the first time I’ve had prolonged bouts with headaches since Steve left.  So it’s the first time I’ve had to fight off the chant in the back of my mind:  This is what Steve was going to kill you for.  It was when I was having prolonged headaches that he decided everyone would be happier without me.  So I can’t even look back with longing at the times when I thought Steve was caring for me when I had headaches.  He was definitely not doing it compassionately, if that was his solution.
Okay, so those are the thoughts haunting me — but definitely ones I can do without.  No, it’s not easy tending a sick person, but maybe that’s why we put “in sickness and in health” in our wedding vows.  A kind person does not abandon (or murder!) someone for being sick.

I got another letter from Steve pressuring me to have my lawyer write up a new separation agreement according to Timothy’s best interests (as if we didn’t already have one written with those in mind) and that I should share the driving to show Tim “an example of adult cooperation.” I emailed Steve a short response, including that I had shared the driving for more than a year and Tim had seen exactly what level of cooperation Steve had responded with.

This, then, is the email I sent my friends and advisors on November 7:

Dear, wonderful and kind friends,
I’m sorry.  The votes were two against and one okay, but I sent the e-mail anyway.
To me, it was the equivalent of saying, “Do not talk to me like that.”
Although it is not good to engage in argument with an abuser, I do think there are times to say, “Do not talk to me like that.”
In me, it feels very much like standing up for myself.  I don’t care that he won’t hear it, but perhaps after reading what I wrote, repeating the lines about “adult cooperation” will begin to sound foolish to him, so perhaps he will move on to other lines.
But it’s mainly a declaration for me:
I will not allow my teenage son to see his mother acting like a doormat.
I will NOT allow my teenage son to see his mother acting like a doormat.
I will not act like a doormat.
Not saying anything really felt to me like cowering in terror of him.  I needed also to say that I am not afraid of you, and I am not going to let you tell me how I should act.
And not accepting e-mail is ridiculous and uncooperative, so I sent it in an e-mail.  He can feel free to ignore it, but I felt very, very good to send it.
I think I’ll be able to restrain myself for quite awhile again now!  (We’ll see!)
Okay, enough of that!
Today I went for a walk in the woods right by our house.  The leaves are mostly gone, but there are still some left, and I got some truly beautiful pictures.  I’ll post them on Facebook one of these days.
The headache is still eating most of my energy and stamina, but I did also get the grocery shopping done, with Tim’s help.  (I always like it when he comes along.)  Tomorrow I have to work at the regional library.  I think I will take a Maxalt in the morning.  The other four times I took it with this headache, it did help for awhile, and that should get me through the work day, I hope.
(Rachel, when I went to urgent care on Thursday, my blood pressure was actually quite low, so I don’t think that’s it.  They gave me a shot of an NSAID, which took away the headache for about 4 hours.  Anyway, I have an appointment with neurology at Bethesda on November 18.  If this is from a hormonal fluctuation, it should STOP by then.  If not, well I’ll have that much more reason to tell them that they should take it seriously.)
Anyway, the walk in the woods made Steve seem trivial.  But it’s also where I decided that, yes, I would send that e-mail for my own sake, not being afraid of his reaction.  I like my life.  I can walk in beautiful Autumn woods!  I take gorgeous pictures!  I am making friends in the library world!  (One of my classmates in the Newbery class, who has a kidlit blog with quite a following, just friended me on Facebook.  And that’s just one of many, many connections I’ve made lately.)
I just finished going through Ephesians in my quiet times, and thought that in between a next book, I’d do a little word study.  I was playing with ideas for words to look at and ended up choosing “stand.”  The first instance in my mini-concordance was Exodus 14:13 — “Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.  The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
I know, it’s definitely open to debate — but for me, sending that e-mail felt like taking a stand.  Now I will work on being still.
Thank you for your advice, your love and prayers!

And it seems to me that email sums up well where I was in November 2009. And now it’s late, so I’ll have to save the rest – the resolution of the headache and the decision to divorce Steve – for another installment.

I do want to say though that I’m struck by three things when I think of Year 45:

1) I’m so glad I got divorced!

There are many reasons for this. Even though we had years of a good marriage, even though I will always feel affection for Steve because of those years – he is no longer a good partner for me.

It is so good now, in 2017, to no longer face a barrage of anger and abuse, even if it was only in letters then.

You can try to be loving, compassionate, and kind. But there is a time to let go.

If God had answered my prayers with a dramatic change of heart in my husband and a restored marriage (and God often does this! I’ve seen it!) – well, knowing who I am, I then would have had so much less compassion for other marriages. I would have thought I know what you should always do. You should always pray until God restores your marriage! I no longer think it’s so simple. And I know I’m not a model.

But God is gracious.

2) God so gently led me to the place where I was willing to file myself.

He answered my prayer against the divorce when Steve filed – that case was thrown out. But then God slowly and gently brought me to where I was willing to file. I felt guilty at the time. But I’m glad I did file. And God was gracious with me.

3) I had so many good advisors!

I sent every letter from Steve past several people and my own proposed responses as well. They helped tremendously. I knew I was not alone, and they gave me new perspectives and brought me out of my own head.

And more about all that in the next installment….

Project 52, Week 45, Part 1 – Local Hiking and Divorce Phase 9

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 45!

45 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 45 — June 14, 2009, to June 14, 2010.

Last time, I covered how I began Phase 9 of my divorce – Limbo. Steve and his lawyer had a disagreement and the case was dropped. But now Steve was pressuring me to have my lawyer draw up a new custody and visitation agreement – even though she already had one that I had signed. Finally he agreed again to do visitation, but I was no longer willing to help with the driving.

But the rest of my life was going well. I’d now been a full-fledged Librarian and Youth Services Manager at Herndon Fortnightly Library for more than a year. I still loved the job. Tim had finished his first year at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. And we had moved to a nice rental townhome in Centreville, costing less for a nicer place.

Jade (then called Josh) was living with my parents in Los Angeles. The idea had been to get a job with the film industry, but instead J. had started working for my brother Jeff, writing software that makes graphing calculators easier to use.

That summer was laid-back. Tim took two weeks with Steve in July. And then he had his 15th birthday.

I took a week off work and had a simple vacation. I worked on unpacking (still) and writing, but we also did some day trips. First was a hike at Manassas Battlefield Park, which ended up being only 5 minutes away from us.

I did a couple more days of unpacking and organizing, then on August 6, we went to Shenandoah National Park. I tried to follow directions to get to Rose River Falls, but instead hiked down a fire road on the other side of Skyline Drive – but had a lovely time.

I was so bothered, though, by the bit of the instructions I’d missed, that we went back to Shenandoah National Park two days later and this time successfully found the path to Rose River Falls.

After our long hike, we were relaxing at the lodge overlooking a large meadow, and saw a bear!

So it was a nice and low-budget week off, and I did make great progress getting my boxes unpacked and making my home feel more like home.

The next week, my friend-from-high-school Susan Leinen came to visit! She and her husband Randy took me out to eat, and we visited Sully Plantation and then went swimming at Darlene’s house.

Meanwhile, I was still agonizing about things with Steve.

Before I talk about that though, let me draw back and talk about the big picture. From the vantage point of 2017, when I think of this time I think of it this way: God answered my prayer and miraculously stopped the divorce case Steve filed against me. Then, in Year 45, He was gently and slowly bringing me to understand that Steve had truly changed, and it was time for me to file for divorce. In 2017, I’m so glad that happened. And God was gracious to me about bringing me to that place.

Back in 2009, I was doing plenty of agonizing. Here’s a journal entry from July 28, 2009:

I miss my husband! I can’t seem to forget the good times, the loving words, the life we built together. Then I remember the cruel things. And my mind goes in circles.

Lord, it would be so much easier if I could forget him. So much easier to go through life not thinking about him.

Lord, back when I was a teen I asked and asked you to make [someone] “like” me. Finally, I asked You to change my heart instead – and You did. He was my friend from then on, and that friendship no longer caused me pain.

But, Father, I promised to love Steve, so it seems wrong to ask You to change my heart toward him.

Still, give my heart peace, Father. Help me be able to let him go.

That summer, Pastor Ed was preaching out of Ephesians, and I was having my quiet times there. On August 16, looking at Ephesians 5, where they talk about people with sexual immorality, the words jumped out at me: “Therefore do not be partners with them.”

Was it time to divorce Steve? At the very least, I shouldn’t be partners with him as he was living a life rejecting God.

I decided, for now, to take it as another indication that I should work on letting Steve go.

And meanwhile, I was trying trying to be loving and forgiving toward him and to “live as children of light.” But how to do that while still being hurt with his words?

As the summer went on, I had asked Steve to give a week’s notice about when he would come pick Tim up, and he wasn’t doing it. It did dawn on me that with Steve doing all the driving, a week’s notice as to times wasn’t nearly as important.

But Steve sent another letter saying that my reasons for not sharing the driving were not important compared with Timothy’s best interests. Never mind that I thought my reasons were in Timothy’s best interests.

Then I journaled:

Ephesians 4:31 –
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”

Lord, help me to get rid of bitterness. Help me to forgive and give me joy in its place.

Yesterday I got another letter from Steve. Father, it hurts, hurts, hurts when he implies that I would not even act according to Timothy’s best interests.

Father, speak through my advisors. I don’t think I should even answer his letter. If I should, let me know. But I don’t want to defend my actions to him. Bottom line, I’m not helping with driving any more because I’m afraid to be in his presence. And his showing no compassion for me has added to that fear. It is not in Timothy’s best interests to have his mother afraid for her life with his father….

Give me wisdom, Lord, how to act, toward Steve, and toward Tim.

Thank You that You are helping me be a good mother and a beautiful person.

And that was when the “shining like a star” story happened that I shared when I told My Story at church. Here’s the blog post I wrote about it on August 23, 2009.

Basically, I had an odd prompting to pray that the verse Philippians 2:15 would come up in the sermon, and that would be a sign from God that I was not, actually, a bad person and a bad mother, but that God was making me shine like a star.

And that exact verse was part of the closing song.

And I felt so loved.

Of course, the punchline was that it also helped confirm that I should not argue with Steve about his letter. I knew that was the best advice, but the whole passage starts with “Do everything without complaining or arguing.”

Here’s what I wrote in my journal after that church service:

Father, You’re saying to me through this:

I love you, Sondy.
I care about the details of your life.
I care about your emotional pain.
I know it’s difficult, and I’m giving you extra grace, holding you close to me.
I am making you shine like a star in the universe.
You will help hopeless and broken people be hopeless and broken no more.
You don’t need to argue your case.
I am making you shine.

In September, Tim started tenth grade, which went better for him than ninth grade. He got into AP Computer Science, because he’d enjoyed his computer project the year before.

On September 26, I went to the National Book Festival. The thing that made my day was when I got in line to get a book signed by Shannon Hale, and she knew who I was! I’d reviewed her very first book, The Goose Girl and named it the best book I’d read that year. Over the years, I’d been a huge fan, and we’d even exchanged some emails. But I was tickled to death when she immediately recognized my name. “Of course I know who you are!”

That was the year I figured out the best way to enjoy the National Book Festival – Get a seat in a tent and stay there. The children’s authors ended up being great speakers! I got to hear Mo Willems!

Steven Kellogg was a dynamic speaker!

And I got to see Jerry Pinkney present The Lion and the Mouse before it won the Caldecott Medal!

And Jon Scieszka and David Shannon spoke together, sharing their new book, Robot Zot.

So good things were happening, mixed with agonizing about Steve, and – a return of my headaches. I got an 8-day long one in September – the first bad headaches since I’d started on the preventative Zoloft back in 2005 after Steve started his affair. I’d quit taking the Zoloft in 2008, but the effect had lasted – at first.

Here’s an email I wrote on October 3rd that had a nice summary of how things were going.

