Four Things I Learned from Maria Henson’s “To Have and To Harm” series on domestic violence

As I drove to Lexington, Kentucky yesterday from my temporary station in Louisville, I remembered the first time I’d committed to going.

In 1991, while taking Literature of Appalachian Women in Alaska that rocked my world, we students were given copies of the Lexington Herald-Leader’s editorial series by Maria Henson.

Henson, who was later awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her work addressing domestic violence, did something that was unthinkable at the time: she spotlighted how prevalent violence was in families,  published pictures of victims, their injuries, their stories, and published pictures and personal addresses of judges and officers who’d failed to protect victims.

(To see Ms. Henson speak about her work, click here.)

At the time of the class, I was likely between restraining orders, definitely on welfare, and edging close to a degree in journalism. Yet the closer I got to success, the scarier my estranged husband became.

I couldn’t believe how fearless The Lexington Herald-Leader was to publish the work. How progressive and tenacious Ms. Henson was. I naturally imagined myself one day, visiting Lexington, and maybe setting down roots there.

There were four takeaways from Ms. Henson’s work that transformed my world, nudging me to become a domestic violence advocate, tell my own story, and hold the judicial system accountable.

  • Domestic violence is everyone’s problem.

Rich, poor, white, brown, young, and old. The prevalence was not limited to Lexington Kentucky, remaining an epidemic worldwide today.Intimate partner violence flourishes in isolation and secrecy.

  • Domestic violence flourishes in isolation and secrecy.

 When victims are controlled and isolated, they will not believe in their own strengths, know about services and laws to protect them, and are more likely to blame themselves for what is happening, thus remaining stuck and feeling hopeless.

  • Until we believe that every person is equally valued, worthy of respect and protection, regardless of gender or any other factor, the systems response will remain inadequate.

Had the threat come up from a mugger, rapist, or holdup man, the authorities might have seen their duty more clearly. But this is what the law calls a “domestic case.” -Maria Henson in A Death Foretold about Betty Jean Ashby.

  • A stranger can make all the difference in addressing the violence.

By now, decades later, most of us are aware of programs like Green Dot training bystanders on what to do if they witness domestic violence. But look at the power of Ms. Henson’s work. She was in her late twenties when she decided to roll the dice and change her world. It was risky, publishing names and faces of those in her then-small community. She worried that her effort would cause further violence or even death to some of the victims, who’d agreed to go on record in the Lexington Herald. “If I put these women’s names in the paper, will they be in further danger?” she’d asked herself.

But less than two years after her work was published, legislation dramatically changed in how Kentucky managed domestic violence cases.

It had been a while since I thought about those columns. But when I saw the Lexington Herald, it all came flooding back.

I sat in my rental car and sent an email to Ms. Henson. I had to thank her for inspiring a revolution, and changing so many lives.

Including mine.

It’s Domestic Violence Action Month, a terrific time to make a donation to a local shelter, volunteer, or even share a DV shelter event on your social media.

I’m off to see family now, before going to North Carolina and visiting my esteemed Literature of Appalachian Women professor and dear friend, Dr. Virginia Carney.

Thank you for stopping by.

August Roundup

A quick note to share art and conversations that I think you might enjoy, too.

My recent favorite book is Successful Self-Publishing by Joanna Penn. For anyone considering beginning a writing career, the author gives a step-by-step guide of how to succeed. And in a perfect world, I would love to think that I could become my own publisher one day and have more autonomy over my career as a writer.

Best watch at the theater: The Peanut Butter Falcon, reviewed here by Forbes. Sentimental and kind without being simple, I loved it so well that I saw it twice.

Addictions and recovery have been on my mind. My work, my family, and my community in Alaska are heavily impacted by substance abuse. This interview finally helped me understand how the incredible shame people in recovery face can make their success a near impossibility. I hope I will never look at a newly sober parent of a delinquent minor the same way.

