As I sit at my writing desk, I sip my warm echinacea tea and watch the snow fall gently out my kitchen window. The Pumpkin-Pecan candle from Bath & Body flickers, bringing a delightfully sweet aroma to my home here in Montana. The air is chili this December as the white lights of Christmas illuminate our kitchen window frames. Even though I do live in a small town a few miles south of the Canadian Rockies I was lucky enough to find an older farmhouse for my children and me to live in. I love the nostalgic feel of old farmhouses. The high ceilings, wooden floors, and the oversize square kitchens. It’s perfect for my two youngest children and I. My older two children are grown and out in the great big world on their own.
I am at peace here.
I have not always been at peace. There was a time of devastating brokenness that took place in my heart, marriage, and family many years ago. I was married for over fifteen years. The first seven were good until the hurricane of adultery ripped through our home leaving a pile of instant wreckage. I made it through that storm, and I have now come back for you. No one should be left in that haunting state of brokenness.
I want to share with you how I found moments of peace in the eye of that hurricane. When I was going through that tectonic shift in the plates of our marriage, I found little split seconds of peace. If that is where you are, completely rejected during this time, I want to walk alongside you and share with you how I made it through that violent uproar.
As I started sewing this morning on a vintage-inspired apron my mind started wondering and I could not stop thinking of all that I needed to say to you. So, I put my business on hold to write you this quick letter, whoever you may be.
It is time to pack up the pieces of your life and keep going.
You can keep going.
Trying to find peace in the hurricane can feel impossible, but it can be found.
The first thing I would encourage you to do is to make time for yourself.
I know that a thousand emotions are coming out of every part of your being (sorrow, rage, disappointment, feelings of neglect, rejection, and hopelessness among many others) but do not neglect your need for self-care. Remember to eat. Remember to bathe.
You are worth taking care of.
I know that you may not feel that way right now, but you are. Your husband may have rejected you, but you and your children desperately need you to be somewhat healthy. You and your children’s world has or is fixing to turn completely upside down.
I remember when my husband and I separated we lived a few blocks from our children’s school. In the mornings I would walk the children to school and go straight home and soak in a bubble bath. Our children and I stayed in our small 3-bedroom house in town while my husband moved in with his father. We had a claw foot bathtub, and I would light my candles and pour the aromatherapy ‘Stress Relief’ milky liquid into the running bath. The smells of eucalyptus and spearmint would calm me, and I would sink into the bubbles for at least an hour. Somedays I would continually keep adding hot water and stay until I was wrinkled. I was enrolled in our local college and was taking classes online. I was majoring in Marketing during this time, going through a separation and had all four of my children at home. So, while they were at school, I would take that time to take care of me. I would then do my college work online. If I had a test, I would burn the midnight oil and take it while they were sound asleep.
Another thing to remember is to make sure you are drinking enough water and eating a healthy diet. One of my main downfalls during that time was that I would forget to eat and then when I remembered I would binge.
Another thing that helped me was right before lunch I would take a two-mile walk. There was freedom and release in my daily walk. In the consistency of the same route, there was a simple form of peace.
The second thing I did was surround myself with girlfriends.
Never underestimate the power of a true friend. I had the best girlfriends who would laugh with me. They would love on me, help me clean my house, and just shared this heartache with me. That was so incredibly imperative to my recovery. I do not think that I would have made it through that time without my girlfriends. They popped in unexpectedly bringing gifts, a hug, or just a smile and would spend hours with me giggling and eating chocolate brownies (Do NOT forget to eat chocolate)!
We would laugh together, pray together, cry together, let our children have play dates together, and simply do life together. All my girlfriends were married so it was easy for me to stay out of the bars and stay out of trouble plus my moral compass would not allow it. Our families had been friends for years before this time of separation.
A few times we even had Italian Nights together. We would all make delicious Italian dishes, come together, set the table, laugh, and have dinner with our children and their husbands.
Make sure to stay connected to your girls they can help your heart feel lighter and at peace during this hard time.
The third thing is to be gentle with yourself.
Laugh at your mistakes. Forgive yourself for not always being a good wife. Release yourself from taking full blame. Love the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of yourself that makeup who you are.
Give yours a break.
You are going through a death. The death of your dreams your marriage and your family. Life will never be the same after this. You will see this time as a deep mark on your timeline. You will refer to your life before and after this time and that is ok.
You are going to be O.K.
