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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Cost of Divorce

Looking at both sides...

I was driving down the road the other day in a nearby city, and saw a big billboard that said something like, “Divorce attorney…$39.00 non-contested with no children, $95.00 with children.”  I can tell you, those fees wouldn’t have even paid for an HOUR of time with my attorney.  Nope, the attorney’s fees I encountered (as well as many of my readers) was much more than those figures would suggest.  

So how much DOES it cost to get a divorce?

Well, first of all, there are some dollars involved, as is suggested by the sign, as well as by the headlines when the wealthy and famous divorcing reach settlements for millions.  And yet somehow, I think those are actually the smallest costs.  It is the unadvertised costs that make divorce costly. 

In fact, one of the nicest comments I ever received about my books was from an individual who stated that she and her husband were getting a divorce (or about to), and when they read my book, they changed their minds and decided to work things out in their marriage.  While they didn’t explain why, I suspect it was because as they read my first volume, they discovered a lot of things come with a divorce that they didn’t expect or realize, and decided the price was far higher than they anticipated or wanted to pay. 

Staying in a bad relationship has its own cost factor.

Some uncounted costs of divorce could be the children whose inner sense of security and ability to have healthy relationships can be impaired through the process of a divorce.  

Plans for retirement may be drastically altered, as income is reduced and money that once would have been set aside for the future has to be expended in rebuilding life with a new dwelling with all its furnishings.  

One cost that is sometimes encountered, but rarely expected, is the toll taken on the relationship with a child.  This can happen as a child develops a skewed view of what happened or of one parent, either because another parent subtly poisons the child’s thinking or because the age of the child does not allow them to understand the adult issues, and the child never comes to terms with them even when he/she becomes an adult. 

I know of individuals who never saw their child again.  

During the raising of children through divorce, one of the costs is the impairment of the power of discipline, as often a child can play one parent against another or simply choose to pursue what the child wants in the household that will provide it rather than the one that objects.  Within the heart of the person who is divorced, the costs can be the loss of an ability to trust, or the development of a bitter cynicism that limits one’s hopes and dreams.  In some cases, even one’s family can turn against their own family member, viewing the development from outside and drawing conclusions that may or may not be correct.  And some have expressed the feeling of having become a failure, like they have let God or themselves down.

On the other hand, I once had a student in one of my college speech classes who gave a presentation about domestic violence.  She had found an article in a magazine that described a woman who had been beaten by her husband and resisted the impulse to leave, until the day that he hit her in the head with a ball bat, threw her in the back of his car and drove hundreds of miles, with her bleeding in the back, finally dumping her in a strange city where, miraculously, she survived.   She paid a high price to stay in the marriage.  

The children borne of a relationship of domestic abuse incur the cost of viewing an unhealthy marriage leading to heartache as they live out the example they were brought up with.  

Abuse is often passed from generation to generation.  Those who choose to stay in unhealthy marriage with mates who have no desire to make things better pay a cost.  Facing the world with a mask to hide the sadness and disappointment of a partnership that has sucked their life force from them.

Maybe, sometimes, not getting divorced costs more than it is worth, too.

There are also costs, though, to make a marriage work well, and to make things work well post divorce.  

Choosing to be intentional about healthy changes, about growing and facing issues or problems head on is not an easy thing sometimes, but is always an important thing.  

What prices do you pay for what you are pursuing in life?  Are you investing in the best things, and paying whatever it costs to do and be the best you can?  

Very few things in life are as simple as they may appear, but the important ones are worth every effort expended.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Meaning of Mother's Day


I like Mother’s Day.  Sometimes my birthday is on Mother’s Day, though I wasn’t born on Mother’s Day, nor did it fall on Mother’s Day this year.  (Thanks to those of you who wished me a Happy Birthday, by the way.)  If you have a great mother, or are the husband or parent of a woman who is a great mother, I hope you realize how precious the gift you have is.  I hope that mother knows that you realize how precious she is.  If you aren’t sure, turn off your computer and go call her right now!

For some of us, Mother’s Day is about memories of mom stored in our hearts from days gone by.  I have come to appreciate the fact that nobody is perfect, and many mothers struggle over whether they have been a good mother or not.  But the important thing to me is not whether a woman serves the role perfectly; it is about whether she has tried her best, mistakes and all.  Expecting perfection of any human being is foolish.  Choosing to cherish the good is wisdom.