I joined some dynamic authors for a talk about domestic violence. Leslie Morgan Steiner, Dr. Christine Ristaino, and Kerry Schafer and I each hope that you’ll join the conversation, and share it with your loved ones as you see fit. It’s now available on YouTube.

Thank you for the emails and comments. I never feel alone with this community.

Sincerely,

Lizbeth

A Sign of Good things to Come

As I was driving my friend Ruth to lunch the other day in a windstorm, I grumbled in too great of detail about how many (relatively) little things turned to ash the previous week.

Long made plans to raft with my family? Cancelled due to weather. My nifty birthday gift, a book given to me by a friend? The cat barfed on it. And on and on.

Out of nowhere, a huge sign flew into my car. Thwack!

Despite the weight of the sign, and despite the fact that hit the window of my now screaming friend, it didn’t crack a thing.

We could not stop laughing.

It was a terrific re-set. It reminded me of the song, I Saw the Sign by Ace of Base. I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes.

I deal much better with big crises than I do with the accumulation of small things.

There are many good things coming up, some that I haven’t permission to mention yet. But here’s a few delightful things in my author world :

• That day at lunch with Ruth, we gave my new nonfiction work in progress a subtitle. Thriving, Decoded: Calm the Crazy and Control the Crisis. Do you like it?

• I’m teaching a new class online. My online Udemy Course is available online for free if you click here. (I could use a review, please. )How to Help if Someone You Love is Being Abused. It’s my first online course. I have very good intentions, but my video editing is amusing. Sorry in advance. Hopefully, you’ll get good information and a giggle at the same time.

• My youngest daughter just taught me Powerpoint skills for the neatest conference I’ve ever been asked to present at; The International Association of Women’s Police, with more than 3,000 female officers from around the globe in attendance. I’m really jazzed!

And then I’ll get to take a long break to see family in late September and October.

My daughters are both healthy and working, and the weather is very warm for us here in Alaska.

So much for me. How are you? Have a beautiful week.

Simple Expressions of Love

Just a quick note to say Hello to you and goodbye to July.

My oldest daughter had a birthday recently, and we just celebrated together a few hours ago.

This is definitely my more reclusive child. The one who gets upset if photos of her are posted on social media without her permission. The one with a childlike voice and amazing brain bandwidth. The one most impacted by choices I made in my youth.

Needless to say, our relationship is complicated. Sweet. Intense. Fiery in spots.

She texted me on Monday and asked me to find out what was the exact time of her birth. While I scoured the house during the hours following, I found everything but her birth certificate.

Old letters to teachers. A journal to me. Report cards. Missing children’s poster. A birthday card from her youth.

I found the birth certificate. Sent her the answer.Then she reminded me that she wanted spaghetti. My forty-eight hour spaghetti.

Preparing it gave me a lot of time to think about her life. All of the hopes and the heartaches. The adventures and the aggravations. The expectations that have needed readjusting so many times over the years. I teared up as I chopped the onions.

I worried that the spaghetti wouldn’t turn out. Was there enough cayenne? Garlic? Too few whole tomatoes?

There is something beautiful and basic about creating a favorite meal. My daughter sent me the bitmoji via text below after she went home.

And all was right in the world.

I hope you’re loving summer as I am.

Thanks for checking in.

Author Interview with Lisa Braver Moss/Shrug

I love a good book, and was honored to provide an author endorsement for this one. Shrug is available to order now!

I’m so pleased to have Lisa Braver Moss as my guest.

Author http://lisabravermoss.com Lisa Braver Moss

What inspired you to write Shrug?

My experience growing up was similar to that of Shrug’s main character, Martha, so that was my inspiration. I wanted to create a coming-of-age story about childhood domestic violence and other trauma. I also thought the wild vitality of Berkeley of the 1960s made a great backdrop for the story. I was interested in the interplay between Martha’s household chaos and that of the world of Berkeley at the time.

https://www.amazon.com/Shrug-Novel-Lisa-Braver-Moss/dp/1631526383/

How did it influence your writing to be a survivor of childhood domestic violence?