I found a new Life Group!  And I think it’s a great fit.  It meets Friday nights at 7:00, like the other group I tried, and is only a mile further away – but it’s in the opposite direction, closer to my work.  And I would be one of the younger members, definitely not the oldest, in this group.  And my good friends Kristi and Marilynn, who have given me advice about Steve, are in this group.  And another sweet older lady who has been divorced.  Definitely people who can give me help and encouragement.  And I really like the leader of the group, too.  So I’m excited about the good fit.

[My new home was too far from Ashburn, where Rachel and Mark Morgan’s group met. And now I was wanting to be out of the house on Friday nights, so that Steve could pick up Tim without me being around.]

Last night Steve didn’t get Tim until about 8:45 (I had him call me).  The time seems to be different every week.
I still feel a little guilty about how MUCH driving Steve is doing — but the lack of interaction is so much better.  I think if a judge ever orders me to share in the driving, I can insist that Steve also be ordered to allow me to e-mail him — trying to arrange that by snail mail was just ridiculous.
Today I got the syllabus for my class on the Newbery Medal!  I’m excited!  It looks like I will have to be adjusting my reading significantly for the next 6 weeks.  I’m supposed to read one winner from each decade it has been given.  But mostly I can pick out books I’d been meaning to read for a very long time, so that’s cool.  I may have to stop myself from reading more than one!  And of course fitting in time for class discussion may be a big challenge.

[That was a really great online class. I was already thinking about trying to get on the committee some day. In fact, I was applying for the second time to go to the William Morris Seminar in January to be trained for committee work. But I didn’t get accepted until the third time I applied.]

And today I’m on the 4th day of a headache.  It feels exactly like that 8-day one — definitely lower level than the norm for me, fluctuating in intensity, not affected at all by medication, but persistent.  It’s possible that this one is hormonal — since all week I’ve been off hormones – this is the week with the fake birth control pill.  But I’m thinking such a drastic change in my headaches should probably be checked.  I’m due to get my blood pressure rechecked anyway.  I will ask her to check my thyroid.  Otherwise, I just don’t know what’s up with this.  I was doing so well for so long, and these are quite different from my “normal” headaches.  A rule of thumb is that you should always get checked if there is a change in your headache pattern — and this is definitely a change.  I don’t think stress or lack of sleep or allergies or anything like that would account for it.

[I’d started on birth control pills to try to adjust some super long cycles. I asked the gynecologist about what a doctor had told me years ago – that people who get migraines are at higher risk for stroke if they go on birth control pills. She said they’re lower dose now, so it’s not a problem. Umm, I don’t think she’s right about that. It did make my cycles much better – but I’m not sure it was worth the stroke I had later.]

Other than that (which is kind of major), I’m doing great.  Excited about the new Life group, excited about the class, excited about the Kidlitosphere Conference in two weeks.  Oh, and did I tell you?  Thursday night it was finally cold enough to try out my new fireplace — so I began burning the book The Giving Tree.  (I say “began” because it turns out I should put in some kindling.  But it was fun burning it a page at a time!)  It’s a nice symbol that I am NOT choosing that pattern for a relationship any more.  Seemed like a kind of ironic way to celebrate Banned Books Week!  (Other people are welcome to read the book, I’m just burning my personal copy — actually Steve’s personal copy!)

Ah! The Ceremonial Burning of The Giving Tree. I still had the copy I’d given Steve when we were dating in college. It was inscribed, “May you never grow up!” I felt like I’d asked him to leave me and chop me down and take all my apples!

So during Banned Books Week 2009, I did the only book burning I’ve ever done – and it felt lovely!

And on Columbus Day, Tim and I did more quick hiking at Manassas Battlefield Park.

And it’s getting late! So that will be all I’ll cover tonight.

Project 52, Week 44, Part 3 – A New Home and New Beginnings

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 44!

44 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 44 — June 14, 2008, to June 14, 2009.

Last time, I talked about Fall 2008 and Phase 7 of my divorce. (I also listed the phases I’d been through. Still several to go!)

Also that Fall, my youngest son Tim, now 14, started at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. By the end of the semester, he was in danger of getting low grades in English, due to not turning in homework. It’s a magnet school, so they had criteria that if your GPA got below a certain level, you’d have to leave the school. I was worried about Tim.

Here’s what I wrote in my quiet time journal during Thanksgiving break. It was based on Philippians 4:6-7, so I was laying out my requests.

I want to be a good mother to Tim. My requests are:

That Tim would get his homework done.
That Tim would take responsibility for his own work.
That we would still have a good relationship when we’re done.

Oh Father, thank You!

While I was still praying (writing the above), Tim came out, presented to me rationally and clearly why my monitoring him and interfering was not working, and we’re friends, and we made a deal that I will not interfere with his doing homework this weekend.

Thank You, Lord, You answered while I was still praying!

Essentially, I made Tim the same offer I’d made many times to J. when they were in high school: I would allow them to manage their homework – but if their grades dropped, I would step in and start monitoring.

The crazy thing: Tim took me up on it! I NEVER again had to nag him about doing work while in high school. He didn’t do every single bit of homework, but he totally took responsibility and knew what he was doing. A very cool thing was that his friends helped him with this. And that’s where going to TJ was helpful. The friends Tim made there were highly motivated people. Mostly with much pushier parents than I was. Tim’s friends helped him become a conscientious student. Wow!

That Autumn, I also did a lot of hiking across the road in the woods at Frying Pan Park.

On one of the weekends when Tim was visiting Steve, I visited my friend Phoebe, from Sterling Library, at her home in Point of Rocks, Maryland, and we walked along the Potomac.

Now, regarding the divorce, when Steve had a fight with his lawyer and refused to sign the agreement our lawyers had drawn up, the case was dropped, and we entered

Phase 8: Visitation Pause

Steve did not get a new lawyer after he had his lawyer parted ways. Steve told me that he fired his lawyer. My lawyer told me that Steve’s lawyer said he was planning to quit if Steve didn’t sign the agreement, once he and Steve had a shouting match when he learned about Steve’s affair from reading my Discovery. But anyway, Steve didn’t have a lawyer.

But shortly after the case got thrown out, Steve told me that he wanted us to work out a custody and visitation agreement. He presented me with one that he’d written, which wasn’t acceptable to me, and wasn’t in proper legal format. I asked why not use the one I’d spent thousands of dollars for my lawyer to write, and which his lawyer had agreed to, which I had already signed and had notarized. But Steve said that one wasn’t acceptable to him.

And then Steve said he wasn’t going to host any more visitation unless I signed an agreement.

Well, that was an empty threat. Tim was pretty stressed from spending every other weekend away from home and trying to keep up with his homework. Although I didn’t want this to be permanent, I just couldn’t feel sad that I was going to get a break from dealing with visitation. And I certainly wasn’t going to sign an agreement I didn’t agree with.

But things had really deteriorated between us. I had persisted in periodically telling Steve I still loved him and wished him the best – and he told me I lost email privileges. So we were trying to work out visitation schedules via phone calls or letters.

I didn’t like phone calls, because Steve would yell at me. One time he swore at me and then said, “See what you made me do? I hope you’re happy!” So – I stopped answering if he called. He could leave a message.

And niggling in the back of my mind was the fact that Steve had told me he’d once had a plan to kill me. I was starting to be afraid to be in his presence. Many times when we tried to meet part way, Steve wouldn’t be where he said he’d be when he said he would, and communication was so cut off. So all this added up to I stopped offering to help with the driving.

Oh! I have to mention another wonderful author whose books I must have first read during Fall 2008 – several books about verbal abuse by Patricia Evans. SO helpful! I hadn’t even realized that what Steve was doing could be called verbal abuse, because it wasn’t usually name-calling. But Patricia Evans explained that when someone tries to define you in ways you disagree with, that’s abusive. It was VERY helpful for me in dealing with the messages from Steve to understand why it hurt so much when he told me things like how I was trying to start arguments.

The fact is, Steve could not actually read my mind and actually did not know my motives.

[These books are WONDERFUL, by the way, and I can’t recommend them highly enough. They’re even good for people not in an abusive relationship to help watch their own words and stay civil on the Internet. Follow the link to my reviews and I highly recommend all of Patricia Evans’ books. Thank you, Thank you, to my friend Marilynn for recommending them to me!]

Steve had one last visitation over Christmas, so I had my first Christmas alone. But before Tim left, we had a pre-Christmas together. A big hit was the Flying Monkey, Flingshot, from Think Geek. (And Tim’s wearing a Think Geek t-shirt featuring their mascot, Timmy the Monkey.)

Here’s my 2008 Christmas Letter. It actually was a good year, despite all the drama with the divorce. I had now been a Youth Services Manager and a Librarian for almost a year, and I was loving it.

Here I am wearing a scarf my staff member got me in India.

I was still worried about money. I’d switched dentists, thinking a “participating provider” would be cheaper – but didn’t realize they specialized in finding expensive work to do. I ended up charging a thousand more dollars to pay for the work they did. Before I discovered that I wasn’t supposed to pay what my insurance refused to cover – that was part of being participating. It was a mess. I went back to my wonderful dentist Kathe had recommended, Dr. Wanda Garrett, long may she live and work!

But when I was fretting about money, I felt God gave me these verses:

“You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessing and prosperity will be yours.”

and Deuteronomy 16:15 —

“For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.”

[Spoiler Alert: I was reflecting this morning that while I still have far more debt than I would like – far more – It is very nice not to live with that fear that something could easily happen and I might not be able to pay my rent. I have a good job and I am slowly, slowly paying off that debt and paying my bills.]

So, as 2009 began, things had deteriorated so badly that Steve was demanding that I sign a legal agreement or he wouldn’t do visitation with Tim. I told him that any negotiations about a legal agreement, he would have to talk with my lawyer about. I was hoping he’d get a lawyer, but he didn’t. He also didn’t ever tell us what he specifically didn’t like about the agreement she’d already drawn up and his lawyer had agreed with. He only insisted that I sign the one he’d written. So we were at an impasse.

And Steve berated both of us for keeping him from his son.

Now, that didn’t have a whole lot of sting. I was perfectly willing for Tim to visit Steve. Withholding visitation until I signed his agreement was entirely Steve’s idea.

Meanwhile, it was such a nice break not to deal with this.

Tim and I had fun in January during a really cold spell hiking on top of the frozen Frying Pan Creek.

Oh, and Steve marched in Obama’s Inaugural Parade in January 2009! I like the post I wrote about it. I was learning to get some joy out of the situation!

And my sister Abby came to visit! She was looking into grad school possibilities on the East Coast. And we learned that one of the best possible days for coming into DC was President’s Day – especially a month after the whole country came to visit for the Inauguration. The city was empty!

This picture is actually Abby and Tim, not me and Tim:

We went to the Library of Congress!

The reading room was open! And I got to pretend I worked there!

More fun in DC.

And here’s a new shrug I knitted with yarn from a local yarn shop.

Meanwhile, Steve was still trying to get my lawyer to write a new custody agreement. Even though she’d already written one. I wasn’t going to pay her to draft a new one. He was welcome to hire a lawyer to do so, and then we could make revisions. Or he could say what revisions he wanted with the one already written.

Now the problem with having Steve communicate about the legal agreement with my lawyer is that of course she charged me for the time it took to read them and respond. But looking back, it was worth every penny. He spent much of his time berating her and me for not doing what he wanted. It was nice having a buffer, though I did wish he’d get his own lawyer to tell him that he was being unreasonable.

And looking at the old emails, it turns out that March 2009 was when Steve told me that for years, I’d been making him miserable. Present tense. Here’s what I said to my girlfriends about it:

His saying on the phone that I have been making his life miserable for several years now — It was very present tense.
It’s weird to me that that statement made me feel better.  But instead of hurting like the ones in his letter to my lawyer, it just struck me as so ludicrous!  I have not lived with him for three and a half years, and he still believes, that I am, present tense, making his life miserable?!!!
I thought up a response that I would love to tell him.  (Don’t worry I won’t!)  I would laugh heartily, and say, “Steve, you are not making MY life miserable!  In fact, the cruel things you did have driven me to God.  And right now my life is going far better than ever before!”