You will make it through this. You will see the light at the end of this tunnel. You will wake up someday with a smile spread across your face simply because you love your new life. Your children will rise and call you blessed. It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow but if you choose to keep going and keep healing, that day will come. I pray over you now the peace which surpasses all understanding and that it would be yours. I pray that you will find it in the simple things in this life…
I pray that you will find it in hanging the freshly bleached sheets on the clothesline, in the sound of your children’s laughter. You will find it in a devoted friend’s hug, the morning sun kissing your face as you savor your fresh ground coffee. I pray you feel it in the goodnight hugs from little arms wrapped around your neck, a slow winter’s snowfall and the taste of old-fashioned Christmas cookies. You will find it in the snuggly wool socks by the fire on a cold winter’s night.
You will see this in one of these sunrises.
You will find this good life. You will heal. You will dance and you will live again but until that day comes find your peace in the simplicity of everyday life.
Let peace rest upon you, my friend.
All my love,
(Angela B. Bowland author of More Than a Mud Flap)
As little girls we all dream of the day we finally get to wear our beautiful white gowns. The day the whole world gasps as we walk down the aisle. We dream of the one who will wrap us in his tender kisses and protect us from all others. We dream of a beautiful life.
We dream of ever after only to grown up and realize that monsters…. really do exist.
During the hardest season, our generation has seen yet, being ordered to the confinement of your own home with a man who chooses his love for substance or immorality over his family, would feel like hell on earth. This man started out as the love of your life. He was the man that you dreamt of on your bed as a little girl. You prayed and waited for him to come into your life. At first, your heart skipped a beat when he walked into the room but that was years ago. Your once vibrant hope of a beautiful family life fades away as you walk through the after math of broken promises, broken foundations and broken vows. You look as this man standing before you and barely recognize him as the man you first loved. You go into a state of unbelief as he acts in ways that contradict the man he once was. Your heart breaks as you watch your children desperately needing the love and guidance of their father as he slips out the backdoor into the night.
Perhaps you are in a situation like this? Perhaps you too, have lost your first love to substance abuse? Perhaps you are praying for a way out of your confinement? When the whole earth is focused on one enemy on the outside, you are focused on the enemy within your four walls. You wonder why he could blow off a deadly pandemic so easily. You look at your children and wonder if they will have enough food and cough syrup to get through this. You have been unsure if they will make it in the circumstances that you have been in let alone a worldwide plague. Fear is ever-present in your home as the paper products have already been diminished because your husband refuses to spend the last of your money on toilet paper as he cracks open his stash of Busch beer, pops another pain pill, and lights up a cigarette. You plead with this man to find counsel. You have now been propelled to the head of the house to take care of the children and find what measly work you can to provide food for your family. You put far too much responsibility on your oldest child because you cannot rely on your husband.
He is supposed to be your provider and your protector but if he is your protector, then who will protect you and your children from his anger?
Your stomach turns when he even thinks about moving towards intimacy because you know that you are not the only woman that he has been with. He “lost” his wedding ring years ago and leaves you and the children for days on end. When he does return, he is unkind to the children for singing too loudly while he is trying to sleep off a hangover.
You refuse to sleep with the enemy, so you make your bed on the floor of your children’s room, partly to avoid your marriage bed and partly to protect them from any unpredictable outbursts.
You lost all respect for this man many years ago and now stay only out of obligation.
In the midnight hours, you pray for God to change his heart or remove him from your life.
His “friends” randomly show up in the middle of the night to “borrow” stuff.
You have even found yourself repenting from asking God to send the virus his way. You do not know this monster that he has become. He is no where near the man you first meet.
You are terrified and are unsure of which direction to turn. Your house is a mess from the constant neglect of basic supplies like dish soap, laundry detergent, and food. You are behind on every bill and your washing machine broke down two months ago. The bill collectors will not stop calling, your landlord keeps leaving eviction notices on your front door and you fear being homeless, again.
Your heart breaks every time your children proclaim, “mommy, I’m hungry.”
You fear asking your husband for money because last time you tried standing between him and his substance you only received a bruised arm and faults accusations being screamed into your face. This startles you considering the warm intimacy that you once shared.
You have no consistent income; no family budget and all your resources have been exhausted. The insurance on your car has expired and if you get another no-insurance ticket the state is going to take your driver’s license. So, now you walk to the grocery store to buy bread, lunch meat, and milk with the money that your mother secretly gave to you. You also buy napkins instead of toilet paper so you can get more for your money.