I witnessed domestic violence against my mother, and was a target of it myself, while growing up. I felt chronically outraged by what was going on, and could be quite confrontational (which my father did not find amusing). My appetite for speaking the truth eventually morphed into a sense of urgency about writing Shrug.

Many stories of teenagers show rebels. What made you create a character who’s anything but a rebel?

I would argue that Martha is quite a rebel. Sure, she’s a bit of a goody two-shoes; she wants nothing more than to do well in school and find meaning in her life. And yet, just her being an achiever is radical in the context of her family. She’s contradicting all that’s unconventional at home: negative messages about school, unpredictability, lack of structure, impossible emotional demands, and explosive physical violence. The challenge was to show Martha as a complex, sympathetic character whose rebellion paradoxically takes the form of conventionality.


The family dynamics in Shrug are complicated. In essence, Martha’s father is abusive, but likely the better parent to her. Her mother is a victim, but flees the entire family. What do you hope the reader takes from these imperfect parents? 


Yes, the battering father, Jules, turns out to be the better parent than the victimized, histrionic mother, Willa. You see clues of this along the way. I wanted to show what it’s like to have the story’s “bad guy” be more capable of love than the “victim,” Willa. I felt this added depth and complexity to the story.

Your book cover is stunning. Tell us about the process of selecting it.

Thank you! It was one of those situations where there were four choices and it was completely obvious which one was the one. That was also obvious to the publisher, so it was nice that we were on the same page (so to speak…!).

I had expressed to the publisher that I envisioned a kind of wistful look for Martha. I provided a black-and-white photograph that I felt captured that look, and they did a fantastic job of creating the same mood without using that particular photo. I love the design and colors they came up with, too.

Of the three siblings, Martha, Hildy, and Drew, Martha, the middle child, seems to be the mother’s favorite. How does this family role affect her?

Martha is indeed in the unfortunate position of being Willa’s favorite of the three children. I say unfortunate because often in dysfunctional families, “favorite” means “able to be manipulated.” Couched as extra love, favoritism is generally more a matter of extra demands than of actual support. It’s no bargain.

Also, Martha carries such a burden of guilt about being favored that she’s slow to see that she, too is being mistreated by Willa. She’s too preoccupied with Jules’s mistreatment of all of them, too busy propping Willa up, and too busy worrying about her siblings. She also experiences her own suffering at Jules’s hands as secondary to Willa’s suffering. I think many children who see themselves as rescuers (rather than victims) have these same reactions.

This book of fiction brings up very real topics of domestic violence and resilience following trauma. How can storytelling bring attention to social issues and create change?

Whereas nonfiction can offer suggestions, how-to’s, research data, psychological insights and so on, I think fiction is deadly if it’s didactic that way. The subject matter of a novel may include social issues, but the primary purpose of a novel isn’t to create social change. It’s to engage, entertain, and maybe inspire thought.

What fiction can do is make people feel less alone. Those who grew up with domestic violence and the kind of trauma Martha experiences tend to feel isolated and ashamed at some level. But while the circumstances vary, feelings of isolation and shame about childhood difficulties are universal. And those feelings can lift somewhat when one immerses oneself in a world of fiction that addresses that terrain. If readers identify with Martha, they can feel less alone. That in itself does create a shift in the reader, and I think we can call that change.

You can connect with Lisa Braver Moss at lisabravermoss.com or on Facebook. Her book is available for ordering wherever books are sold.

June Listens, Watches, and Reads

How are you?

Welcome!

It’s June with a vengeance. With warmer temps and thicker wildfire smoke than I can remember in Alaska’s history, it’s one for the books. And movies. And podcasts.

Due to the long and lovely summer days, I still have 6 hours of bright sunlight to enjoy after I get off work at 5:30PM.

Here are a few of the books, podcasts, and movies I’ve filled those hours with. And I’d love to hear what art you’ve been enjoying.

