This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Posts tagged ‘divorce’

Forever and Ever, Amen

**This was originally published on Thursday, April 7, 2011, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column may be updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog.**

I’m catching my breath after a whirlwind weekend. Besides the typical weekend routine of church activities and ball practices for multiple kids, my sister, brother and I threw a 50th anniversary party for my parents. It was worth every ounce of energy expended.forever and ever--young couple

A golden anniversary is a once-in-a-lifetime event. It should be celebrated and remembered. Fewer and fewer couples make it to that milestone in this day and age, and thus I spent much of the weekend pondering what makes a happy marriage.

I’m not talking about what makes a marriage last, because I’ve seen some miserable marriages that lasted several decades. I’m talking about what makes a marriage happy.

On Friday, I went to Ingles grocery store to buy the cake for my parents’ surprise party. I was rushing to get into line at my niece’s register, but an elderly couple made it there just before I did. Although I was in a supreme hurry, it turned out to be a blessing that I was behind this charming couple.

I heard the lady comment that she and her husband would celebrate 68 years of marriage this year. I stared unabashedly at her. “Did you say 68 years?” I interrupted in my never-met-a-stranger way.

She smiled a dimpled smile and said yes. I told her she didn’t look nearly old enough to have been married that long. She proudly told me, “I’ll be 87 my birthday.” My eyes bugged out as I told her truthfully that she looked about 15 years younger than that.

Then came an even bigger shocker. She told me they only dated for two weeks before getting married.

Huh?!

Don’t we tell our children they better get to know someone well before they make that vow? Don’t we teach them that marriage is a decision that must be well-thought out? How can you think out such a thing in two weeks?

This sparkling-eyed lady became even more animated as she told how she had met “Mr. Right.” She said that as soon as he walked into her office all those years ago, she thought he was the best-looking thing she had ever seen. They fell for each other on the spot, dated two weeks, tied the knot and aren’t far from 70 years together.

“When you see a good thing, you better grab it while you can,” she grinned like a mischievous little girl. Meanwhile, her tall husband, who also looked much younger than his years, stood to the side smiling tolerantly yet affectionately. He teased her a little, and you could tell those love fires were still burning.forever and ever--old couple

Here is a marriage, like that of my parents, which has survived an amazing number of years, not with the bitter silence and withdrawn emotional state of many marriages, but with laughter and love. Too many times I’ve heard older couples say they don’t see a need for a 50th anniversary party because there’s nothing to celebrate. That pretty much tells you the sad state of their marriage.

Obviously, the secret to a happy marriage is not necessarily a long courtship with well-thought out plans.

I’ve heard that children whose parents have a happy marriage have a better chance of having the same thing. Statistics in the last decade have not proven this to be true. My brother and I were both the product of a happy home but ended up divorced. I take my share of the blame for the breakup of my marriage and will grieve over it, to a degree, for the rest of my life.

On the other hand, my good friend up in Sandy Ridge came from a broken home yet has been married happily for 30 years; so has his sister. Kurt Warner, who was one of my favorite pro football players, tells of growing up in a broken home with many trials and tribulations, yet his own marriage has endured happily for many years—a real testimony for a professional athlete.

happy marriage recipeI knew a couple in Mt. Airy who were blissfully married for well over 50 years when the husband died. The wife, usually a stoic woman, fell apart, wondering aloud how she was going to live without him because they had been so close. Yet two of their three children ended up divorced. This proves yet again that growing up with happily-married parents does not ensure marital bliss for someone, and vice-versa.

Although the precious lady I met in Ingles talked about her husband’s stunning good looks 68 years ago on the old paths, we all know that physical appearance fades. The most stunning woman will eventually wrinkle and go gray. Even Botox and Miss Clairol can’t completely fix the ravages of old age. The hottest man around will see his looks decline as his hair thins or falls out and his love handles develop love handles.

So physical appearance obviously isn’t the secret to a happy marriage.