Over the years, my perspectives on Mother’s Day has changed.  I think motherhood is a great thing, and should be celebrated.  

However, I am also aware that not all women are mothers, and for them the day can be very difficult, especially if they have wanted to be, or if they never were married and felt like they never had the chance.  The day can also be hard for mothers who have lost their spouses in recent years, or children who face the day for the first time without mom.  For those individuals, your gift of a smile or a simple phone call can mean a lot.

Divorce impacts Mother’s Day as well.  Sometimes children are turned against a parent, and when that happens to be the mother, then today is a day of heartache instead of a day of celebration. 

Mothers of the divorced grieve as they watch grandchildren torn between two homes, and perhaps question the values being taught in one home or the other.  For the divorced dad of small children, spending the day surrounded by smiling families when his children are at their moms, becomes a very lonely day.  

Yet, I would suggest that there is something very special and very intentional in the design of family God has built into nature.  As I occasionally like to say, God could have chosen to make us like amoebas, who make new amoebas simply by dividing in half.

Instead, God chose to place us in families, which Paul says in Ephesians 3:14-15 is designed after the fatherhood of God.  Imperfect though many families are and the difficulties involved in being a truly great parent, the design is a marvelous thing in which we have the privilege of participating.  

Someday, when we see God face to face, we will understand fully what family was really intended to be like.  

Until that day, tell your mom you love her…or celebrate by reflecting on a few special memories or photos if she is no longer here.  Happy Mother’s Day 

At the same time, a single friend of mine decided she wanted to be a mother, and adopted two children who needed a mother…and that has been, as far as I can tell, a great combination.

to all of you…even if it is a hard day to celebrate this year.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Who Planned This?


“I can’t believe this is happening to me, I always knew divorce happens, but to OTHER people, not me!”  
“I can’t believe I ended up a statistic.”  
“I never imagined that at this point in my life, I’d be starting all over again.” 
“I never dreamed my marriage would end up like this…I feel like such a failure.”  
“Why me?” 

Have you ever heard words like that coming out of somebody’s mouth (perhaps your own)?  They are very common expressions among the divorcing.

Do you think on the wedding day that anybody ever says their vows with the plan that getting married is a good idea for something to do for ten years, maybe 15, and then they’d go get a divorce and risk almost everything they have worked for in life?  Okay, there are all kinds out there, so perhaps somebody actually does think like that…maybe those who marry for money, for example.  But I think the overwhelming majority expect that their marriage will last a lifetime, that divorce is something that impacts other people, but won’t impact them.  In my premarital counseling, I always raise with the couple that even though nobody gets married planning to get divorced, nevertheless a significant number of marriages end in divorce anyway (often the statistic of 50% is quoted, although there are variables).   I then encourage my couples to consider what things they are doing and could do for their relationship that would serve as a buffer against ending up in divorce court (which is a question well worth any married couple asking and seriously answering, I believe).

It’s kind of a funny thing, I think, that we so often are surprised, shocked and ask “why me” about the hard and tragic things that come in our lives, while anytime something good comes our way we often decide we deserve it or it is the result of our own efforts and character, or at least accept it without questioning.  Beyond the why, though, there is the feeling of disbelief.   Disbelief that, in spite of your best intentions, you ended up divorced.  Disbelief that, after years of marriage, you suddenly find yourself out in the “dating world” all over again when you thought you were done with that part of your life.  Disbelief that so much of your life’s work has now been unraveled, and so many things have to be started all over again.  There is much more, but it can all be summed up with the phrase, “I never thought it would happen to me.”

Let me offer for your consideration, though, a simple question. 

In the course of your life, how much of your life has actually worked out exactly the way you thought it would?  

I know people whose youthful hopes and dreams have proved to be far different from the realities that life brought their way.  Some people end up living in unexpected places.  Some end up working at unexpected jobs after lifelong careers have fallen by the wayside.  Some have lost loved ones such as children or spouses.  Others have ended up beaten and abused.  Others have ended up making far more money than they ever expected, or had opportunities surprise them left and right. 

It all reminds me of the fact that the world does not operate according to the plans that we create for ourselves.  Some things are simply out of our control, and some things that we do control, turn out to lead to unforeseen and unexpected consequences.  Life is full of twists and turns and surprise endings.  Somehow I think that if we knew all the details of what life would bring when we first start out, we would never take the first step down the road.  And besides, the unexpected could also be viewed as an adventure we are undertaking.  