Podcasts

Alaska, Unsolved A new podcaster digs up the cold case of Erin Marie Gilbert who went missing from a crowded festival here without a trace in 1995.

The Creative Penn Podcast So filled with energy and ideas for writers.

Movies

Poms-Though the reviews were terrible, and the start was weak, this was a sweet film about friendship and aging.

Late Night– Another terrific film that addresses aging and being marginalized.

Yesterday– Such an original story, and a terrific escape.

Books

Have I mentioned how much I enjoy my Audible subscription since giving up cable TV? It’s terrific to be read to again.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro. A gracious memoir about family and love.

(pictured to the right of the image by Pieces of Me in 2/19 for the glorious days mine was a bestseller)

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park (paperback). Gorgeous storytelling. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

What have you been enjoying?

Thank you for joining me today.

Supplemental Mothers

My girls, mom, and me.

Our mothers are our first homes, and that’s why we always trying to return to them. By Michele Filgate in What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About.

I emailed a friend in recently to bid her Happy Mother’s Day. Normally sunny, her response caught me off guard when she mentioned how sad this holiday made her. I’d grown accustomed to being the maudlin one about moms and Mother’s Day.

But when I checked my Facebook feed, there were numerous tributes to moms lost due to death or alienation. A few brave moms of deceased children posted their grief. Others were caring for their elderly mothers who now no longer remembered them.

The day evokes a lot of emotion for so many of us.

I’d been thinking about my own mother that week, and about some of the good things she instilled. My mother fostered a love of reading, which sparked my interest in stories and in writing. If I asked for a book, I nearly always got it. (I was lucky to have older siblings who read to me and taught me to be an early reader, too.)

My mom promoted a love of animals to us kids which is a huge part of my life to this day. She didn’t easily sustain relationships with pets, or with people, for that matter, but it was a nice start. And she was a believer in volunteer work, which I have subsequently embraced.

True, I’ve written about my mom’s tendency to dislike the mother role enough to seemingly dispense of her kids, leaving us later in life to scout one another out as if on at Easter egg hunt.

Clearly, not every woman is cut out to be a mom.

It doesn’t help that we expect so much from them. I can think of no other role so important, or so scrutinized. The impact of the mothering we receive during our early years lingers throughout our entire lives, and far into the future if we have kids, and if they do, too.

Mothers are idealized as protectors: a person who is caring and giving and who builds a person up rather than knocking them down. But very few of us can say our mothers check all of these boxes. In many ways, a mother is set up to fail.-Lynn Steger Strong in What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About.

 I’ve been fortunate to have so many different women in my life who’ve given me guidance and motherly love. I’ve appreciated that there were limitations to it, and conscious not to overstay my emotional welcome since these women had their own children and their own lives. From grade schoolteachers and a college professor to a former roommate and friends’ moms, and later in life, my newfound aunts, I have benefitted from random gifts of maternal love.

 As for me, I’ve made lots of mistakes with my kids. They relied on their own supplemental moms at times to fill in my gaps. And after watching me struggle as a single mom, neither of my kids were moved to become parents themselves, though they’ve provided me with numerous grand-pets.

A few days ago, a crisis call from one of my daughter’s friends, whose mother passed away, brought it full circle. She needed someone to just listen, and I got to be the stand-in mom figure, even for just a little while.

How wonderful it is to know that we can help fill in parenting or mentoring gaps for others. And equally fabulous to think about spending time with little kids one day who may not have a grandparent in close proximity. I like the idea of being a supplemental mom and grandmom.

Expanding the definition of family can be a beautiful thing. It can reduce pressure and feelings of isolation. I felt insecure when my own kids relied on other moms, but I came to understand the great benefits to all involved down the line.

Moms (and dads) are the original influencers, but we can all choose to have or to be supplements to help along the way. It can ease the pressure we put on our parents or ourselves.