Of course I believe a reliance on the Lord is a key, but I’ve seen many a Christian stick it out “for the sake of the children” while being absolutely miserable for the long haul.

Some of you are thinking, “People just need to be committed and keep their word!” I agree, but remember—the subject of this column is not what makes a marriage last, although I believe that is supremely important. It’s what makes a marriage man that makes u laughhappy.

Laughter surely plays a key. My daddy was telling us at Sunday dinner about the April Fool’s joke he played on my mama this year. He said he was cracking up the whole time she was falling for it, and she said that when he reminded her what day it was, they both just fell apart laughing. A couple who can laugh together like that after half a century has found a secret.

I’m convinced that finding someone you laugh often with is a treasure.

Kindness, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, loyalty, humility—all of these are keys to a happy marriage. I’m obviously no expert, but I want to be. No one wants a failed marriage.

To that adorable couple whose names I don’t even know, to my parents and all others who are making marriage work well—I tip my hat to you. Keep laughing and keep loving…..forever and ever…..Amen.

**I am posting this old column to my blog on May 24, 2017—a little over six years since I ran into that charming couple at the grocery store. For all of these years, I have wondered who they were. Today I found out. As I was looking for an obituary for a friend’s grandmother, I “happened” upon one for a sweet-looking lady named Laura Jane “Janie” Mills Willis. Her face struck me as one I had seen before, so I read the obituary of this supposed stranger. Turns out she wasn’t a stranger after all! She was my “mystery woman” of the serendipitous grocery store encounter! I am rejoicing to have found her at last, but I am sad that she is gone now. Janie died peacefully at her home at the age of 93. Her beloved husband died in 2014—three years after he stood smiling lovingly at her in the Ingles checkout line. They achieved that 70-year mark for marriage. Although they are now gone on to be with the Lord, their love story will continue to inspire me for the rest of my life. Meeting them that long-ago day was truly a divine encounter.** 

http://www.forbisanddick.com/obituaries/Laura-Jane-Willis/#!/Obituary

Laura-Jane-Willis-1495462763

Laura Jane “Janie” Mills Willis

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Your springtime is coming

Sometimes in the midst of summer’s heat, there comes a day like today–a day that seems to be set out of time. The humidity is suddenly incredibly low. Skies are the vivid blue of early autumn rather than the diluted blue of midsummer. The air is fanned by a gentle breeze that remains cool throughout this rare day when late June temperatures have plummeted from the mid-90s to the upper 70s.

When I awakened this morning and saw the type of day I had been given, I felt a special essence surrounding it. I was mentally transported to late September when summer’s heat gives way to pleasing temperatures. My 14-year-old daughter Abigail must’ve felt the same thing. She kept repeating, “It feels like fall!”

Even now at 8:08 p.m., I sit on the deck and marvel at the stellar beauty of the day. Little birds peck in my flowerbeds near me and chirp merrily. The begonia given to me by my precious Aunt Audrey last fall delights my eyes with its pinkish-red blooms. I think of how I wondered if it would live until spring when she placed it in my care last October.

But somehow–despite my tendency to let summer’s leftover hanging baskets die inside throughout the winter–this lovely begonia survived. And now it blossoms luxuriously, lending beauty to my summer days on the deck.

You know what? I feel like that begonia now. And I feel in my Spirit that many of you readers do, too.

You’ve been through troubles and trials in your life and you’ve wondered if you would make it through the long winter that seemed to linger. Sometimes the days felt mighty cold, and you would’ve given anything for a little warmth. You woke up many mornings to a gray sky of life and prayed the sun would somehow break through your circumstances. Maybe you are still there.

Well, guess what? Our God will never fail us or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). Hang on a little longer; your springtime will come. God is intrinsically a God of redemption, renewal, revival, regeneration, restoration, refreshing. He wants to renew YOU, restore YOU, regenerate YOU, refresh YOU, revive YOU, redeem YOU.