“Steve, I still don’t want a divorce, because I still believe that’s wrong.  I do hope that some day you’ll decide to come back to your family and share in all the joy that our lives are full of now.”
You can see why this would not be a good thing to actually say to Steve!  But you can also probably see why thinking it out makes me feel very, very good!
I guess what it boils down to is that the letter and the phone call made me feel sorry for Steve, which is a much more pleasant emotion than anger and frustration.

That phone call was when I tried to arrange for Tim to see the movie Watchmen with Steve. It’s a comic Steve recommended. I offered to do some of the driving. But Steve would only do it if I would do all of the driving, and I wasn’t willing or able. We were back to our impasse.

And – I started looking for a less expensive place to live. And I found one! A townhome for rent in Centreville, costing $440 less per month than the apartment in Herndon, and much cozier. And since it was a private rental, the rent didn’t go up every year, either.

Once again, Gateway folks helped me move. Though I had a couple of weeks of overlap and did lots and lots of trips myself, moving little things like boxes of books.

Here’s what I wrote about my new home. It felt like a symbol of my joyful new life.

Here’s the tree next door and the front of my new home.

At the end of March, when I was getting ready to move, this happened:

Oh, and on Sunday, God spoke again.  I’d been asking Him again, “Did I REALLY hear you right that You are going to transform Steve and restore our marriage, because I can’t imagine a healthy marriage with him.  How would that be possible?”  The answer was in a sermon on Ephesians 3, culminating in “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us….”  and the sermon was about how God transforms us from the inside out.

But it was also clear that I am just to trust that God will do it, but not try to monitor the process.  To not worry about trying to manufacture love for him in preparation for that day.  The whole thing will be God’s astonishing work.

And then this week I’m working on being thankful for the blessings God’s giving me now.

Dear Reader, I have a very different interpretation of what that meant looking at it now! God did something I didn’t ask or imagine — a beautiful life as a divorced woman! [On the NEWBERY COMMITTEE, no less!]

Now, on immediate guidance I was correct. I was to let Steve go. And notice all the blessings God was pouring out on me. And I had the assurance that God would do something awesome in my life, something beyond what I could imagine. On that, I was absolutely right!

When we moved in during April, Tim still wasn’t doing any visitation. His grades had improved greatly, and he seemed less stressed out, too. So he didn’t seem to be suffering from the pause. Steve was still calling him almost every night.

On April 27, 2009, I got a letter from Steve. He’d been to see the base legal office and was making vague threats about seeing me in court, mixed in with lots of accusations. When I told my girlfriends/advisors about it, I told them also about how every time Steve would make a legal threat, God would send me the verse “no weapon forged against you will prevail” from Isaiah 54.

And then I checked my Page-a-day Promise calendar for the day. I laughed aloud! Here’s what it had for that day:

No weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,
declares the Lord.

–Isaiah 54:11

And on May 1st, Steve decided to resume visitation. I refused to help with the driving any more, because I didn’t feel safe being near Steve. Well, Steve took issue with that! But from then on, Steve picked up Tim and dropped him off from my house in Centreville. And we no longer had to try to negotiate a place and time to meet. And I wasn’t afraid. And Tim got good time with his Dad in the car.

That put us into the next phase of the divorce:

Phase 9: Limbo
Still married. Steve had no lawyer. No legal agreement signed by Steve on either custody/visitation or equitable distribution of property.
Tim spent every other weekend with Steve, and Steve did all the driving.

And that was how the year I was 44 finished up.

I was still happily working at Herndon Fortnightly Library, though, sadly, we’d had budget cuts and lost my fabulous 15-hour Information Assistant in the children’s department.

I was attending Gateway Community Church and Rachel and Mark Morgan’s small group. I was already friends with some other women having marital difficulties and we were encouraging each other.

I was still standing for my marriage and praying that Steve would have a change of heart, but I was more and more glad I wasn’t living with him then. I’d learned about verbal abuse and could now recognize it in his emails – but that didn’t make it stop hurting each time I read words of accusation and blame.

I’d learned from Tim that Steve was planning to retire February 1, 2010, and I wasn’t sure what that would mean as far as child support. I was pretty sure Steve probably wouldn’t give me the marital share of his retirement money if we weren’t divorced. So I was starting to stew and trying to remember to pray.

And, Spoiler Alert, since then, God has truly done exceedingly abundantly beyond all I asked or thought at that time.

My 45th birthday fell on a Sunday, and Darlene and two other ladies from church took me out to eat for lunch!

And John Maulella gave the message and mentioned a verse that I’d long loved, Isaiah 43:18-19. I decided it was the perfect passage for my birthday.

Isaiah 43:18-19
Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up;
do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.

Project 52, Week 44, Part 2 – Divorce, Phase Seven

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 44!

44 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 44 — June 14, 2008, to June 14, 2009.

Last time, I talked about the start of Year 44, when I graduated from Drexel University with a Master’s in Library and Information Science and Jade (then called Josh) graduated from Full Sail University with a Bachelor’s degree in film.

Then for a month, I had Josh and Tim both in my home, but they also spent a good amount of that time at Steve’s.

It was great to have both of my children with me. Though Josh was very ready to move out and be on their own.

On September 2, 2008, Tim started high school at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, and on September 3, Josh flew from Dulles airport to Los Angeles. Josh was going to live in my parents’ house and look for a job in the film industry.

Well, it turned out to be a bad time for a new person to get a foot in the door. Josh got there just after a major Writer’s strike, and new jobs weren’t easy to come by. I was happy that Josh was with family, so I didn’t have to worry about them having a place to live and food to eat. And I wouldn’t be tempted to fuss over them finding work.

Meanwhile, divorce matters were absorbing my time and attention.

I was thinking about describing this phase and I’d have to say, “This was just phase one of our divorce.” And then I realized: Hold it right there! Although this wasn’t even close to being the end of our divorce negotiations, it was by no means the beginning!

To review, here are the phases in my divorce:

Phase 1: Clueless
Fall 2004 to March 14, 2005.
“Double Life”
My husband began a secret friendship that progressed to an affair in February 2005.
I had no idea.

Phase 2: Heartbreak
March 14 to June 4, 2005.
Revelation #1: “I’ve been living a double life.”
Affair continued, unbeknownst to me. What I did hear is all the ways I let my husband down over 18 years of marriage.
After the initial shock, I went into a deep depression, taking on the guilt for my husband “needing a friend.”
What helped pull me out of the depression was my friend Kathe’s visit, plus singing a solo at a choir concert, plus switching migraine preventatives to an anti-depressant.

Phase 3: Trying So Hard
June to November 2005
“Working on it” (But not really)
I was trying with all my might to win my husband back. We went to counseling.
I didn’t know the affair was continuing, though this was the phase when my friends kept seeing him out and about with the other woman.

Phase 4: Separated
November 2005 to August 2006.
Revelation #2: “I want a divorce.”
Divorce Filing #1: Steve filed with a lawyer in Illinois. Papers were not served before we left Germany, so didn’t happen. Steve “fired” his lawyer #1.
During this phase, I was living in the family home (rented) in Sembach village, and Steve was coming over regularly to read at bedtime to Tim and feed the kids when I worked late.
I had new support. My trip to Paris. I’d talked with a lawyer at Ramstein Legal, and I could now tell people in my Sunday School class. I started getting Rejoice Ministries emails about standing for my marriage.
I was making plans to become a librarian.

Phase 5: Opposite Sides of the World
August 2006 to August 2007.
Revelation #3: It was an affair all along.
Steve got himself sent to Japan so I couldn’t follow him.
I moved to Virginia and began my Master’s in Library Science.

Phase 6: Money Worries
Fall 2007.
Steve moved to Virginia. Support cut drastically.
My hopes rose when I saw my husband for the first time in a year. But they got beaten down pretty quickly.
We began negotiations about Tim spending time with his Dad.

Phase 7: Legal Negotiations
October 2007 to November 2008.
Divorce Filing #2: Steve filed for divorce with a Virginia lawyer. (His lawyer #2)
I found a wonderful and competent lawyer, Roberta Henault. She began negotiating with Steve’s lawyer to try to create a Custody Agreement as well as a Property Settlement Agreement.
I was still praying against the divorce but was becoming resigned that it wasn’t going to happen.

So – at this time I was in Phase 7 of divorce negotiations! (Spoiler alert: several more to come!)

Here’s what I wrote to my email mentor about the case on August 13, 2008:

Okay, then tonight I got a phone message from my lawyer.  She says it’s time to do Discovery for our case.  She has tried to call Steve’s lawyer, and they’ve each left voicemail messages but haven’t made contact.  We still hadn’t heard from him after sending in our agreement proposal.  (Wasn’t that February?)
So — I decided to call Steve and just ask him if he’s going to try to work out an agreement.  I ended up talking to him on the end of his call to Timothy instead.  I was soooo nervous!
But it was one of the most polite conversations we’ve had in years!  He said that he is still hoping to work out an agreement.  I said I would like that too.  He said that 6 weeks ago, he sent his lawyer 3 pages of notes about a counterproposal, but he hasn’t heard back from his lawyer yet.  (“He’s hard to reach.”)  He also said that he has told his lawyer that we agree about custody.
So — I was encouraged that Steve is going to try to work out an agreement.  I’m a bit worried that we will run out of time to do it, though.  If he had 3 pages of notes, then we’re not terribly close yet, and it’s taking way too long for each stage of negotiation.  Even though you’d think that avoiding a trial would save money, I don’t want to agree to a proposal that won’t meet my needs just because we’re running out of time to avoid trial.
I will call my lawyer in the morning and talk with her about it.  She may want to proceed with Discovery anyway.  I’m not sure how much needs to be done except gathering financial statements and bills — something that will be fairly easy for me but hard for Steve, probably.  (I wonder if starting the Discovery process might hurry him up on negotiating….)  Anyway, I’m going to yield to my lawyer’s judgment about how we will proceed.  In a way, I’m very relieved that she brought it up, because I was noticing how close it’s getting, and I was a little afraid she was forgetting about me.
And it was good to have it confirmed that we both think that we agree about Custody.  So we should be able to sign an agreement about that and avoid that first trial and mediation.  I wonder which lawyer will draw up the smaller agreement if we can’t come up with a large agreement to sign.
I admit, I still get to hoping that all those rainbows [I’d seen three rainbows during my Florida trip] meant that Steve would say, “Let’s forget the whole thing!  Let’s not get divorced!”  And maybe he’ll get transferred to DC….  But if we are getting divorced, an agreement will definitely be a better way to go.  My lawyer has already used half of the retainer I paid her (from my parents’ money), and if we have a trial, I’m sure I’ll need to give her more….

Well, Steve’s lawyer didn’t get back to my lawyer about an agreement, so it was getting too close to the trial dates (set up in June), so my lawyer said we needed to issue Discovery.

Steve wasn’t at all happy about the questions my lawyer asked. Including questions about his sex partners during the marriage. But also about his finances, especially in Japan.

When I gave my lawyer my answers to their Discovery questions, her assistant said they were the most organized files she’d ever seen! This was with 27 Interrogatories and 23 Document Requests.

Yes! I’m a Librarian!

And while I was assembling the papers – it took a long time – I made a discovery. I thought that Steve had never admitted in writing to his affair. But after I had an abnormal pap smear – which they later tested and discovered was not HPV or anything sexually transmitted – I asked Steve if he had ever had sex with anyone besides Amy, where he could have gotten the germs and spread them to me. (My first abnormal pap smear was before his affair.)

Steve got pretty mad at the question, but said that before “my affair with Amy” he had not had sex with anyone else.

And that put it in writing.

I also had emails where he mentioned his Letter of Counseling and Letter of Reprimand for the “appearance of an inappropriate relationship.” He was blaming me for them – but it proved they existed.

So – September was when I put together my responses.

My lawyer made plans to send off my discovery responses when they got Steve’s. His didn’t come within the 21 days required. In fact, when they hadn’t arrived by October, my lawyer filed a Motion to Compel to get the answers.