A humble thank you to dear Fay for the incredibly generous and unexpected gift to my oldest daughter after reading my last post. My daughter is now the proud owner of a reliable and safe vehicle again.

Thank you for stopping by.

In case you missed it, here’s the lovely and in depth conversation between mom writers I’ve come to adore and admire. Thankful to be a part. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2ZUE9InsLM

The Importance of Sharing Ugly

Yesterday, I had a conversation with the Seward Library Book Group about coming clean in my memoir, or, as one member put it, telling on myself.  Referring to the times I mentioned my own flaws and frailties, being judgmental or quick tempered, that are sprinkled throughout the book.

Then conversation quickly morphed to social media sharing, how we can feel so alone as we scroll through picture after picture of seemingly perfect images posted, and the disconnect so many of us feel, now that we’re all “connected.”

It reminds me of the memoir I’ve been reading, Another Cheesy Family Newsletter.

The author, Elizabeth Silva, structures her story with chapters beginning with the sunshine-y newsletters she sent out over the years tucked inside Christmas cards, followed by the backstory of what was really going on. Her feelings of helplessness as her now-grown children did not launch as planned. A daughter’s heroin addiction led Silva and her husband to become parents all over again of three vulnerable and resilient grandchildren. A second daughter’s divorce, and a son’s prolonged lack of ambition only added to the stress.

The Christmas newsletters and the social media phenomenon bring up the same feelings. When we only share only our best side, where we look attractive, accomplished, our kids seemingly brilliant and irrepressibly happy, we perpetuate the notion to others that they’re alone in their loneliness or failures or even despair. Even though that’s not the intention.

I’ve struggled with sheepishly giving optimistic updates on my Facebook author page. While it doesn’t make sense to draw attention to negative reviews or my angst about the financial hits I’ve taken to keep my book positioned well, it feels dishonest. So I’ve written essays about writing and parenting to present a more honest view.h

If one compared my author Facebook page with my real life this week, they would see an information gap that defined my days.

While it is true that I loved my youngest daughter’s 30th birthday soiree and the various writerly events, they were sandwiched between an increasingly impossible day job and an even more impossible, never-ending job as the parent of an oldest child experiencing profound mental illness who continues to flounder as an undue amount of tragedy is thrown her way.

Last week, her only asset, an old Camry, was shot repeatedly in the commission of a crime in downtown Anchorage while she slept nearby in her apartment. The car was parked at a meter outside. It was totaled. But worse than that, it triggered her PTSD, and has set her back further. The crime is unsolved, so no one will be paying restitution to compensate her loss.

Of course I’m fortunate she was not physically harmed. She’ll get through it, but not without a lot of support.

On good days, I remember to be thankful that I can give said support.

On many others, I’m angry or just worn out for having to.

I so appreciate social media for the many positives it brings, the same way I do when I get a chatty Christmas newsletter. But there is no substitute for real human contact, and authentic interactions. Sometimes, it’s important to share the ugly.

We all struggle. We all fail. We all get overwhelmed.  And none of us have to be alone as we slog through our journey, or keep our struggles a secret.

Maybe one of the greatest gifts given me post-publication is going place to place, finding pods of community where ever I’m invited to speak, and feeling encircled with caring readers and writers who often share their own stories.

I hope you have a supportive circle to both celebrate and grieve all life dishes your way. And thank you for being a part of my community.

A Week Inspired by San Jose’s Recycle Book Club

At the risk of sounding superstitious, I’m fairly certain that my house is jealous of my efforts to leave it.

The web searches for homes in less expensive states to live in after I retire, the upgrading of the bathrooms, the kitchen, and the floorings. The conversations that must’ve been overhead about my need for sun and warmth and a place closer to my extended family have not gone unnoticed.

I know this, because just before or just after leaving the state, some catastrophe occurs. Flooding. An earthquake. Flooding again. Every time I leave, some punishing event that catches me completely off guard.