Just like the begonia that struggled to make it inside a house when it longed for the outdoors, that often suffered from lack of water due to the dry winter air inside, that needed more sunlight than it could get through my bedroom window–you, too, will once again feel the refreshing spring air, soak in the spring rains, flourish in the light of the abundant sun.

Maybe you have already come through that dark winter and are currently being refreshed by your springtime season. Then reach out to help and encourage others who still linger in winter’s chill. That’s why I’m writing this to you.

Do I have trials and tribulations? Sure do. Are things perfect in my situation? Of course not–this world is not Utopia. Do I worry sometimes and feel gray? Yep.

But despite these things, I feel like the begonia. Today, I have been so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the gratitude I feel toward God that I had no way to express it. I have a peace I have never had before, a love for people that oozes out of me until I don’t know what to do sometimes, a confidence in the favor of God in my life that I never knew until I came out of that dark winter of 2007-10 (yep, that long).

If you haven’t gotten there yet, HOLD ON! Our God is indeed faithful and true. His plans for you are of peace and for you to have a good end. Praise Him even when the results seems to be negative. Contact me and I’ll praise Him with you and encourage you.

Some of you don’t feel that you deserve to be happy. Admit it; you don’t. You feel that you have failed God so much in the past that you don’t merit the good things He wants to bless you with.

Hate to tell you this, but guess what? You DON’T deserve the blessings. Neither do I. But our God delights to bless His children. Quit thinking you’re not worthy; that can chain up your blessings. Sure, we’re unworthy in ourselves, but the blood of Jesus has made us worthy.

So, yes, because of Christ’s sacrifice, you do deserve the happiness He desires to pour upon you. You got divorced, you say? You spent some years seeking fulfillment through alcohol or drugs? So you tell me you had sex before marriage or maybe even with someone else while you were married? You hurt somebody really badly in the past? You gossiped relentlessly about a brother or sister in Christ? You had a bad attitude a lot of the time while your children were little?

Okay, join the ex-sinners’ club; come have a seat on the front row with me and most everyone else in the world. We’ve all been there, done something similar to that in some degree.

Did you repent? Are you not committing that act(s) today? Are you working diligently, with God’s help, on your attitude? Are you trusting God to fully deliver you from any addiction that lingers?

Then move on and enjoy the life you’ve been given by God. What’s done is done, and you can’t go back and undo it. And if you feel that because of the mess you made, you really shouldn’t be happy now, then think again.

Our redeeming God doesn’t want you in sackcloth and ashes for the rest of your life. He doesn’t expect you to figuratively wear widow’s weeds forever because of your dark past.

But a word of warning from one who knows: SOME PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY SELF-RIGHTEOUS CHRISTIANS OR THE ONES YOU HURT BY YOUR PAST BEHAVIOR, DO NOT WANT TO SEE YOU HAPPY AND THRIVING. Shocker, huh?

There will be those–yes, Christians primarily–who think you smile too much “after what you did and how you behaved back then!” They want to see you pay the price, be miserable, hurt on and on. I was told by a friend of mine once that a woman I knew from church years ago gets so angry when she sees me in public and I am so full of joy; she thinks I should remain in sorrow for some of my actions of the past.

That is not God’s way. If only she knew how many nights I cried myself to sleep, how many days I wondered if the sun would ever shine again, how many times even now that I hurt with longing to be with my kids when they go to their dad’s house periodically, she might be satisfied with the degree of my pain.

I even overheard a “Christian” the other day on a cell phone, talking to someone who has obviously been done wrong by somebody else. That “counselor” was telling the person not to worry–that the bad person would “get theirs.” Even if they seem to be prospering right now, the “Christian” said, never fear–they’ll get what’s coming to them. The tone was very vindictive.

Yes, unless we repent, we will reap what we sow. But should we as Christians be so vengeful as to wish somebody would “get theirs”? I think not. But this Christian obviously wants someone to pay a heavy price.