You do not want to be a burden on your friends and family, and you are too embarrassed to allow them into your reality. In fear of losing your children to social services or worse you stay silent and allow the situation to escalate. It is now beyond where it ever should have been. No one should be expected to live the way you and your children are living but you have no way out and have lost hope of ever escaping. You have no self-esteem because of the constant faults-accusations being hurled at you. Now you cannot leave because the governor has ordered that you ‘shelter in place’. You can not believe what is unfolding in your own home. This is not the story that you wrote in your dreams as a little girl. This is not your prince, and this is NOT your happily ever after.
You feel hopeless that your life will ever be more than this.
Just know, my Sweet Sister, all hope for you is not lost.
You are not the only one in this situation. This kind of domestic violence, substance abuse and neglect are real, and it is happening all over America right now.
How do I know?
I lived it!
I will probably never be able tell the full depth of my story, knowing that my children’s precious eyes will someday be reading through my writings.
However, I will tell you that I know the helpless feeling of being stuck. I know the fear of not knowing if your children will be able to eat the next day. I know the fear of walking on eggshells. I know the hopeless feeling of watching the man that you love slip further and further into his addictions.
I also know the freedom of releasing him.
The only regret I have is not getting my children out of the situation sooner.
Can I be so truthful to tell you that life is too short to spend your God-given years trying to build your home around chaos?
Chaos is sinking sand.
This kind of situation is lethal, unbearable, and could easily steal your sanity and faith if allowed.
Can I be so bold as to say that there is an invisible line in front of you which needs your undivided attention?
There are choices that you need to make.
You can make those choices.
There is an unspoken step that your new life is waiting for you to take.
You can take that step.
Your children are looking to you for guidance.
You can lead and guide your children.
Allow me to share a piece of my story with you so just maybe, it will give you a little bit of hope and courage so you too can make those necessary decisions.
In November of 2016, I took a job as a Caretaker (Inn Keeper) at a lodge 2miles south of the Canadian border in Montana. I had been separated from my husband for a little over a year at the time. The lodge had 10 cabins, a beautiful main lodge and an office/caretaker’s building. It was tucked back into the mountainside and reminded me of a small village that you would see in a Hallmark movie. It was the perfect Montana getaway. Travelers from all over the globe stayed there. The lodge’s managers turned down my application the first time around because they did not want any trouble with my husband (even though we no longer lived together). I reassured them that we were getting a divorce. I knew then that I could not move into my future while holding on to my past.
It was time to let go.
The job included a 3 bedroom/2-bathroom house and a monthly salary. The house had wood flooring throughout except in the bedrooms and a cute glass front wood stove. It had an orange maple tree out of the living room window and the bus stopped in front of the lodge.
They agreed to give me a six-month probation period. I did so well that they extended my contract twice. We ended up living/working there for two years and four months. The work was physically intense, but the benefits were well worth it.
During those two-plus years, my husband was not allowed on the property. It became a haven. The children could spend time with their dad but not at the lodge. We also felt very taken care of having every bill paid. The rent, electric, water, sewer, wi-fi, and Dish network were all included. I was able to clean up my credit and buy a nice SUV (Rav4).
My divorce was scheduled for the September following my hire date. The Northwind blew early that year causing forty-degree winds to chill our region. The forest fires had hit hard that summer so starting a fire in the woodstove was prohibited unless the chimney had the proper coverage.
After the summer season was over and my 12 to 17-hour days had subsided I put in for a weekend off. I signed up to go to a women’s retreat at a beautiful mountain lake the weekend before divorce court.
I did not care how cold it was; I had just worked through one of the hardest summers of my life at the lodge and needed this much-awaited sanctuary. I was about ready to make a pivotal decision and I was desperate to hear a clear answer from the Lord. Even though the children and I had gotten out of the situation that we had been in I had still struggled with the biblical aspect of the divorce.
I was a Christian woman who had prayed fervently for my broken marriage for over eight years. I read every marriage book I could get my hands on. I cleaned more, cooked more, loved him more, prayed more and no amount of trying on my part made any difference in my marriage. We were married for fifteen years and after the first seven, my husband had an affair with one of my good friends. The last eight years was us walking through the aftermath of those choices and him falling further and further into prescription and illicit drug abuse.
It was time to lay it all down.
No children, no work, no responsibilities just me, my Lord, and the great outdoors of Montana. I loaded my S.U.V., instructed my mother on how to take care of my children, and left everything behind.
I took a few deep breathes, stopped at a coffee drive-through for an Americano and a vanilla covered biscotti, cranked up the music, and released it all.