Here’s from an email I sent to some close friends on October 16:

Things with the divorce are really heating up.  I am getting mail from my lawyer almost every day.
So I would appreciate your prayers that I would have a godly response and that God would be at work in this awful situation.
There are basically three things going on:
1.  Steve did not answer discovery by the deadline.  So my lawyer is filing a Motion to Compel.  We did get his answers to the Interrogatories this week, but they were not complete and he still has not answered the document requests.  My lawyer is working out an agreed order with his lawyer that he will deliver the rest of the discovery by October 22.
2.  My lawyer drafted a revised agreement.  She took out everything from the earlier settlement proposal that Steve and his lawyer objected to.  She made small revisions to other parts that they requested.  What’s left is an agreement that would settle custody/visitation, property settlement, and equitable distribution.  All that would still remain to be settled would be spousal support, child support and legal fees.
If Steve signs this agreement, things will get much, much simpler.  Because most of our disagreement involves our different view of the “causes of the dissolution of the marriage” and that is only an issue in dealing with equitable distribution.  Spousal support still has some strong areas of disagreement, but that is more about our financial situations and it’s much, much easier to establish the facts.
If Steve does not sign the agreement, we have a custody/visitation trial scheduled for November 5.  If he’s not going to sign it, we need to start preparing for trial very soon.
3.  Yesterday I received a copy of Steve’s answers to the interrogatories.  I knew I wouldn’t like them, but they are very difficult to read.  He accuses me of constant verbal abuse, attempted theft, obstructing his visits with Timothy, interfering with his career, refusing to work, and many other horrible things.
Part of me now wants to go to court about these things, because I do believe that God will help me “refute every tongue that accuses me.”  However, I’m not at all sure that would be the best thing to have happen!
And, as I say, if Steve signs the revised proposal, many of these accusations will no longer be an issue.  If we don’t have an agreement about everything, there will be a trial on December 10th.  How much will be covered still depends on if he signs the revised proposal.
I did stay up very late last night e-mailing my lawyer telling her what evidence I have against the specific accusations and asking what more I should gather.  As you can imagine, it’s easy to start fretting and stewing over this.  I don’t want to get sick again, like I did right after I sent in my own discovery responses.  But not getting enough sleep is not a good way to protect my health!
I do want to ask for prayer for my lawyer, for her wisdom.  All this is racking up the legal fees, too.
I’m starting to find it absolutely incredible that God has told me to wait and pray for Steve to have a change of heart.  But He is the God of the impossible, and I do believe that He was incredibly clear about that, and confirmed and re-confirmed it.  But I appreciate your prayers that I would have God’s forgiveness.  I don’t want to be foolish or put myself at risk in any way, mind you.  It comforts me that Steve would have to have an ENORMOUS change of heart before he would ever have the slightest desire to come back.  I want to stand up for the truth and for what is right and for what I need financially.  But I also want to be able to remember my love for my boys’ father and have compassion for him.
And to be able to focus on my work and my sons, and put this in God’s hands and in my lawyer’s hands.
And I admit I am starting to really look forward to being divorced and having this settled!
Thank you so much for your prayers!

And that reminds me: I’d already been telling people that whenever there was a step in the legal case, verses from Isaiah 54 would somehow come up. It happened again!

I was using a Read-through-the-Bible calendar to read through the Bible in a year. Well, the very day that I was served with discovery, this calendar had me reading Isaiah 53-55, including these verses:

If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;
whoever attacks you will surrender to you….
No weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,
declares the Lord.

But by October 17, I was reporting that Steve’s lawyer had an agreement we could work with. One point was postponing the actual divorce for one year until Steve retired, so I could get lifetime military health insurance. And he agreed to spousal support until retirement, when I’d get a portion of his retirement pay. I was hopeful we’d be able to avoid trial.

After talking with my lawyer as we were working out what we thought was a final agreement, I wrote this to my mentor:

Along the way, she told me that Steve’s response was definitely up there among the very most vicious and angry she and her staff have ever seen.  (And they only do divorces.)  In a way, that was validating!  She said that even when she didn’t have my response in front of her, she could tell he was making accusations up.  But she also thinks that he is so angry, he really believes what he is saying.
She said that she and her paralegal commented that they hope these responses get me to reconsider the idea of ever taking him back!  (And they DID make me feel better about getting divorced — but now the divorce may get put off.  Oh well.)

And next I got some news about the other side. Here’s from another email I wrote on October 24, updating my mentor.

Today I got some rather stunning news from my lawyer.
She did get the documents requested from Steve, and a repeat of the interrogatories.  They were not more complete than before — but they did have some significant changes.
For the question where it asked if Steve had any relationship with anyone, now instead of denying it, he’s pleading the 5th!
She said that he actually gave up his right to plead the 5th when he denied it.  And they were trying to pull a fast one by not marking the new answers as “revised.”
She talked with Steve’s lawyer about it.  Turns out, he told her that he had a shouting match with Steve.  The lawyer said that if Steve does not accept our current offer, the lawyer is going to withdraw from the case!
My lawyer is pretty sure that Steve’s lawyer read our interrogatory answers and learned that Steve had lied to him about not having an affair.  (And I’m comforted that if it was that obvious to his lawyer from my evidence, it will also be obvious to a judge.)

Note: It’s against military law to have an affair with a co-worker, so yes, admitting his affair would have been incriminating himself.

So the next day I went to my lawyer’s office and signed the agreement, which Steve’s lawyer had approved. Once again, an email from the time is the easiest way to make clear what happened:

I signed a divorce settlement agreement today!
Actually, I signed two.  It’s this way:  I was already planning to come in to the lawyer’s office at 8:30 am to sign a “smaller” agreement — covering everything except child and spousal support and legal fees.  When I did that, and signed that agreement, my lawyer told me that the day before she and Steve’s lawyer had come to terms about a final agreement.
So she wrote up a new agreement, including everything, and I came back in to her office in the afternoon to sign it.  She will send it by overnight mail to Steve’s lawyer, who should get it on Monday.
I think it’s a good agreement.  It does put off the divorce for about a year until Steve has been in the Air Force 20 years, and I would qualify for lifetime health and commissary benefits.  After that time, I would agree to cooperating with a no-fault divorce.  It would be the same amount of child support as I am getting now, with a little bit for spousal support on top of that, and a small fraction of my legal fees paid.  I do think that if I went to court, I’d probably end up with a bigger award, but it’s worth it to not have to go to court.
However, I’m worried that Steve won’t sign it.
Here’s why:  Last night he called me to talk about Timothy’s next visit.  He wanted to set up some further visitation times and asked if he could have Tim visit on Thanksgiving weekend.  I said that I wasn’t sure if the agreement gave him Thanksgiving in odd years or even years.  He asked, “What agreement?”
There was a lot more, but what worried me is that he didn’t seem at all familiar with the terms of the visitation part of the agreement that our lawyers have been discussing for months now and I thought was in the “agreed” part of the negotiations.  And he did make it very clear that if I didn’t come up with a “reasonable” agreement, he wouldn’t sign and he would consider it my fault if we have to go to court on November 5.
I am not sure how much attention he has been paying to what his lawyer has been sending him, and worry that when he sees the actual agreement, he will decide not to sign.  If he doesn’t sign, we will have a custody/visitation trial on November 5 and another trial for everything else on December 10.
Now, maybe what God has in mind for this situation is to have more light shine on our big mess by going to court.  But I admit that I hope not!
So I am asking people to join with me praying that Steve will sign the agreement next week.
Then I will still be married, but we will have financial and other matters settled between us.  There will still be transportation details to work out for every visit, but at least we’ll have a framework to work within.
And if not, we will need to quickly prepare for trial on November 5.

And then, on October 31, the case got dropped! Here’s where I explain it to my friends:

Dear Friends,
Well, I got some half-expected news today.  My lawyer told me that she talked with Steve’s lawyer, and Steve is not going to sign the agreement.  His areas of concern were things I hadn’t dreamed he’d get upset about, and we could negotiate about — only I think his lawyer has had enough.  The lawyer is withdrawing from the case and they are going to “non-suit” it.
Basically, that means they will dismiss the case for now.  My lawyer had warned me that he could do this if I didn’t “cross-file” my own complaint for divorce when he filed against me.
I was a bit stunned.  It just makes it as if he had not filed for divorce.  So no custody/visitation trial this coming Wednesday, and no trial on December 10.
His lawyer believes that Steve will continue to pay the amount of child support he is currently paying, because Steve says that I threatened to go to his command if he doesn’t.  Well, whether I did or didn’t, my lawyer says that if he stops paying child support, I do have some legal options to try to order him to pay support without filing for divorce.
Of course, it’s disappointing — now visitation matters are not settled between us, and I was just scraping by on the current amount of child support.  But on the other hand, I got to thinking:
When Steve first filed for divorce against me, I prayed earnestly over it with Rose Bunda (who was my prayer partner at the time), that this divorce would NOT HAPPEN!  Well, that is precisely what a non-suit does.  If Steve does end up divorcing me, it will be with a new suit.
So — If God could answer that utterly impossible request — even as I prayed I could not conceive of how it could happen — well, then can’t I also believe that He can answer the even bigger impossible request of changing Steve’s heart, bringing him to repentance, and restoring our marriage?  (And, okay, working in my heart so that I want it again!)
So we will see what happens next.  Presumably, Steve will get a new lawyer.  My lawyer did say that it’s possible that the new lawyer will convince him to sign the agreement — it appears that much of Steve’s disagreement with his own lawyer was not believing that the lawyer had gotten him a good enough deal.
I have asked my lawyer some questions about it, so I don’t know if this is true or not, but it seems to me that if Steve has to start all over again, it might not even be possible for him to get a divorce finalized before January 2010, when he will have been in the Air Force for 20 years, and when I will qualify for lifetime military health benefits.
And meanwhile, I will not have to go to court next Wednesday, so that is a relief!  Or on December 10.
This day had some other dramas.  My apartment managers told me that I did NOT qualify to renew my lease on my own income (I’d signed before with Steve), so I had to give them an additional $1590 deposit — by tomorrow, November 1st!
The only way I could figure out to come up with a cashier’s check so fast was to transfer money from my American Express card as a cash advance to my checking account.  I saw the 20.99% interest they were charging, and my heart just sank.  Shortly after doing that, I got the call from my lawyer and learned I would not be getting spousal support any time soon, so I was definitely discouraged, wondering how I could possibly keep from getting behind on paying my bills.
But I tried to remind myself (with mixed success) that my support comes from GOD, not from Steve.
Anyway, about a half-hour later, my apartment manager called to tell me that, because I have a good credit score, they will not be requiring the additional deposit after all!  So — I went back to the bank and was able to reverse both transactions.  It took all morning, but the end result was good.
I do think that I am going to need to look for a cheaper place to live.  I had hoped to wait until the divorce settlement was done.  I know of at least one first-time home buyer program that I can’t qualify for while married.  And I had wanted something stating how much support I will be getting, so I could use that in a loan application.  However, maybe it’s just as well.  I won’t qualify for as big a loan without including support, but on the other hand that means my payments would not be as big.
So I am going to be praying that something just right for me at just the right price will come up for me to move into in six months, when my lease expires.  I do not need as big a place with Josh now fully moved out.  And with all the foreclosures, there are some good deals out there these days, and lots of programs to help first-time homebuyers.  I would probably try to move closer to Timothy’s school, but I can choose anywhere in Fairfax county without jeopardizing his attendance at TJ.  And for now, I can start looking into what I would need for loan applications.
So — quite a day!  I did go for a walk in Frying Pan Park across the street and marvelled at how the Fall colors just keep getting prettier and prettier.  That helped calm my racing thoughts.
Bottom line, I’m going to take the non-suit of the divorce case as an answer to my desperate prayer that that divorce would NOT HAPPEN.  It is a sign that God has NOT given up on Steve and He is still working in my life and in my marriage, even when things look like they are completely over.
Thank you for praying!  God is still up to something….

So – the divorce case was dropped. To this day, that feels like a miraculous answer to prayer.