If I spent the rest of my life bemoaning the less-than-satisfying way my life turned out and/or the sins I committed, then I would be of no use whatsoever to the Kingdom of God. He has set me free from my past, given me a present that is so full of joy and peace I want to explode, and promised me a glorious future with Him.

I know I’m talking to somebody who is nodding their head right now, saying, “YEAH! I know exactly what she means!” Get back up, shake yourself, commit your future to God and move on. Quit living in the realm of shame, you redeemed person you! Get your smile back. Laugh a little.

About two to three years ago, I realized that I was laughing again. I had not been aware of the fact that I had spent the last few years before that not laughing much at all. And it hit me that my laugh was now totally different. It was louder, full of bubbling joy, frequent. I honestly think I laugh more than anyone I know. I would even startle myself when I would burst into laughter at commissioners’ meetings while covering them for the newspaper when Stanley Smith would say something funny.

And I knew then that God had restored my joy–nay, even doubled it from before those dark winter years. Like the begonia on my deck, I am flourishing, and God’s favor follows me. Life won’t be perfect from here on out in this fallen world, but I have the assurance that my GOD will work ALL things (even bad ones) together for my good (Romans 8:28).

He’ll do the same for you. Hold on to God’s promises–YOUR SPRINGTIME IS COMING!

I won’t go back

You might figure that I–the gal who writes a column called “The Old Paths” for the local newspaper–would be tempted to spend too much time focusing on the past. I am indeed your local spokesperson for the “I can’t deal with progress” movement. So I often find myself with my face turned backward, longing nostalgically for what I sometimes paint erroneously as “the good ole days.”

Paradoxically, I am also a visionary who dreams of what can be. I look far into the future beyond today’s complications, clearly seeing with a prophet’s eye what awaits us if we move positively ahead in God’s Spirit.

Sandwiched somewhere in between is the present in which I have trouble living. My address tends to be either 666 Yesterday Road or 888 Tomorrow Street.

Since my separation from my ex-husband in 2007, I have spent a lot of time craning my aching neck toward the past–agonizing over where I went wrong, where we failed, what we could’ve done to fix it, what an ideal marriage could’ve been.

Is there anybody out there like me who spends time assessing the damage from the past and ends up getting bogged down in misery? Let me clarify that I am in many ways the happiest I’ve ever been. I am recently remarried to a kind, thoughtful, moral man that I absolutely adore who serves God and works hard so that I can stay home to homeschool my children and to pursue ministry in Walnut Cove. (Disclaimer: references to any good qualities of my hubster are not negative reflections on my ex-husband who also has many good qualities.)

I have an exhilarating liberty now in following the call of God. I have awesome family and friends. I laugh aloud a lot–something I didn’t realize I had lost until suddenly it came back–but now my laugh is different–louder, more joyful, more spontaneous. It’s as if I’ve tapped into a freedom and boldness that I had been too intimidated (my own fault) to step into before.

But at the same time that true happiness is present, there is an ever-present grief that hovers beneath the surface, just waiting for a weak moment to rear its ugly head. It picks those times that I am unusually tired, physically challenged, or alone late at night. Then that grief swims to the surface and bobs there until I must deal with it.

It is the grief of being divorced, the agony of having nights my children aren’t physically with me. I rehash events all the way back to the early days of that failed marriage, wondering how it could’ve been different. I ponder it over and over and over and over. . .

I didn’t get my Little House on the Prairie life–with a passel of kids (yes, I realize I have five), Ma and Pa smiling patiently despite blizzards and grasshopper plagues, happy times around the fire with Pa’s fiddle. And thus I mourn the loss of the ideal.

My daughter Meghann, with her practical wisdom, reminds her sentimental mom that we live in a fallen world. Nobody tends to get their ideal life. Most people suffer some kind of tragedy or loss–a little boy might lose his dad to cancer, a husband might gamble away his family’s earnings, a woman may never find Prince Charming to sweep her away on clouds of marital bliss. I’ve seen parents who dream of hearing the pitter patter of little footsteps never be able to conceive and bear children.