There is a Bible verse that kind of sums it all up for me found in Proverbs 19:21, one of several verses that make plain that we humans make our plans as we will, but God sees beyond and knows which plans are actually going to stand.  In my life, it has clearly been best that some of my plans did not come to pass.   Though you never thought it would happen to you, perhaps there are better plans for you than the ones you had expected.  At least, it seems to me that’s the way God sees it.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Feeling the Anger and Rage


Actually, for a person in the throws or devastating aftermath of a messy divorce, the more relevant question might be, “Do you ever get PAST being angry?!?”  One of the bits of feedback I have received about my books over the years, was a comment about the index of the first book.  The comment was that among the topics, I had failed to include the word “rage” as an index entry.  Even though there were plenty of devotions in the first volume that addressed anger of all kinds and degrees,  I thought it was a legitimate comment, and so made an adjustment in the second volume.  But stop to think of why anyone would notice such an omission:  they went looking for the word that describes how they felt in their own divorce (or perhaps that of a friend).  When wrestling with the fallout of divorce, “rage” was a word that surfaced for them.

Other words that people might focus on could be bitterness, heartache, sadness, despair, hopelessness…far more than would ever fit in a single book or a simple index!  I have recently been reading some meditations related to grief, and have been struck by the number of times the theme of anger has recurred.  That got me to thinking about the anger that swirls around and within during divorce.  (Again, forgive me for using they as the generic instead of he/she.)

Anger at yourself for not seeing it coming.
Anger at yourself for not having done something to prevent it.
Anger at yourself for putting up too long and not having acted sooner.
Anger at yourself for not having had better judgment in the first place.
Anger at yourself for not having been a better spouse, or listened to your spouse.

Anger at your ex for the hurtful ways they pursue the divorce (and THAT can 
cover a LOT of territory).
Anger at your ex for the way they have betrayed your trust.
Anger at your ex for the cheating things they have done.
Anger at your ex for the things they have said about you.
Anger at your ex for greediness and selfishness.
Anger at your ex for the vicious or endless attacks you have suffered.
Anger at your ex because of all the expenses you have now incurred.

Anger at the legal system for the snail’s pace of proceedings.
Anger at the legal system for the “one size fits all” approach to your life.
Anger at the legal system for the incredible expenses you rack up by the minute.
Anger at the legal system that has its own bizarre definition of fair.
Anger at the legal system for allowing an ex to get away with wrong actions.

Anger at those who take sides against you (maybe even a child!).
Anger at those who have lured your spouse away.
Anger at a society that trivializes the devastation of divorce.
Anger at those who withdraw from you as if divorce is contagious.

Anger at God for not having saved your marriage.
Anger at God for allowing you into a bad marriage to begin with!
Anger at God for not warning you and helping you to see what might happen from the very start.
Anger at God because his followers treat you as a second class citizen.
Anger at God because his people tell you that it is your own fault since you 
obviously were not following God’s commands properly
Anger at God because he seems so absent in your despair.
Anger at God because he doesn’t answer the question, “why?”

This long list is just a few of the possibilities.  The list can be endless...and then the scripture in Ephesians 4:26 bubbles into your consciousness saying, “Be angry, but do not sin.”   Ahh, that is the tricky part.  

The emotion of anger (or rage!) is very real and very strong and a very legitimate feeling.  

But that rage/anger requires self-discipline and wisdom to find appropriate expression rather than sin.  

Perhaps keeping an “anger journal” that can later be discarded or burned could be helpful or creating a daily forgiveness sheet that you take before God in prayer at the end of the day can lay the day’s struggle to rest for you.  

Just as anger is a natural part of grief in the death of a loved one, so it is a natural response in the grief of the death of a marriage (often death by strangulation!).  

Learning to let go, to refuse to become bitter, to find God’s way of forgiveness is one of the most important disciplines to be learned and practiced in divorce.  

The path to peace is never paved with actions born of rage.  Instead, the path to peace walks away from the rage and toward the light of Christ, who chose to forgive even while dying upon a cross.  

Even Jesus felt anger.  