And although in the long run, I still got divorced, I ended up being the one who filed – which meant that I finally got to the place where I had to face that divorce was the right thing to do.

Thinking back now about those days “standing for my marriage” brings up a whole lot of mixed emotions. In many ways, it was a way to deny reality and try to control the outcome. It was a way to try to be super-spiritual and deny myself nobly for the good of the one I loved.

But lots of good came out of the delay.

I was still having dreams (I read about one in my journals yesterday) where Steve was in love with me again and he forgave me and took me back.

That shows me that I was absorbing his relentless message that the whole thing was all my fault because I wasn’t a good enough wife.

But it also shows me that I still had not fully absorbed that this man I loved had truly changed.

The time it was taking was helping me slowly heal, slowly build a joyful life in Virginia. I was still loving my job at Herndon Fortnightly Library and being encouraged tremendously by folks at Gateway Community Church.

That Fall I started attending Mark and Rachel Morgan’s small group on Thursday nights. Not meeting on Sundays, it didn’t interfere with helping with the driving when Tim was coming home from visits at Steve’s. I also liked that we didn’t need to bring food. (Preparing something on Sunday evening wasn’t something I wanted to have to deal with, even if it wasn’t every week.) Best of all, I was the youngest person in the group, not by a huge amount – but just enough that I felt extra mothered and cared for.

So, that did finish up Phase Seven of our divorce – and I’ll write about good things going on that year in my next post!

Project 52, Week 44 – Part One, Graduations!

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 44!

44 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 44 — June 14, 2008, to June 14, 2009.

Last time, I mentioned that my 44th birthday was also the day I marched in graduation to get my Master’s in Library and Information Science from Drexel University! I had finished the degree in December 2007, but when I learned that graduation would happen on my birthday, I had to attend! After all, I’d gotten my Math Master’s on my birthday 21 years earlier!

The next morning, still in Philadelphia, I met for breakfast with some of my distance-learning classmates. That weekend was the first I met them in person! We all really enjoyed actual face-to-face talk.

And on the way back to Virginia, I stopped in Longwood Gardens and had a lovely time taking pictures. I was still absorbing that I could go somewhere beautiful, by myself, and could take pictures to my heart’s content and take my time walking in a forest or a garden – and it wouldn’t bother anyone at all.

That lovely weekend symbolizes part of how my life was going at that time: Wonderful! Dreams were happening. I was embarking on a new life and now had a career and a calling.

I believe there’s always a bright side. I definitely did not want to get a divorce, but since it looked like that was going to happen, I was finding lots of perks. Becoming a librarian was one of those. Taking vacations completely centered around what I wanted to do was another.

The other part of my life was things with Steve. He’d come back to America in August 2007 and had filed for divorce soon after. I’d figured out that I couldn’t stop it, though I was getting more and more enthusiastic about the emails I received from They encourage you to stand for your marriage and teach that divorce is always wrong. I’ve come to disagree with that part, but where their teaching was good was encouraging me to listen to God’s voice, and to attempt to respond with love and compassion.

But the more I tried to respond sweetly to Steve, the angrier he seemed to get. I tried to insert loving and kind thoughts into the everyday emails trying to arrange Tim’s visitation – and he told me I was harassing him. He renewed the old accusations he’d used to explain why it was all my fault we were getting divorced and why he couldn’t live with me. I was trying to respond sweetly, so I didn’t answer back, didn’t mention that those things didn’t seem quite a good excuse for having an affair – but fortunately I had several girlfriends and mentors I was writing to who could give me the perspective of Truth and help me stay sane.

Though that other part of my life was tough, make no mistake. I still couldn’t forget what a good husband Steve had been for so long – but I was starting to understand that he had truly changed. I was still praying against the divorce, but it sure didn’t look like anything could stop it. I started thinking big picture. I heard a testimony of a woman named Sondra whose marriage was restored after ten years. What did I want my life to be like in ten years? Maybe I could live that way.

Here’s from an email prayer request I wrote to my small group that June:

Tomorrow (June 12) is the first court date in my divorce case.  It’s not a big important court date, just a scheduling conference — but it makes me feel better to ask for prayer.
They will have a conference with both lawyers and schedule two trial dates — one for custody/visitation issues, and one for everything else — support, property division, and grounds for divorce.
My lawyer and I are still hoping the case will be settled without having to go to court.  She tells me that we can still make an agreement and avoid a trial right up until the trial dates.
So my gut reaction is to pray for very late trial dates — but mainly I’m just wanting to put the scheduling in God’s hands, because only He knows how the timing will work out best.
The status of the case right now is this:
Steve’s lawyer sent a very vague settlement proposal in January.  My lawyer decided to draft a detailed settlement proposal in response — in legal terms ready to be signed.  Around February, we got notices from Steve’s lawyer asking us to hurry up, that Steve wanted it settled as quickly as possible.  (My lawyer responded essentially that he would just have to wait!)
About a month ago, my lawyer and I sent over our settlement proposal.  It is asking for quite a bit more than what Steve was offering.  We haven’t heard a thing back yet.  It is possible that my lawyer will find out more at the scheduling conference, since she will be talking to Steve’s lawyer.
An interesting thing is that if we don’t have a custody agreement in place by tomorrow (and we don’t), then we will be required to attend parent education classes and watch a video about kids and divorce.  My lawyer says that her clients have said that this is good material….

As for the rest of my life:
Things are going great.  Tomorrow I do my last Booktalk for this year.  I have been thoroughly enjoying doing that, and I’m thrilled that I’m enjoying it.  Because it bodes well for the job.  Today we also — myself and other staff members — had a lot of fun making displays around the library for the Summer Reading Program.  You can sign your kids up starting Friday at any Fairfax County Library!  But come to my library! 
My big decision recently regarding my marriage is this:  I am planning to live as if Steve is coming back — in ten years.  I still hope it will be sooner, but I am trying to live as if it’s a far-off certainty.  That helps me tackle the daily challenge of not obsessing over little things.  (Like:  Should I send him a Father’s Day card.  And what I would say.  And on and on….  No, in ten years he will appreciate it….)  So that’s what I’m trying to do….
But then I thought about what I want my life to be like in ten years.  I want to be:
1.  JOYFUL.  I want to be resentment free, and a great librarian, doing a meaningful job and enjoying it.
2.  A published writer. 
With that in mind, I’ve gotten busy again, doing a little editing every day.  And I sent a query out to the editor I met in Paris!  Yay!  I told her, basically, “You said in Paris that I could send you my manuscript.  Is the offer still good 2 1/2 years later?”  This is a middle-grade fantasy novel.  While I’m waiting for her answer, I’m polishing it up, and plan to either send it to her, or to look for another editor to send it to.  But it feels great to be writing again.
3.  Responsible with money.
Whatever support I get from Steve, I don’t want to squander it, especially if I have to face him in ten years!  At that time, I’d like to be a financial asset, not a financial drain.
But having the big-picture view is proving very helpful to me….

I was writing in this blog by then, and here’s a post on Big Picture/Little Picture thinking.

[Spoiler alert: I never did get any of my writing published. But since that would have kept me from being on the 2019 Newbery committee (Woo-hoo!), the big picture says that’s fantastic. I can try to get published after serving on the Newbery committee.]

That summer, Tim had his first extended visit with Steve. I took him down south to meet Steve on July 5th and got him back on July 19. That one time, I thought I’d make the most of it and did some hiking at Lake Anna after I dropped Tim off on the 5th. (I never tried that again, but it was really nice.)

Tim turned 14 years old when he got back. And the cake I made him completely fell apart!

Oh, and that summer I read the book What Happy Women Know, and I was determined that, Doggone it!, I was going to be a Happy Woman. I got a t-shirt with the book’s logo, which is the picture above.

But it was a struggle. A struggle that God was helping me win. But a struggle. I was still getting lots of anger and lots of accusations from Steve. But I was focusing on New Life and New Horizons.

And then in August it was time to drive to Orlando, Florida, for Josh’s graduation from college!

Jade (then called Josh) had finished their course at Full Sail Real World University as a Film major, learning real skills to actually make movies. It was a year-round school was how Josh finished in 2 years. And that was a good thing. The winter before, after we had finished paying all the tuition (well, my Dad had, plus loans), Josh told me, “I think I’ve learned everything Full Sail has to teach me.” I almost panicked when I heard those words but said, “If I buy you a ticket to Los Angeles after graduation, will you stay through graduation?” Josh agreed, sounding a little reluctant. But I was breathing a big sigh of relief now that graduation was actually here!

Tim and I arrived a week before graduation. We invited Josh to go to amusement parks with us, but Josh passed on that. We drove down. Darlene loaned us her GPS. I used it to try to find a bookstore to buy Stephenie Meyer’s fourth book Breaking Dawn, which had just come out. (First try got us lost and I got pulled over! And was pretty incoherent trying to explain myself to the trooper.) Anyway, I remember I read it on the trip, because I burst out laughing and woke Tim up when I [Spoiler Alert] read that Jacob had imprinted on Renesme.

Our first park was Universal Studios on Monday.

That night, I took Tim to stay with Josh, and then I drove a couple hours to Pompano Beach, because Rejoice Ministries had a monthly gathering for people standing for their marriages, and I was there at the right time! I met Charlyne Steinkamp, who wrote the daily encouraging emails.

The next day, we went to Universal’s Islands of Adventure. I loved the Seuss-themed part!

My favorite part was The Street of the Lifted Lorax!

And then it was finally time for Disneyworld!

I always love relaxing on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland. It looks like Disneyworld had one, too. And there was a great white egret!

And on 08/08/08, Josh graduated from Full Sail University!

But first, he used my car in the morning to get a Florida Driver’s License!

After graduation, we all had dinner together — Josh, Tim, me, Steve, and Steve’s parents. My first child had graduated from college!

And this week, I think I’m going to take it a piece at a time. So I’ll stop with those two graduations.

Thoughts on Resurrection and New Life

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

This year, Easter comes at a good time for me.

First, let me say that Easter is why I’m a Christian.

Sure, I was born in a Christian family, but Easter is why I’m still a Christian.

Jesus claimed to be God. Well and good, but since he rose from the dead, doesn’t that imply that we should listen to him?

Did he really rise from the dead? Well there were twelve men (and many more) who claimed to be eyewitnesses of that. Those twelve all died for that belief. If they’d made it up, I think they probably would have decided the lie wasn’t worth their lives.

But given all that, which I believe with all my heart, this year I’m thinking about Resurrection and New Life.

I’ve been writing about my life this year in Project 52, writing each week about one year of my life.

Speaking of Resurrection (since that’s what we do on Easter), I was reminded that when I finally filed for divorce (still a couple weeks ahead in Project 52), I was thinking of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac.

In Hebrews 11, it says:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

I was offering God my marriage – and I so hoped that God would bring it back from death!

Well, God didn’t do that. But, in many ways, God gave me a whole new life. It’s a different form of resurrection.

Last week on Tuesday, I posted about becoming a Librarian and attending my first Newbery Banquet.

On Wednesday, I found out I was elected to the 2019 Newbery committee!

Before my divorce, I didn’t even have a career. I worked part-time at a library, but I wasn’t a librarian, and I was happy with that.

When my divorce happened, for awhile I wasn’t sure I’d ever be happy again.

Now, I’ve got a career and a calling, and getting on the Newbery committee is the epitome of that.

This isn’t the life I expected. But I’m thankful to God for giving me a new life and granting me the desires of my heart.

Resurrection didn’t happen to my marriage. But in a sense it happened to my very life.

Project 52 – Interlude – A Message to My Younger Self

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

I’ve been writing Project 52 for 43 weeks now. The last few weeks have been difficult. I was happy to get Week 43 into one post simply so I could stop thinking about it.

This morning, I’m feeling compassion for Younger Sondy. I want to tell her:

Hey, Sondy, those years were hard. They were spotted with, infused with, saturated with joyful moments – but they were hard.

