Something stronger than pain engulfed me. Not just loss of happiness, but the loss of any sense of purpose. I had been Mrs. Interfaith Marriage for so long, I had no idea who I was or who I might be without that in my life. I had dreamed of getting an MDiv and becoming a chaplain, or getting a PhD and becoming an academic, but my post-abandonment dreams swirled around survival alone.
And then there was crushing loneliness. Few people will ever be able to contemplate the despair I felt on those mornings when I woke to an empty bed along with the realization that my husband had spent another night out with his female co-worker. My marital distress waned into post-marital melancholy, and from the mire of my grief, I could see no end in sight.
And then, the unexpected happened.
God was there, and he breathed new life into me. Out of the ashes of my marriage rose something fiery and determined and stronger than ever.
On October 29th, 2013, I asked my husband of ten years for a divorce.
Our newborn son was one month old, exactly. The previous nine months had served up near non-stop, blinding emotional pain. The pain of his glaring and inappropriate devotion to his co-worker, the pain of his declaration that supporting the family and keeping a roof over our heads were my problems (not his), the pain of job interviews spent trying to hide my baby bump with strategic wardrobe choices, and the pain of nights spent not knowing where my husband was, having to deal with his lame excuses when he finally materialized the next day.
I remember visiting a two-bedroom apartment model and looking around, then closing my eyes. I pictured me and my children living there, on our own, surviving, even thriving. I pictured my unborn child’s crib in the master bedroom with me, my daughter occupying the other room. No more surprises in the bank account, no more waking up in the middle of the night and wondering where my husband was.
I opened my eyes and sighed. Those apartments might as well have been on the moon. No one was ever going to rent one to me when I had no job and no savings.
And yet, there was the hope of a better life, even if I had to go to the moon to get there. So I set my sights above, and I set out.
I’m old-fashioned about many things. I didn’t own a smart phone until 2014. I still believe in saving sex for marriage (and frankly, all of you “very serious” Christians announcing on your OKCupid profiles that you’ll have sex “within 3-5 dates” need to read 1 Thess. 4:3-8 and repent). And I love me a good, paper-and-glue book. I’m a proud member of Book of the Month Club (est. 1926) and they deliver me a hardcover copy of a 2017 new release every month.
I was also pretty stubborn about sticking to a paper copy of the Bible for daily readings. Until recently.
I was attending a small church in Tacoma in 2008. It was so small, it met in a yoga studio. There was an area for childcare, but my 2-year-old daughter had a lot of separation anxiety and could be difficult for the workers to manage, so I sometimes kept her in the main service with me. She would entertain herself by running from one end of the back of the room to the other.
One day, I mentioned to someone from church that I thought it was adorable when she did this. He frowned and replied, “Some people would find it distracting.”
I didn’t say anything, but my heart froze. Distracting. My disabled toddler was being distracting.
It’s been 9 years since that day. I now have two disabled children, and accusations that my children are difficult or distracting during church still periodically crop up. (more…)
Everyone has been saying that 2016 has been “the worst.” For me, it’s actually been a really good year. These were the ups and downs of my year:
Completed and Defended Master’s Thesis – I turned in my master’s thesis for defense on March 16th, successfully defended it on April 15th, and submitted the final copy for ProQuest publication in early May. The thesis was called, As God is, Woman May Become?: Women and the Mormon Doctrine of Exaltation, and I was very blessed to have LDS feminist scholar Maxine Hanks serving as an outside reader on my defense committee. I had been working on my thesis off and on for years, so it was a amazing to finally get it done.
Septorhinoplasty – Yup, that’s right, I got a nose job. (more…)
I had thought that by my current age, I would have a husband, three healthy children, a PhD, a house, a growing list of publications, and a career that I was proud of.
I don’t. I have a divorce decree, two disabled children, a master’s degree that took me 7 years to finish, a tiny apartment I can barely afford, a small list of publications, and a job that could be much better.
I was scheduled for a job interview for a promotion last week. I was practically walking on air all week prior. I did not have the job, but I had the hope of having the job in the very near future. Hope is a powerful thing.
The interview was scheduled for tomorrow. They called me late on Wednesday afternoon, just before the holiday, and cancelled it. (It wasn’t anything that I did, it appears they decided not to create the position after all.)