But he lived forgiveness and mercy.  For those of you going through the struggle of divorce, know that though it is hard, your anger will not last forever…unless you decide to adopt it into your heart.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

What Divorced Women Wish Pastors Knew

What Divorced Women 
Wish Pastors Knew

Tonight I have the pleasure of sharing a blog from a good friend who has written two books.  Janice R. Love has written One Plus One Equals Ten:  A First Lady's Survival Guide for Stepmoms and her newest book Divorced and Highly Favored will be released in May of this year.  Her blog for today provides some really wonderful insights that I wanted to share with you.  You can learn more about Janice and find out about her books at: www.janicerlove.com  Enjoy.  

The church expends a lot of energy focusing on families and building ministries to strengthen the family unit. But what about single individuals, particularly divorced women who come to church every Sunday sometimes feeling forgotten and invisible? Being single is nothing new, the Bible contains many stories of those who are single. The apostle Paul comes to mind as he encourages singles that they can better serve God by being remaining unmarried. Single women are not forgotten in the Bible, as God uses several single women to help us gain vital wisdom. Take a look at Luke 10:38 - 42 where we are introduced to single sisters Mary and Martha who were some of Jesus’ closest friends. Jesus enjoyed visiting their home. We know that Lazarus was their brother, but no husbands are mentioned.  

What about the Samaritan woman at the well?  In John 4:4-42 we learn that she had been divorced five times and was living with a man who wasn’t her husband. After meeting Jesus, this woman who was considered by many to be a sinner, was responsible for the salvation of a whole town. Just as this divorced woman's needs had gone unmet until she met Jesus, today’s churches must not forget that divorced women are members of the church with special needs that often go unmet. Women are sitting silently in the pews hoping to be ministered to where they are. Denise George wrote a book entitled “What Women Wish Pastors Knew” which helps churches to understand the hopes, hurts, needs, and dreams of women in the church. I decided to focus on divorced women and their needs.  Here are 5 things, divorced women wish pastor’s knew.  

  1. I am okay with being single. I have learned to be content in my new status and feel complete in Christ.  I do not come to church because I am looking for a new husband. I come to church to worship and be ministered to. I understand that not everyone is called to be married.
  2. I still have the same gifts and talents I had before I got divorced. I recognize the gifts God gave me to use in his service. I can still teach Sunday school or lead a ministry.  I want to feel like I am a part of the church ministry. I want to participate in ministries where I feel empowered to use my God given gifts. I want to be a blessing to others.  
  3. I don’t know where I fit it in – While I was married I was included. Families are often recognized within the church. As a single person, I don’t feel comfortable hanging out with married couples any longer. The single ministry is not a good fit for me. I want to feel like I am a part of something. I want to participate in church activities but am seldom asked.  
  4. I look nice for me. I am finally taking care of myself and am confident in who I am. I have changed my hair, my makeup or my wardrobe to celebrate the new me. My new self-confidence makes me more attractive, but I am not trying to draw attention to myself.  
  5. I want to be ministered to as a single person. I often feel left out and don’t like feeling like a second class citizen. I would like to be encouraged through sermons and bible teaching. Think about me when you make a big deal about married couples and families. Remember I am a part of the church too.
Please take the time to share these thoughts with your pastor or church leaders so that divorced women can feel at home in God's house and use their gifts to serve. I am sure there are additional thoughts that can be added to my list. What would you add to my list? Please feel free to share your thoughts.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Troublesome Thunderstorms in Our Lives - Suffering and Temptation


Do you know how to finish that little quote?  It is a quote from the poet Longfellow, and it says, “Into each life a little rain must fall, some days must be dark and dreary.”  You can probably guess why I thought of that; it’s April and here in Kansas, that means thunderstorms and tornadoes.  Maybe the fact that this was written on tax day here in the U.S. makes it especially relevant!

I was recently discussing Jesus’ saying found in Matthew 5:45:  “the rain falls on the just and the unjust.”  He also makes the same kind of comment about the sun.  When you are not in a time of drought, forecasts about rainy weather are often seen as gloomy, ruining weekend picnic plans or days working in the yard.  The blue skies and sunshine are what we long for, because they make our days so bright and cheery.  Longfellow’s use of the rain image clearly fits into this mold.  Jesus also seems to be presenting the sun versus the rain as contrasting images, so one draws the conclusion that the rain is the gloomy day and sunshine is the joyful day.  

But what if that isn’t correct?  

We have to remember that much of the land of Israel was rocky desert, and the crops grown there were very dependent on the critical seasonal rains for their survival.  It was the sun that scorches the earth and shrivels the plants.  Now granted, crops need sunshine to grow as well, but from everything I hear, our friends out in California would gladly trade a week of sunshine for a week of refreshing rains and mountain blizzards.  It’s all in one’s perspective isn’t it?  Perspective often flows out of circumstance.