You were being told over and over again that you were a bad person and a bad mother, impossible to live with. You fought those lies. You thought somehow if you were more spiritual they wouldn’t hurt. That’s a lie, too.

But Younger Sondy, things got better. Much better.

You prayed so hard against divorce. Prayed so hard that the husband who loved you would come back, that he’d have a change of heart, come back to God, and because of that come back to you.

Younger Sondy, that didn’t happen. But over the time of praying, you learned so much about trusting God, about placing those you love into His hands.

And when you finally filed for divorce, you knew you weren’t going into it lightly. You knew you had given the man you had loved every chance to change his mind.

Yes, you were humbled! Every judgmental thought you ever had about people who are divorced has come back to bite you! But God is gracious. Yes, Younger Sondy, you needed that humbling. No, you weren’t even close to being a perfect wife. But again, God is gracious.

And Younger Sondy, your life is so sweet now!

Those milestones that happened in Year 43? They were only the beginning!

You are now Youth Services Manager at a Regional Library. You thought it was a little crazy, but you’ve discovered your peers really respect you! You are passionate about your work and your calling. (Okay, there are some down days, but overall!) You even bring playful math activities into your work! You get to play with babies and you get to read stories and talk about books and watch children learn!

And – believe it or not – twice you have been on the ballot to be on the Newbery committee! And you might even get on it! WOW!

[Edited to add: You DID! You got on the 2019 NEWBERY COMMITTEE!!!]

You’re still writing Sonderbooks, still shining light on great books.

You own your own home! And it’s by a lake and the views and the walks you can take feed your soul.

And people love you, Sondy! Okay, you’re not in a romantic relationship yet, but you have many solid friendships with both women and men, and your life is rich and full because of them.

The folks at Gateway Community Church are still like family to you. You’ve been in several different small groups, and now one meets in your home. And the friends you’ve made that way still care about you and pray for you.

And those awful experiences? They’ve given you a ministry and a message. You have new compassion for people going through tough times, especially in marriages, and you can testify that you KNOW that God is faithful.

So, Younger Sondy, God didn’t give you what you asked for – bringing your husband and your marriage back. But God has been fully gracious and loving to you, even during that difficult process.

No, you weren’t stupid to keep praying and hoping that he would come back. You were learning. You were trusting.

And God has been faithful, all the way.

Keep going, Younger Sondy! I know you will! Don’t lose heart, and seize those many joyful moments! In retrospect, they’re going to far outweigh the pain.

Project 52 – Week 43 – I’m a Librarian!

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 43!

43 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 43 — June 14, 2007, to June 14, 2008.

Last time, I covered moving to Virginia in August 2006. Tim started 7th grade at Rachel Carson, I found an apartment and a used car and took three quarters of online classes with Drexel University, working on my Master’s in Library and Information Science. In May, I finally found a half-time library job!

I enjoyed working at Sterling Library very much. My supervisor, Anne Lee, and the other children’s staff person, Bethany Hait, were both Christians and good listening ears and encouragers. And they also loved children’s books!

And that June, I went to my first ALA Annual Conference! It happened in Washington, DC, that year, so I signed up before I even got the job. (And had to pay for it myself.)

And look! It turns out that blogging about that ALA Annual Conference was one of the very first posts on this Sonderjourneys blog!

That reminds me – one of my best classes in library school was Website Design. (Or at least one I’ve used most.) That was when I revamped my Sonderbooks website from this look to this look. My friend Debbie Gregory enjoyed doing logo design, and she made me a new logo and thanked me for the opportunity!

I also added four blogs – This one, Sonderjourneys, which would have been a travel blog if I were still in Europe, but modified to talk about metaphorical journeys, too. I also started a Sonderquotes blog for quotations I like (which I have collected since high school), and Sonderblessings as my own personal reminder to be grateful. (Sonderblessings recently broke, so I had to start over with it, unfortunately.)

The fourth blog is just, where I write and store my reviews before I get around to making a page for them on the main site. Yes, my life would be simpler if I didn’t make a webpage for each review and just switched to the blog only. But I can’t quite bring myself to do that, and I enjoy the lists of reviews in each category. That year of 2007, I didn’t get a lot of reviews posted, but I came back to it after I finished grad school.

Anyway, that happened in the summer. But the year I was 43 started off nicely. Tim’s last day of 7th grade was June 18. Then June 22-25 was ALA Annual Conference in DC. I got my first taste of Free Book Frenzy! And got to meet authors! And saw the World Book Cart Drill Team Championships, emceed by Mo Willems and Jon Scieszka!

Here I am with one of my much admired authors, M. T. Anderson:

And below is with Gene Luen Yang:

The highlight, though, was going to my first Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Award Banquet. I heard Susan Patron give her acceptance speech for winning with The Higher Power of Lucky, which I’d read for a Children’s Literature class in library school. And I was so happy to be becoming a Librarian! I was so proud and happy to have this calling, to be among my people! And at the banquet, it dawned on me that I was now part of the group that actually chooses the Newbery winner! I still had no clue how you could get on that committee — probably wouldn’t have dreamed of such a chance – but it was thrilling to be part of that. [I will find out if I get on the 2019 Newbery committee tomorrow by the way!]

On June 27th, Josh arrived for a short break from school! (Full Sail went year-round and finished up in two years.) I didn’t write much in my calendar that summer – too busy with school (only two classes) and half-time work. So I don’t know how long Josh stayed, but only that it wasn’t long.

On June 28th, though, God gave me some comfort. I say this:

I was feeling discouraged, and You reminded me that I could ask You for a word of direction. And You answered me quickly, lovingly, generously, eagerly.

It was primarily through a book Loving Your Spouse Through Prayer, by Cheri Fuller, as well as Pastor Ed’s sermons. But I was convinced that God gave me these verses in Jeremiah 31 as encouragement and about my beloved husband Steve, who was still in Japan and still very angry with me.

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
I will build you up again
and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel.
Again you will take up your tambourines
and go out to dance with the joyful….”

This is what the Lord says:
“Restrain your voice from weeping
and your eyes from tears,
for your work will be rewarded,” declares the Lord.
“They will return from the land of the enemy.
So there is hope for your future,” declares the Lord.
“Your children will return to their own land.
“I have surely heard Ephraim’s moaning:
‘You disciplined me like an unruly calf,
and I have been disciplined.
Restore me, and I will return,
because you are the Lord my God.
After I strayed, I repented;
after I came to understand,
I beat my breast.
I was ashamed and humiliated
because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’
Is not Ephraim my dear son
the child in whom I delight?
Though I often speak against him,
I still remember him.
Therefore my heart yearns for him;
I have great compassion for him.” declares the Lord.

I wrote about these verses on my blog, though not explicitly mentioning how I believed God was saying these verses were about Steve.

Looking at these verses now? Well, there was indeed hope for my future and indeed the Lord has loved me with an everlasting love. It was indeed time to begin going out to dance with the joyful.

And I hope with all my heart that one day my ex-husband will return to God, who I am absolutely sure has great compassion for him.

And here’s the shower curtain I put up in my bathroom, giving me affirmations to look at every single morning:

On July 29, 2007, Timothy turned 13 years old, and I had two teenagers! This only lasted for eight months, and Josh was off at college, so I got off really easy!

Steve sent Tim a wii, and he opened it while on the phone with his Dad.

There’s a little more insight into my “waiting for Steve” that summer in an entry on August 1st. First, I was worried about rent going up. But I also was thinking about a book called The Gaslight Effect. Here’s what I wrote in my Quiet Time journal:

It’s not my amazing love that will bring Steve back. It’s Your amazing love.

But a big illustration is this:

Trying to convince Steve that I am right to have felt bad about his cheating would be like trying to convince a toddler that he can’t stay up all night and all day.

Of course I felt bad about it!

But if Steve wants to believe I was wrong, he will choose to believe that, and arguing won’t change his mind.

Steve is not one who magically understands, and he is a habitual liar.

Yes, I am much happier out of that relationship.

But God is still telling me to wait for Steve.

God can transform Steve’s heart, as He has transformed mine.

So, yes, I understood that the relationship we’d ended up with wasn’t healthy. But I had seen how much Steve had changed…. And I knew that God can change hearts…. And I believed God was asking me to wait for Steve.

And you know what, Dear Reader? I think I was probably right that God was asking me to wait for Steve. And in that waiting, God was shaping me, teaching me, walking with me.

Here’s an update I posted for family and friends in mid-August.

And it looks like on August 27, 2007, Steve was back in America. He got posted to Langley AFB in southern Virginia – about 3 hours away from Tim and me.

I was glad he had chosen to be in the same state to see Tim. The Japan assignment was originally meant to be 3 years, but the band there got reduced in size, so there was no longer a tuba position. I felt like it was God’s orchestration, and my hopes were high.

I took Timothy down to see him and spend a week with him. (This ended up being the only time I drove all the way down there.) Steve drove Tim back.

When I saw Steve, I gave him a big hug, which he did not return and stood stiffly for. But just feeling my husband again brought back so many memories. You can be sure I cried about that when I got home! (Part of the problem was I just plain missed Steve-as-he-once-was. I missed my best friend. I missed his companionship. I missed living with him.)

After Tim got back, we visited Great Falls! It was a lovely day. It turns out I was already spotting great blue herons.

Here I am with Tim at Gateway’s Mother-Son Bowling event:

Tim started 8th grade. They actually had a system in place for 8th graders to take Algebra 2, so I got Tim set up with that. It wasn’t nearly as uncommon as it had been for Josh at Sembach.

On September 28-30, I went to Steven Stosny’s Compassion Power Boot Camp in Maryland. It was amazing. Intended for couples, it teaches you in specific ways to transform your own anger into compassion by affirming your own core value. It was the principles in his book Love Without Hurt with face-to-face practice. I was glad I went even though Steve had no interest (and was indeed offended when I suggested that he go).

After the boot camp, I wrote in my quiet time journal:

I feel like You haven’t brought Steve back yet because I still need a safe place to recover. Thank You for giving me a chance to heal.

And that weekend, something significant happened. I had one of my most uncanny answers from God.

First, I found out (probably from Timothy?) that Steve had moved out of billeting and was staying with a woman he’d worked with in Germany and had admitted to me he was attracted to. (Her mother was living with her, too, so it may have been completely innocent.) I was upset. I was really tempted to call someone at the band at Langley AFB and make sure they knew he was married and ask what he’s allowed to do – or something.

Here’s what I wrote about what happened after that:

You did something amazing yesterday.

After hearing that Steve’s staying at Gail’s house, I was upset. I wanted to rage and storm, to do something to mess up his chances of having another affair.

But I know that’s a bad idea. I asked Becky and Kathe and Patricia to remind me why it’s a bad idea. While writing, I was wondering. Were You maybe trying to give me another message? Should I instead be separating myself more from Steve so as to more fully follow God? My other friend thought my rainbow story might just mean a happy ending for me – not necessarily a restored marriage.

So I thought through what I believe You’re telling me. I wrote it out in the e-mail to my friends like this:

I believe God is telling me:

— Steve is heading for a humiliating disaster.

— Steve will repent, and will become a leader and a witness.

— I should NOT go down to Egypt for help. (Langley AFB!) The work will be GOD’s, not mine.

Then I prayed about it. I said, Lord, I’m really wondering if I heard You right. Are You really telling me that Steve’s going to repent, or did I misunderstand? Lord, if these things are really what You’re telling me, I could sure use a confirmation. Maybe in tomorrow’s sermon?

Well, the confirmation came quickly, graciously, precisely, and clearly.

When Pastor Ed started preaching today, he had up on the very first screen Isaiah 55:9-11 — The verses about repentance that God first gave me for Steve, on the page of my Bible where I’d written Steve’s name, next to the verse I was thinking of when I mentioned “a leader and a witness.”

On a later screen was the verse “Do not go down to Egypt for help.”!

[Dear Reader, I still think that was way, way too specific to be a coincidence. I am absolutely sure that the advice “Do not go down to Egypt for help” was very very important for me to try to follow!