As I packed for my book event in San Jose, California a couple of weeks ago, I found a huge puddle of water on the newly tiled kitchen floor. I sopped it up, hoping I’d simply stacked the dishes in the wrong direction and ran the dishwasher. It wasn’t. The puddle appeared two more times, the final one just as I was getting my luggage packed. My neighbor kindly guided me through the process of shutting the water supply off in the crawl space, schooling me first by phone and then finally leaving his date miles away to help me. Together, we slogged through the dirty area beneath the garage for a short-term solution.

I got to the airport just in time for my flight, smelling of scented kitty litter, with cob webs still in my eye lashes. Only to realize that in my haste to shut the water off, I’d forgotten to pack shirts.

At least I remembered copies of my book.

To my happy surprise, the person I rented a room from picked me up at the airport. James worked in Silicon Valley before retiring and re-tooling, now renting affordable rooms and cars to people with short work stints in the area. Chatty and firm in his convictions that we must offer hope to the hopeless among us, he became my accidental life coach, filled with ideas and concepts of books he was certain I needed to write. They were great ideas, it turned out. “Stop aiming small,” he told me.

I felt welcomed and safe, and enjoyed some six- mile walks without ever getting lost, a true miracle in my world.

San Jose had warm temperatures, generous walking trails, and friendly people. I was impressed. Book group organizer Lloyd Russell of Booksage and his wonderful wife Joni took me to dinner. My longtime friend Richard from Berkeley made his time and home available, and I finally got to meet his new (to me) wife.

Richard is a loyal friend who never stopped encouraging me to write my book. When my computer died a decade ago, he gifted me my first laptop. He was that committed to the story being published. And it was through Richard that his cousin Lloyd got a copy of my book. I owe this once-in-a-lifetime book event and trip to him.

My friend Richard.

During the event itself at Recycle Bookstore, I got a warm round of applause as I entered the bookstore. Wow! An evening to talk with thoughtful readers about writing and publishing and the inevitable setbacks life dishes all of us, and how we choose to handle them. I enjoyed every moment of it.

Booksage’s Lloyd Russell and his wife Joni.
Wonderful Recycle Book Group

I took trains and busses to visit my cherished friend and former roommate Barbara, hosted me for a night in Redding at her apartment in a lively retirement community. We stayed up late, pouring through old pictures of when we lived together in ’92-’93, reminiscing about my daughters before their abduction, and the zany things the girls did in those years of near normalcy before the event that severed their childhoods.

 I returned to my welcoming little home and two needy cats just after 2am, and found that the water shut off had been successful. No new damage occurred in my absence. I crept around in the crawl space and turned the water back on. By default, I learned that this particular problem was the new dishwasher installation. No big deal. I’ll fix it when I can.

I got a text from James the day after I returned with another new book idea. His best yet. He’s asked that I send him a completed synopsis by next Thursday. He’s not kidding.

“The idea is to give victims and their families, as well as the good people in America, hope among the hopelessness… Your book is a step in the direction to help victims or potential future victims.”

So much love and inspiration packed in to a few days reminded me that home isn’t simply a place. It’s a moveable part, a sense of connection, not just where I toss my belongings.

But I do love my little weird place, with its memories of raising kids and cats. Of hosting friends for get-togethers. Memories of my neighbors, delivering freshly caught fish or helping when I needed them with frozen pipes or car or kid troubles.

Who knows? Maybe I can rent my house out and live here in the summers. It will be a while yet before I figure out where I will ultimately land.

But as a cautionary measure, I’m writing all of this from a coffee house rather than from home, just in case my home is looking over my shoulder.

The threat is just too great.

Thank you for stopping by, and thank you Lloyd Russell, Richard Illgen, and Recycle Bookstore and Recycle Book Club for the book love.

And thank you to my daughter for taking care of Oliver and Lou.

Author Interview with Linda M. Kurth/When Abuse and Faith Intersect

 

There are many reasons an abused partner may choose to remain in their relationship. Faith and ties to their faith community factor in for many.