I am thinking life might also be the same way.  

That is, we refer to the difficult times in our lives as the evil days with darkness and gloom.  Give consideration to the thought that those “rainy days” are actually the nourishing times of our lives.  Dark days are the days essential for the growth God seeks us to know.  

These threatening and troubling storms in our lives are the bearers of God’s blessings, more than the easy and prosperous times.  

Romans 5 and 1 Peter 1 certainly seem to suggest that is the case.  What we often interpret as storms may actually be refreshing rains upon the droughts of our inner lives, and we simply may not realize it until after the rains has moved on and left our hearts bursting with the blossoms of God’s grace.  

Sometimes it is all a matter of perspective.  From personal experience you can trust me, when times are hard, I know it is hard to keep a heavenly perspective!

Odds are good that somebody reading this can relate to the sense of wrestling with life’s storms and experiencing them as darkness and trouble rather than agents God will use to shape us.  Not that we need to make ourselves martyrs and long for extra suffering and hardship.  

We do need to remember that not all storms are destructive….many bring refreshment and growth.

Today's devotional from, “Our Daily Bread,” by Anne Cetas, takes God’s promise to provide a way of escape out of temptations and contrasts that with the fact that with suffering, sometimes the only way is to go through it, because escape from the suffering is not always an option provided.  She points out that it was also not an option Jesus could take, as his prayer in the Garden demonstrates.  Then she ends with a couple of pithy thoughts, and today I’d like to end by quoting them for you:

“ When life seems too much to bear, that's when we throw ourselves on God's mercy, and He holds us.....With God behind you and his arms beneath you, you can face whatever lies ahead."

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Difficult Anniversary - Remembering and Rejoicing


Leon Crooks
November 21, 1919 - April 12, 2014

Anniversaries are important.  We most often think of anniversaries in relation to marriage, but there are others that we note and experience in life.  

We have just come out of the Passover and Easter seasons, the former is the anniversary of the rescue and establishment of Israel as God’s people, the latter the anniversary of the victory of redemption and the establishment of God’s people in Christ.  

Today I am remembering my father, especially, as it is the one year “anniversary” of his leaving this world and entrance into the heavenly realms with Christ.  It is a day of mixed emotions for me, as I know he was ready and longing to move on from this earth, but it is always so hard to say goodbye.  (Or, I guess, it is legitimate to say instead, see you later.) 

Not all anniversaries are joyful ones.  In the holiday sections of my books, there are special devotions for anniversaries, because anniversaries can be particularly hard after a divorce.  For some, the day that was their wedding anniversary is the difficult day to get through…especially the first time it rolls around.  For others, there is sadness when they remember the anniversary of the day the divorce was filed or finalized.  Some may focus on the anniversary of the day a spouse moved out. 

There are some who have suffered much in their marriages, and the anniversaries related to divorce may be as mixed as my anniversary of dad’s death.  On the one hand, they experience the loss, sorrow and sadness of a marriage broken, with the once uttered promises ringing hollow in their ears.  But they may also experience the anniversary as the day that life was started over, the beginning of a second chance that has delivered them out of their own Egyptian bondage and led them to places they never dreamed could be.

Anniversaries are milestones, important days of remembrance.  Every husband who has ever forgotten his marriage anniversary can attest how important it is because they probably witnessed the resulting disappointment of their wives.

Are there anniversaries in your life that need to be remembered?  

Maybe the anniversary of your commitment to Christ as your Savior.  Perhaps your anniversary reflects on something you have left behind, as the Alcoholics Anonymous members mark anniversaries by years of sobriety, years they have left behind their debilitating habit.  You may have an upcoming anniversary to celebrate, or one to mourn.  

I know that for me, that first wedding anniversary after my divorce was a troubling day, but a day I had to face and begin to lay the past to rest.  Anniversaries remind us of where we have been, but perhaps more importantly, remind us of how far we have come.  God never leaves us stuck in our past; he always invites us forward to new achievements, new opportunities to establish new anniversaries in our lives. 

While life brings some things that are wonderful and exciting, it also brings things that can be troubling and difficult.  It is important to not be so overwhelmed with the hardships that one cannot see the good things in life, some of which even come out of those very hardships.  I hope that some of your anniversaries are celebrations of joy.