As for the other things: Just a few months ago, God gave me a way to reinterpret the “leader and a witness” verse — I’ll cover that in Week 52!

But I still hope that Steve will indeed turn back to God some day. It does not mean he has to turn back to me. I do believe God has His hands on Steve’s life.

And I also believe that the effect of those words – for me to wait for Steve, trying to still be loving and kind toward him – was what I needed to do at that time.]

About that time, money problems started. When Steve was in Japan, he was getting a $2136 monthly housing allowance for Timothy and me (the DC rate), plus a single housing allowance in Japan, plus a Cost of Living Allowance for Japan, plus a meals allowance, plus basic pay. When he came to Virginia, most of those allowances switched to just a regular with-dependents housing allowance. So, naturally, he cut the money he was giving to me. By a lot.

Then in November, Steve bought a house. He only gave me $600 that month, since he told me he needed money for closing costs. With my half-time income, I barely had enough to cover rent.

I was going to finish my Master’s in Library and Information Science in December, so I was already looking for full-time librarian jobs.

And Steve filed for divorce. This journal entry on November 5 makes me smile:

“A kindhearted woman gains respect,
but ruthless men gain only wealth.”

This seems like an appropriate passage for having just learned that Steve filed for divorce and is going to pay me as little as possible….

And then my sister Becky felt God gave her a message for me: “The message is that God keeps his promises, no matter how impossible they may seem.”

Oh, for a fun interlude. I was still loving my job. I created an “LM Birthday Party” for L. M. Montgomery and L. M. Alcott on November 30. (Louisa May Alcott’s birthday is the 29th, and Lucy Maud Montgomery’s the 30th, the same day as Steve.) The library had lots of busts of authors, and had one of Louisa May Alcott, so we dressed her up for the party!

December was tough. I had to find a lawyer. I was very worried about money. I was finishing my degree, but I really needed a full-time job.

But at the same time:

My home fellowship group gave me a gift because they said they wanted me to have money to get gifts for my kids. Dear Reader, they gave me a thousand dollars! I was blown away by their generosity and their compassion for me.

I finished my MLIS coursework on December 8, 2007, and applied for a full-time librarian job in Lovettsville with Loudoun County Public Library the same day. Lovettsville was very far west. It was a pretty but long drive out to it. I’d have to commute while Tim was in 8th grade.

And then my parents also gave me $1000 for Christmas. And my Dad agreed to pay my lawyer bills — with a $7500 down payment. (At the time, we hoped that would be the full fee. Not even close.) At the same time, my old car was having lots of trouble — and needed $1000 of repairs.

I didn’t like getting money from people. It was all part of the process of being humbled! But it did remind me that the one I could rely on to care for me was not Steve, but God.

And it turned out that Steve’s lawyer told him he should be giving me more money. He didn’t make up for the months he hadn’t been. But at least I didn’t have to take him to court about that.

I had a second interview for the Lovettsville job. More car trouble. Meetings with the lawyer to respond to Steve’s divorce complaint. Yes, these things drive a person to turn to God!

Oh, this is a nice entry on December 21:

Thank You, Father, for the miracle that Steve’s own lawyer advised him to give me more money.

Now I don’t need to — okay, I never needed to — worry about whether or not to file a pendent lite suit asking for more support.

Father, thank You for so many reminders that You are looking out for me.

And at Christmastime, I got to be with both Tim and Josh.

My wonderful co-workers at Sterling Library (who included another avid knitter) got me this beautiful self-striping yarn when I finished my MLIS degree!

Troubles continued. There were big bright spots, but also days like this:


Yesterday I learned that I didn’t get the Lovettsville job, and the day before my car began overheating after a very short drive.

All this makes me scared for the future — paying rent and buying a car. Give me wisdom about the car, Father.

But thank You that You will not only supply all my needs but You will bless me with abundant provisions. I will eat the fruit of my labor.

On January 15, 2008, I had another job interview, this time with Fairfax County Public Library. I almost hadn’t applied, because it was for a job in Springfield, a good 45 minutes away from me. But when I got to the interview, they said they were interviewing for three Youth Services Manager positions! And one of them was at Herndon, the very closest library to my house! (The only library even closer to me than Sterling Library.)

Meanwhile, my car was doing terrible and overheating. When I looked up the light that had gone off — on the way to taking Tim to his Algebra 2 exam – the manual said that when this light goes off, you should get out of the car and stand far away from it! Ummm, I needed a new car!

On January 20, I went all by myself (after doing a little research) and bought a 2002 Prius at a dealership. It had 126,000 miles on it, so I was afraid it wouldn’t last the four years it would take me to pay it off. But that car was a wonderfully good purchase! I am still driving it, though in the last couple years it has started needing much more expensive repairs. I now have 219,000 miles on it, so I still haven’t driven as much as it was driven before I got it. I hope it will last until I finish paying off my student loans for library school! But so far, it has been wonderful. I love my pretty, pretty Prius!

And I really got the job at Herndon Fortnightly Library! Less than 3 miles from my home. I was now an official librarian, with a job and everything!

A Youth Services Manager, with two part-time staff under me. (Both were older than me, just like my supervisor at Sterling was younger than me. Well, that only recently changed when I now finally supervise someone younger than me!)

It was yet another job that came at exactly the right time and seemed to be exactly the right job for me.

This was my first full-time job since I was an instructor at Biola, right after we got married. I had never thought I’d have to work full-time again. But you know what? It was also the first I felt I had a career. And that felt good! And as a librarian – I felt a strong calling to this work. Wow! What a concept!

And on February 19, 2008, the day after President’s Day (which Sterling Library paid me vacation time for), I began working for Fairfax County Public Library as a Librarian I, Youth Services Manager.

Meanwhile, I was having pretty awful interactions with Steve. But my friends were helping me try to respond with grace, especially my email mentor Patricia. And my small group was so supportive. And I was getting weekly encouragement at church. And you better believe I was faithfully having quiet times. And God was good.

Oh, I like this entry from March 18:

Psalm 138:5

“May they sing of the ways of the Lord,
for the glory of the Lord is great.”

I don’t know what You’re doing in my life. But may I let You do it.

I have a feeling, if I stand back, I will see — many, many will see — Your great and awesome hand at work.

If I meddle and try to ensure my rights and my happiness — well Your wonderful ways may not be so apparent.

And in March, my parents came to visit! Tim and I took them into DC.

But the part of that visit that I loved was that my parents started talking about when I was a baby! (Not when one of my little siblings was a baby.) I was born in DC, and we tried to find the hospital. (Even though my Dad is responsible for many of the equations used by GPS devices, we didn’t have one in our car in 2008.) We came close to finding the hospital, but not quite.

But then we drove into Maryland, and drove past the house where we lived when I was born! My parents were talking about what it was like when they were young parents and the neighbors they’d play cards with. And it was a real treat.

That Easter, Kathe had me over to celebrate with her family.

And in April, we learned that Tim had been accepted to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology – rated by U.S. News and World Report as the very best high school in the country! Originally, I’d thought I’d only stay in Virginia while Tim was in middle school a couple years to lick my wounds. But now that Tim was going to TJ – I decided I could stand Virginia for 4 more years!

That also meant I would need to stay in Fairfax County, but I wouldn’t need to stay in the same school district. My rent kept going up, so I started looking for a cheaper place.

Meanwhile my lawyer and Steve’s lawyer were trying to negotiate an agreement. I was still praying that somehow, by some miracle, God would stop the divorce – and change Steve’s heart.

Oh look! It turns out that April 18, 2008, was the day I began my annual tradition of going to see the bluebells at Bull Run! I heard about it in a Newslink email for all Fairfax County employees, and it was quite close. I believe that first year, I went for a quick hike before an appointment with my lawyer. (This year, 2017, I just visited the bluebells last Sunday!)

I went to a Michael W. Smith concert on the mall in DC, Reign Down USA, all by myself. It was a beautiful worship experience, and I prayed with a volunteer about my marriage.

In May, I finished the shawl from the yarn my Sterling Library friends had given to me!

And I got my hair cut quite a bit shorter. I guess I was trying to be more professional-looking.

When Tim brought home this project from 8th grade Art class, I claimed it for myself! It’s still in my office at the library.

But the big event of the year happened on my 44th birthday. I graduated with my Master’s degree!

Yes, I’d finished the coursework in December 2007. But Drexel didn’t hold a December graduation. When I found out that graduation was happening on my birthday that year — especially since I’d gotten my Math Master’s on my 23rd birthday – I decided I just had to go to Philadelphia to march in graduation!

I met many of my online classmates for the first time!

And it was a nice end to an extremely tough year — but the year when I completed my Master’s degree and became a full-fledged librarian.

Project 52, Week 42, Part Three – Welcome to Virginia!

Friday, April 7th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 42!

(This picture was taken October 10, 2006, which seems to be the exact day Tim caught up with me in height!)

42 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 42 — June 14, 2006, to June 14, 2007.

Last time, I covered the moment of truth when my husband confessed he’d been having an affair the entire previous year and a half – and that before that he’d had a plan to kill me. That happened four days before I flew to Virginia with my kids Jade (then called Josh) and Timothy. Josh was going to start college in Florida in October, and Tim was getting ready to start seventh grade. Steve flew to Japan to join the US Air Force band there.

Moving Day was August 18, 2006. I was shell-shocked, tired, and overwhelmed. Kathe and Darlene picked me up at the airport. I remember that Darlene’s 2-year-old Michelle was along, but I don’t remember if her older son Ryan (who must have been about 5) was along – if he was, he didn’t start telling his life story like Michelle did. I don’t think Kathe’s boys Tim (my Tim’s age) and Ben (a little older than Ryan) came, because there was only so much room in the van.

And Darlene put us up in her basement for six weeks while we waited to find a place and for our household goods to arrive. There was a bedroom down there for me and a bathroom, and my kids slept in the larger basement room on bunk beds.

In fact, here they are on the lower “bunk.”

Here are Darlene’s adorable children:

My calendar is just full of errands those first few weeks. I had to buy appliances, like a microwave. (Different voltage in Europe, so we’d been using some loaner appliances or I left electronic things with Steve.) I had to register Tim for middle school. And find an apartment. I had no income on my own, so to apply for an apartment, I had to fax an application to Steve in Japan to co-sign. I got a library card at Reston Regional Library and used the internet there. (Darlene had dial-up, which I used sometimes.) I needed to buy a car.

I remember that in those first few weeks, I lost my cellphone (after I had shifted it to work in America) and also lost Darlene’s spare house key. I felt like a basket case.

But it was good to have the support of my friends. I went to Gateway Community Church starting on August 20, 2006. And two weeks later, on September 3, I went to my first Sunday evening small group meeting. Darlene and Kathe both went to Trisha and Phil Sallee’s small group. The whole group welcomed me. I remember we were having a discussion, and Kathe’s husband Joe was talking, and I thought, “I know Joe! This isn’t scary!”

That Home Fellowship Group had started a nice tradition of doing service days at each other’s homes. On Labor Day, they went to Kathe’s house and did some deep cleaning work. (I don’t remember what we did, actually — It was basically whatever the host thought would be helpful.)

And on September 6, 2006, Timothy started 7th grade at Rachel Carson Middle School in Herndon, Virginia. He had already gone to middle school in 6th grade in Sembach, Germany — but 7th grade was the start of middle school in Virginia. So at least all the kids were new to the school, the same as him.

On September 9, Josh flew to Japan to visit their Dad. Steve wanted the kids to get to visit, and since Josh’s college classes didn’t start until October, we worked it out to happen then.

The last week of September, I began my own grad school classes online — tricky since I was still dependent mainly on library computers. One of that first quarter’s classes, “Action Research,” was essentially Introduction to Statistics, a class I’d taught many times. So it seemed silly that I was required to take it, but it wasn’t so bad having an easy class my first quarter. But the rest helped me get excited about becoming a librarian.