The ecstasy of being alone in the great outdoors of The Rocky Mountains was invigorating.
Even though it hit below forty degrees the sun was still shining when I arrived. The lake was so clear and glossy. I thought about all the years I had spent there as a child attending bible camp. Year after year, summer after summer as a child, I would indulge myself in the icy cold waters and my aunt’s delicious home-made cooking. She was the camp cook and dowsed every dish with extra butter. I remember swimming in the lake and smelling her lasagna and garlic bread knowing that diner was going to be completely satisfying that evening.
It seemed like a life time ago.
As I got to my cabin and started unpacking, I realized that I had the entire two-story cabin to myself. Being that it was my old stomping grounds I was at peace being alone. I needed that time to think, release all burdens, and cry myself to sleep. I could see my breath in the cabin but was completely warm in my full body pajamas inside the down sleeping bag one of my girlfriends had loaned to me. Noticing the old familiar orange camp canoes when I had arrived, I decided that I would take a ride the following afternoon.
I cried out to God that night as I lay in my cabin alone without children, work, responsibilities, or my smartphone. It was so quiet compared to the constant affairs of running the lodge, training the maids, and trying to be both parents to my youngest two children. For the past months, I had been constantly plagued with their questions regarding their father.
I left it all behind that night and the next morning as I was drinking my first cup of coffee by the docks I breathed in the smell of fresh, mountain air, bacon, pancakes, and lake water. It was as though the breath of life had reentered my spirit man with every freshwater wave that slowly splashed upon the shore. The lake had always been one of my favorites growing up. If it would have been warmer, I would have dived off the end of the dock, swam out to the far dock, and stayed there all afternoon. On that chilly day, the canoe ride would have to satisfy my hunger for adventure.
I went to the retreat looking for answers.
“Will I be less in Your Kingdom Lord, if I am unmarried?” “Am I making the right decision” “Will I have to share my children with their father and his twenty-year-old girlfriend?” “Will she try to get them to call her ‘Mother’?” “How can I let go of all that I had fought for in prayer for over the past eight years?” “What about all of Your promises of restoration?” “Is this really how this story ends after years of fighting for my marriage?” “What about the vow I made to You? I cannot break that vow.” “If You have released me then verbally tell me.”
After breakfast, as more women had shown up, we ventured towards the chapel for devotions. I could smell the smoke of Doug Fur burning in the woodstove and knew one of the ladies had lit a fire. We sang, worshiped, prayed, and cried together as every woman there had brought some form of burden to the retreat. Even though I did not know any of the woman we smiled at each other and strolled back to the kitchen for more coffee, cinnamon rolls, and crafts. I was not there to be social. I had just come seeking the voice of the Lord.
One of my girlfriends showed up around lunchtime that day and we ran to claim one of the canoes for our adventure. I soaked in the sun, the mountains, the sky, and the fish below trying to forget my sorrow of days to come. The lake was calm and glossy as the canoe cut through the clear mountain waters. My girlfriend and I did not need to say much but allowed the sounds of nature to ring dominate that afternoon. I could see the rope swing on the far side of the lake, which took up a lot of my childhood summers. I used to be so adventures and wild. I looked forward to the day I was to become a woman and run my own life. I would have never guessed back then what my life might have looked liked in the future.
My soul needed that canoe ride just as much as my lungs needed the fresh, mountain air.
There is no place like the wilderness of Montana to heal the soul.
My girlfriend and I met other women at the dinner table. I was still struggling for answers and told God that I was not leaving the camp without them.
My greatest fear at that point was standing before the judge the following week without peace or having heard the voice of God.
We prayed with our new friends after dinner. The younger woman shared with us of her marriage and divorce to an abusive husband. I cried and never would have guessed by looking at her that she had gone through some of the same things that I had. The night before, during chapel she had led us into the presence of the Lord through her worship. One thing that she said stuck out to me, “You are standing behind an invisible line. All the past chaos is on the side that you are on now but once you cross that line (the divorce) a whole new life, with new opportunities, will open for you. A fresh, new life with the presence of the Lord will be yours.
The last night of the retreat as I poured out all my fears, worries, and bottled-up pain to my close friend, the answer came.
My close friend told me her story and even though she had told me many times before there was a nugget in it this time that I grabbed ahold of. God had promised my friend that she would marry out of high school and bear twins and so she did. She had a baby girl and a baby boy. The son was healthy, but the baby girl had contracted a virus and only lived for a month after birth. Her husband and others went to pray for the baby girl believing for a resurrection, but none came. The day that she and her husband had to bury their baby girl she said that something inside of her had also died that day (later realizing it was her faith).