Author Linda M. Kurth

I’m honored to have author Linda M. Kurth sharing from her experience and upcoming memoir.

Crazymaking: A form of psychological attack on somebody by offering contradictory alternatives and criticizing the person for choosing. -www.yourdictionary.com

“Your husband is a crazymaker,” Susan, my new counselor declared.

Susan was one of several counselors Jim and I had seen during the last half of our twenty-five year marriage. Yet none of it seemed to get to the root of our problem. Jim was a “good Christian.” He was a good provider. He was smart and had a great sense of humor. His hugs were legendary. Yet I was dying inside, and my prayers had not changed our dynamic.

Susan had listened as I told her how Jim promised to change over and over again, and yet hadn’t. “I’m having difficulty believing him anymore,” I said. “He tells me one thing one day, then the opposite the next. When I try calling him on this stuff, he always denies giving me a double message.”

Susan sighed. “I believe Jim’s personality type will try every trick in the book to avoid taking responsibility for sabotaging your marriage. His type is good at keeping the opposing party off guard. I’m not optimistic he’ll own up to his behavior.”

I felt a mixture of relief and what? Resistance? Disbelief? I’m the kind of person who rips a band-aid off, but part of me wanted to cling to hope. Acknowledging that my husband was not going to change meant I’d either have to resign myself to being hurt again and again by his emotionally abusive passive-aggressive behavior. Or, I’d have to leave. I hated both options.

The thought of leaving left a churning in my stomach and a tightening in my chest. I was fifty-five and hadn’t supported myself in years. When I tried to visualize my future alone, the picture was dismal. Besides, as a Christian, I worried that divorcing was not part of God’s plan for me.

During this time, my husband accepted a new job that was near my home town. I agreed to move with him and engage in counseling one last time. Jim found Norma, a conservative Christian counselor, but we made no progress. I saw clearly I had only one choice if I was to survive emotionally.

“I’d like to discuss divorce,” I told Norma, my voice shaking.

“We don’t talk about divorce,” she replied, and then proceeded to talk about it. She quoted the Bible in Matthew 19 verse 9, in which Jesus said, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

“If you divorce Jim, Satan wins,” Norma explained.

Heat rose in me. I blurted out my truth. “Satan has already won. Jim may not have been physically unfaithful to me but he’s been emotionally unfaithful. He’s unrepentant, and I’ve lost all hope for reconciliation.”

Norma shook her head with sadness. “You’ll be making a huge mistake if you leave the covering and protection of your husband.”

I almost laughed. I certainly had not been feeling my husband’s “protection.”

That night, I threw myself on the Lord’s mercy and discerned his permission to leave.

As I struggled to regain my sense of equilibrium, I was met with a dichotomy of responses from the Christian community. I received a scathing letter from a Christian friend of my husband, condemning me for choosing divorce. For the same reason I was turned away from a church I had considered joining. On the other hand, my former church embraced me when I went back to visit, even providing me with a divorce ceremony. Best of all, I was welcomed by a new church that had a large singles ministry. There, I met many other singles, many of whom became my friends and support during my recovery.

Since that heartbreak time, God has blessed me in many ways. I bought a townhouse in which I felt secure. Eventually, I met a wonderful man while ballroom dancing. We’ve been married for fifteen good years.

I’ve recently completed a memoir, tentatively titled God, the Devil, and Divorce: A Love Story from which I’ve drawn material for this article. (I hope to see the memoir published soon.) I have a blog, “Help and Healing for Divorced Christians,” where I offer what I’ve learned about going through and surviving divorce, and where I encourage churches to welcome divorced people with love and grace. I pray both the book and blog will help people achieve a happier divorce recovery experience.

Linda Kurth is offering advice, “Ten Steps for a More Joyful Life after Divorce,” to subscribers of her blog. Click here for the link to download.

 

Would you like the chance to win a set of compelling memoirs about domestic violence? For the month of October, 2018, enter here to win!