So, yes, the sinful nature of this world more often than not rules out the “happily ever after” life.

But we rise up, repent if we’ve been guilty of sin, trust in God as a Redeemer, and move on into the future with the hand we’ve been dealt, whether by our own choices or someone else’s.

But I’m not too good at moving on. I can enjoy the present life at the same time that I spend way too much time bemoaning the failures of the past. Like a movie that is rewound time and time again, I mentally replay circumstances that are long past. And I cry bitter tears.

That was the scenario this past Saturday night. The hubster and I had had a stellar day–my son’s basketball game that morning, a fun grocery-shopping excursion, a cozy afternoon nap, Super Bowl-style food for the exciting NFL playoff games, topped off by Bible study.

My first mistake was giving in to the urge to drink the forbidden soft drink–a caffeinated one at that!

Yes sirree buddy, I was still wide awake at 3 a.m., staring into the darkness. I started off well, spending time in prayer. But that specter of “past failures” was looming nigh. Before long, I was mired up to my neck in the mud of a past I cannot change. For the thousandth time, I imagined what the ideal life could’ve been.

I wasn’t even praying, when all of a sudden I had myself a vision. A bonafide vision from the Lord. Seemingly from nowhere, I clearly saw a huge, metal door with elaborate locks on the outside. That gigantic, heavy door slammed firmly shut and the locks were set.

That was the extent of the vision, but the Spirit of the Lord began to deal with me immediately about the meaning. God was kindly but firmly instructing me to close the door on the past and not open it again. It isn’t that I am not supposed to learn from the past in order to improve my future. It is that I am to STOP hindering forward motion in my present life by keeping my face angled toward something that doesn’t even exist anymore and never did in the first place. I am to stop mourning something I cannot change.

There comes a time to take off the widow’s weeds, fold up the sackcloth and sweep up the ashes. If I don’t, I will never move confidently into the future.

When He did what He did for me in the middle of the night, I was so overwhelmed with the gratitude of His caring that much about me, that I almost immediately fell asleep in peace. I have now lived three days with no regression. If a grief-stricken thought tries to rise up, I see that humongous door shutting with finality. And I move on.

Since then, everywhere I look, there are confirmations of this express command of God to not go back. The very next morning at church, my friend Sandy brought her new gospel CD by William McDowell. She wanted us to listen to a song called “I Won’t Go Back” to use as our theme song. I had never heard it. After a few measures of it, I was totally sold. It quickly became my favorite song.

I won’t go back. The door has shut. God doesn’t want His people to mourn forever something they can’t change. He wants them to progress, to move forward in Him toward a new, albeit unexpected, life–a thriving life where they can say, “Look what the Lord has done!” Not to justify the failures and brokenness of the past, but to proclaim that He is a Restorer of our joy, a Mender of broken hearts.

Do you sometimes feel chained to your past, trapped on the broken road of your life? Well, I’m here to tell you: shut the door on what you cannot change and turn your face to the plans that your God has for you–plans to prosper you, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to bring you to your expected and positive end.

Make a positive declaration to the enemy who rubs his hands together in delirious glee when you stay mired down in the muck of the past. Declare today in the words of McDowell’s song: “I won’t go back, can’t go back, to the way it used to be, Before Your presence came and changed me. All my shame. . .guilt. . .sins. . .they’ve been forgiven, No more chains, fear–my past is over.”

Then shout it out with McDowell and his choir, “I am never going back to the way it was!”

And look unwaveringly forward with unobstructed vision to the bright future God has picked out just for you.

 

(To hear William McDowell’s song,”I Won’t Go Back,” click on the link below. I posted the long version which has an instrumental part which is good for an extended period of praise and worship. Enjoy this anointed song!)

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