She explained to me how God had promised her twins and she had birthed twins. Her promise was fulfilled but not in the way that she had assumed that it would be. She also explained how death had come in with the fall of Adam and Eve and how death was never a part of God’s perfect plan. She explained that it was never God’s plan for death to take her baby girl, but man fell, and death entered in. She also explained to me that it was never God’s plan for adultery to kill my marriage either, but it did.
I cried knowing that I had gotten my answer.
Even though I knew, when my husband and I had met, God told me that He had given him to me but my husband had stepped out of the will of the Lord when he chose to commit adultery. I was released from my vows. What I had failed to realize was that my vows had been broken for years.
I left all my questions behind on the banks of that beautiful lake, packed my belongings, hugged my friend, and left.
On the eve of my divorce, I had a vision; I was in full armor. I had lacerations all over my arms and face as I bowed on one knee before my Mighty King. My sword was stuck into the ground held by my hand who had known the curve of the handle well. I looked up to my King as He sat upon His throne. I could only see Him from behind His throne looking upon the back/side view of His silhouette.
I lifted my battle-weary head from the last eight years of trying to save not only my marriage but my husband’s soul.
“I’m sorry I lost this battle.”
As I wept before my King, He spoke to me in the vision, “You have fought valiantly but it is now time to lay down your sword.” Still weeping at His feet, I fell on both knees, turned my sword over holding it in the palm of my hands, and laid it down at His feet as He confirmed, “This battle now, belongs to Me.” As I finished laying my sword at His feet, He presented me with the biggest, brightest red, yellow, orange sunflower that I had ever seen.
“It is now your time to rest.”
On September 28th I went to divorce court and stood before the judge, alone. My divorce was finalized on that day in 2017 a week and 15 years after my husband and I had said, “I do.”
I drove the hour and a half home from our county’s courthouse with the song ‘Battle Scars’ playing over and over in my mind. With my children still at one of my friend’s houses I went home and slept for three hours unsure of how this finalization was going to affect me. When I woke, I felt no sorrow, no regret, no loss. God had taken it all from me. The only thing I felt was freedom and release.
The week after court I went to church. I stood in church worshiping my Great King through song and I heard the Lord speak to my spirit, “Look at you! Still standing there, still praising Me!” I smiled in the knowing that I had just conquered one of my greatest fears.
I feared that I would lose my faith after believing for so long and then having to let go.
While sitting in the service the preacher made a golden statement that I will never forget.
He said, “Great Faith is seeing your prayers get answered but True Faith is trusting God regardless of the answer.”
It has been three years since my divorce. Since then, my first book has been published, I left the lodge and started my own clothing company. I write monthly in a blog dedicated to heart issues. My children live peaceful lives in a cute two-story farmhouse in a quiet, little town in Northwest Montana. My cabinets are full and the sounds of my children singing and laughing illuminate our home. I smile a lot these days and bake as often as possible. Usually, it is the smell of double, chocolate chip brownies that fills our kitchen. My middle daughter has also taken to baking bread.
I even took my children to the Oregon coast to see the ocean for the first time this last summer.
My children and I planted a little herb garden this summer consisting of herbs and sunflowers.
My ex-husband no longer sees his twenty-year-old girlfriend and comes around for a few minutes every other month to see his children.
My children and I are still hurt by our past but are learning to let go and live for today.
I made the courageous decision that my children and I deserved better and took that leap of faith, crossed that invisible line, and guess what? The lady at the woman’s retreat was right. There is only good and God’s promises waiting on this side. Is it hard financially? Yes, but God always provides for us, and because I can work, I can pay our bills and spend the money on the necessary things that my children and I need, like clothes, food, and rent.
I am not here to promote divorce. I am here to promote life.
Every situation is different. Marriages can be saved but, in our situation, divorce was the answer.
Again, I am not here to promote divorce. I am here to promote courage for you to make the right choices for yourself and your children and if the Lord leads you to divorce then that is your way out of the abuse and neglect.
If this is the route that you are forced to choose then to know that you are not condemned. You are not less than any other woman. You are not used up or second best. God can and still will use you after divorce.
Never allow anyone to make you feel guilty for making positive choices to better yours and your children’s lives.
I am praying for every woman reading this that God would give you the courage to take that first step. If you want out bad enough God will show you the away.