I took the Gateway to Gateway class to become a member of Gateway Community Church on September 30, 2006. And we finally moved out of Darlene’s basement into our own apartment on October 7. However, we still didn’t have our household goods from Germany. Darlene and Matt loaned us the mattresses we’d been sleeping on, and some other furniture they’d picked up for us. (I’d bought an entertainment center for $100 from a neighbor, for example. And someone had put some furniture out by the curb.)

I don’t know why the kids had to distribute their stuff all over the floor when we had so little there, but here they are in our new apartment.

And on October 14, after we’d only been in our apartment a week and before we got our household goods, Josh left for college in Orlando, Florida, sight unseen, at Full Sail University, to study film.

I remember that in the airport Josh’s suitcase was too heavy – so Josh took out the plush bathrobe they’d gotten me to buy for them and wore it! With the beard and long hair and bathrobe, Josh looked like pictures of Jesus.

Our household goods finally arrived on October 17 — and on October 18, Timothy and I flew to California!

The excuse was my 25th high school reunion. However, they’d had a big celebration the year before, in combination with the Class of ’80. So not too many people came. But it had also been 3 years since I’d seen my family.

It was funny, though — the staff at Rachel Carson Middle School weren’t nearly as understanding about taking a family trip in the middle of the school year as the school staff were in Germany, when they realized that the opportunity to take trips was more important than mere schoolwork. So they gave me a hard time, but I arranged it anyway.

Here are my Brethren High School Class of ’81 classmates who made it to the reunion that year. Happily, Ruth and Darlene were among them. (Spouses not in this picture.) This is Frank, Brenda, Stacy, Becca, Daphne, Delphine, Karen, Darlene, me, Ruth, and Dan. It was lovely to catch up with these folks. Since I had moved away from California relatively early, this was the first reunion I’d attended since the very first one.

But when we got back home — we were surrounded by boxes and disassembled or broken furniture. (Those were the worst packers of all the ones we’d ever had in our Air Force moves. But remember I’d been way too distracted to oversee their packing — the day they came was the day Steve confessed.) Here’s how our apartment looked. It was overwhelming.

However, November 4, 2006, was the day Gateway truly became my family — the Home Fellowship group came over and helped me unpack! They put my bookshelves back together and filled them. (Not a small task!) They put our beds back together and took the borrowed mattresses back to Darlene’s. They put my desk together. They put my dishes in the cupboards. They hooked up my stereo and TV. It had been so overwhelming — and they brought order to the chaos, even though most of them still didn’t know me real well.

I’m planning to gloss over most of the rest of the year. After I wrote the last post, I found myself wondering why why why I kept praying so long and so hard (we’re talking years) that Steve would come back to me.

There were a lot of reasons. A big one was denial. It took me a long time to grasp – let alone believe – that my husband had an affair, let alone that he had a plan to kill me.

And I was in the habit of loving him! I wasn’t able to just shut that off. Many would argue that if I loved him, I should want him to be happy — and he said he’d be happier unmarried. The only trouble with that was that he didn’t seem even the slightest bit happy. And he was walking away from the church and God. I couldn’t bring myself to believe that would lead to his happiness.

I admit I’d gotten the idea from Rejoice Ministries, who told the story of their founders. Charlyne Steinkamp prayed her husband back after they were divorced two years, when he was getting ready to marry the other woman. As they said, if I didn’t pray for my prodigal, who would?

And Steve was on the other side of the world. He’d moved there to get away from me. He did call Timothy every night. We soon got cellphones, so he could call Timothy direct. But I could pray earnestly for Steve — and that’s pretty much what my quiet time notebook is filled with that year — but I did not have to live with him.

I mentioned that once I found out Steve had an affair, it was much easier not to believe him when he explained how the whole thing was all my fault. But that did not have that effect on Steve. It seemed he was working all the harder to explain to me what a terrible person I was and how no one could live with me and how he was done trying to put up with me.

And money was a problem. When I moved, of course I lost my job, which was only half-time. I was taking classes full-time. At first, we both got money out of the joint account. But Steve started putting less and less money into it — and then pretended that was his whole paycheck. When my rent checks bounced, he blamed me for ruining his credit. I tried to cover them with a cash advance on my credit card, which he never did pay back.

He actually used the line “How dare you accuse me of hiding money?” not knowing that I’d looked back on our history and learned that if he used that line, it was a certainty that he was doing that thing. I told him, with great concern, that he needed to go to Accounting and Finance because they obviously weren’t paying him the correct amount. He was getting $2100 housing allowance for me and the kids in DC, a single housing allowance at the Japan rate (which I could look up), Basic pay (which I could look up) and a meals allowance.

It was a mess while I was moving in and having to buy supplies. And a car. Eventually, we worked out that he would give me $2800 per month, my housing allowance plus a small portion of his basic pay. He started pressuring me to find a job.

And it wasn’t easy to find a job. When we’d moved, I’d hoped I’d be able to work from home for my brother Jeff, who had a business writing software for graphing calculators, making them much more intuitive. But his business didn’t end up doing well enough to be able to hire me for the amount I’d need to make. I applied at libraries, but had no luck.

Oh, and I do want to say that Steve didn’t pay a penny for my grad school degree. I got a scholarship. I got several units waived because of work experience. I took out loans – which I am still paying off, but will finish with in 11 more months. And my Dad paid the remainder and for textbooks. (Thank you, Dad!)

But we still managed to have some fun that winter. Josh was home a little extra over Christmas break because they got to skip one of the required courses because of AP credits. This was after already having won an award for being an outstanding student (not about grades but about being impressive!)

My brother Robert came to visit while going to a gaming convention (where he won!) and we spent a snowy day in DC.

But at the same time, I was super worried about Timothy. His life had basically come apart. He’d lived in Germany from the time he was 2 to the time he was 12. Now he had to leave the place where he’d grown up and his friends and everything familiar. His Dad had moved to the other side of the world and his big sibling had moved to Florida. Now it was just him and his struggling mother.

Steve did call every day from Japan – but it wasn’t the same.

At school, I did get him into Geometry in 7th grade and honors classes. His teachers raved about him at the parent-teacher conferences. But he was showing a lot of signs of depression. Some days I couldn’t get him to get out of bed.

One thing I noticed though was that he did better when I got more time with him. So I wasn’t in a hurry to get a job on top of attending school full-time. (Online classes, but still full-time work.)

Some time that winter, when I had threatened to take computer time away if he didn’t get out of bed (I didn’t know what to do!), Tim said, “Maybe I should just kill myself.” I’m not sure I have ever been more terrified than when I heard those words.

But — we got through it. What actually cleared up Tim’s depression was when Steve’s parents took Tim with them over Spring Break to Japan to visit Steve. When Tim came back, he no longer seemed depressed. And I was so relieved.

And not too long after that, I got a job! And it was at Sterling Library – only a few miles from my home. It was 20 hours per week as a Youth Services Assistant. It was fantastic to be working in a library again! I began working for Loudoun County Public Library on May 17, 2007. I was finishing my third quarter of graduate classes, and I only had four classes left, so my plan was to take two classes each for summer quarter and fall quarter and finish in December 2007.

So God’s timing was perfect. As far as I was concerned, it was just lovely that I didn’t get the job until the degree was almost finished — and until after Tim was getting settled and was better able to handle some afternoons and evenings on his own.

I was still attending church and small group and being loved on regularly. I was praying earnestly for my husband and “standing for my marriage.” I was reading daily encouraging emails from Rejoice Ministries. But mostly, God was comforting me. And I was getting many reasons to smile.

Something significant happened in church on April 29, 2007. I’m going to write out the description I wrote in my Quiet Time journal.

Not only were the Rejoice Ministries emails encouraging me to listen to God’s voice, but folks at Gateway Community Church also talked about doing this. To be honest, that wasn’t really part of the tradition I grew up with. When I was a Biola student, a popular book was called Decision Making and the Will of God, which taught that as long as it doesn’t go against Scripture, God doesn’t really care what you do.

But that year I was 42, I was desperately seeking God. I was still being told that I was an awful person. And I was trying so hard to return that with love. I was trying to do the right thing. I was trying to forgive Steve when he hurt me — but almost as if he couldn’t hurt me if I tried hard enough to forgive. (Only, he had more power than anyone to hurt me, actually.)

On April 29 in church we sang the song “I can see clearly now” with Christian words put in. We’ve never sung it again. Maybe because I took a copy of the words? I’ve got them posted at my desk still.

And here’s what I wrote on April 30:


I want to record the amazing thing You did for me yesterday.

Back in November 2005, the week after Steve told me he wanted a divorce, I was driving to the conference in Paris. I was praying earnestly about the conference in Paris and about my marriage. I looked up, and there was a rainbow over my path.

I thanked You, Lord, and said I’d take it as a sign that the conference would go well and my marriage would be healed.

The conference did go well, incredibly, wonderfully well, with bright, sunshiny days even in November.

Afterwards, I told people about the rainbow and that I hoped it was also a sign that my marriage would work out. And soon after, while I was thinking about this, I saw another one.

So yesterday, when we sang “I can see clearly now…”, it was natural that I thought of Paris. Here are the words:

“I can see clearly now,
the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

“I think I can make it now,
the pain is gone.
All of the bad feelings have disappeared.
Here is the rainbow I’ve been prayin’ for.
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

“You’ve opened my eyes and I can see the Light.
You’ve opened my heart and I can see the Way.
You’ve opened my mind and I can see the Truth.
I’m feeling a bright, bright…
I’m sensing a bright, bright…
I’m believing a bright, bright
Son-Shiny day.”

As I sang the second verse, I thought about this whole crisis in my marriage. Then here’s how my thoughts ran:

“I think I can make it now, the pain is gone.” – Yes, my heart is so much lighter than it was, I AM gonna make it!

“All of the bad feelings have disappeared.” – Well, not ALL of them, but they ARE on the way out.

“Here is the rainbow I’ve been prayin’ for.” – Ah! Remember the rainbow I saw just before Paris? I took it as a sign that both the conference and my marriage would turn out beautiful. And it really did come true as a sign of a wonderful week in Paris! I hope it’s also a sign that my marriage will be healed and become a thing of beauty!

“It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) Sun-Shiny day” – Remember how incredibly sunshiny it was in Paris, even in November? It was so beautiful. That was such a gift of God. Wouldn’t it be neat to pray for a rainbow right NOW? But that would be silly, and not really fair. Of course God can’t give me a rainbow now. I mean, come on, we’re inside! Besides that, it’s already bright and sunshiny, so there’s no way a rainbow could even shine through the back window. This isn’t the sort of day when rainbows appear. But it would sure confirm that my marriage is going to be restored. Well, I’ll just thank Him for a bright sunshiny day and the wonderful memories from Paris. I won’t test God by asking Him for something impossible.

We kept singing. After that song, a lady (Susan Foose) walked in and chose a seat smack in front of me, 2 rows ahead, with no one in between us. So as she stood and sang, I had a direct view of the back of her blouse.

Her blouse was colorful and pretty. It had an Eiffel Tower on the back. I noticed it, because I always notice the Eiffel Tower and think of Paris.

“Look, Timmy! How pretty! It’s Paris!”

But before I could nudge Darlene and point out the beautiful blouse and explain why I love Paris so much from that conference there, it dawned on me that the shirt didn’t just portray Paris. – It was an impressionistic RAINBOW over Paris!

Just when I had thought God couldn’t bring a rainbow inside, He did exactly that. I was completely blown away. I don’t doubt it any more. That was far too specific, too carefully crafted especially for me.

God is amazing. I can imagine Him smiling as he sent that rainbow inside, just for me.

The timing was incredible. Paris. A rainbow. That strange thought that entered my head to pray for a rainbow. And the way she chose a spot directly in front of me.

Let it be known: God can even bring a rainbow inside! And He’ll do it when He knows His child desperately needs some encouragement. And wow! He let me know He cared about me that much!

Dear Reader, reading that now, I’m still taking it as a sign! Not that my marriage would be restored, but that my life would be restored and become something beautiful. There would be Beauty and Joy in my life again.

It’s gonna be a bright, bright, bright, bright Son-shiny day!