I’m still a lucky woman. I had a great weekend. I went shopping with my kids, ate out several times, went bowling, and saw an amazing movie (Arrival—no seriously, it’s amazing, go see it). I had Thanksgiving with my kids, decorated the tree, and got to hear my autistic son yell, “Look at that!” for the first time ever. It wasn’t so long ago that I never would have spent a weekend like this.
It was only 3.5 years ago that I had no job, my then-husband was spending all of his time with another woman, I was pregnant and had no idea how I was ever going to take care of two kids alone, and my credit wasn’t good enough to get even a tiny apartment by myself. I wasn’t thinking of publications and didn’t believe I was ever going to finish my master’s degree. Hope found a way.
And while I mourn for my children’s struggles, I know it could be worse. I thank God they are a least physically healthy. They are beautiful and loving and like to run up to me and yell “CUDDLE PARTY!” I have great kids.
The first Sunday of Advent is the time to reflect on hope. I have a lot of it.
“So, we’ve decided that your son isn’t a good fit for our program.”
I froze in disbelief. A knot formed in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes.
She continued. “You should really have him evaluated for special needs. Has no one told you that before?”
I shook my head. She wasn’t mean about it, and she showed concern for my distress, but she was firm that their daycare was not the right program for my son.
It was only his second day with this new provider, and this was the second time in less than 2.5 months that my son had been abruptly dismissed from a daycare program without warning. It was the fourth time in that same time period that a childcare provider had bailed on my son.
In college I was intense. I don’t believe I ever took less than 16 credits, and usually took closer to 18. I was enrolled in three foreign languages at once, an officer in several clubs, and an enthusiastic participant in martial arts, self-defense, flexibility, and dance classes. I played guitar (though probably not very well) and sang in my church’s choir. I was as close to a Renaissance woman as I was ever going to be. The worst grade I got in anything was a B-; I had a 4.0 GPA or nearly a 4.0 GPA on a number of semesters. I had not started school with any academic scholarships, but began receiving them every year after my first full year at BYU.
Two things happened in 2003. I got married, and I decided to cram in a second minor in history in preparation for pursuing an American history master’s degree. It was too late to switch my major or add a second major and still graduate by 2005, but the minor would be enough to curry favor with graduate schools and show that I was serious about history.
My marriage became my undoing. I don’t want to go into all of the reasons why; let’s just say that duties and responsibilities that are supposed to be jointly shared within a marriage fell heavily and disproportionately on me. There was very little partnership. Instead, I found myself almost exclusively responsible for the well-being of two adult lives instead of one, to my exhaustion. Things got worse when my then-husband suddenly asked for a divorce in 2004, less than a year after our wedding. There had been no warning, and he did not want to even try to do therapy or work things out. He told me I was such a horrible person that I didn’t deserve any kind of a second chance with him, that he just wanted out of the marriage and away from me as soon as possible. Though we eventually reconciled, his gaslighting had an immeasurable impact on my psyche. I spent years walking on eggshells, believing that I had done something mysterious and terrible to drive him away in 2004. After our divorce in 2014, my former college roommates approached me to say he had been cheating on me shortly after we got married and they hadn’t known how to break it to me. The sudden and earnest request for divorce back in 2004 suddenly made sense. I believe he only reconciled with me because the Other Woman broke up with him.
With all of this going on, I finally lost my intensity. For the first time since high school, I began failing classes. (more…)
I attended a women’s theology conference in February 2014. The theme of the conference was “purpose,” and the other women at my table were chatting excitedly about figuring out God’s calling in their lives.
I didn’t feel like I could join them. I’d had my son on September 29th of the previous year and asked for a divorce exactly one month later. As I sat at that table, my car was in the shop, undergoing expensive repairs. I didn’t have a job. My estranged husband was looking into apartments so that he could move out, and I had no idea how I was ever going to care for my children. I wasn’t chatting excitedly about mission or ministry; I was thinking of those two human beings whose lives depended on me and how I was going to feed them.
When it came my turn to talk about what I believed was God’s purpose for my life, through my tears, I told the other women at my table my fears and concerns. I said that I really wasn’t sure what God had for me in terms of mission or ministry anymore because I was just struggling to survive.
And one of them said, “Right now, God’s mission for you is to take care of those children. Don’t you worry about anything else for the time being.”