Four years ago this month, I was released to legally separate by a church leadership team who had invested fifteen months of their time in putting my marriage back together. Though I believe my first relationship was not a partnership in the truest sense of the word and I therefore always felt basically on my own, I have been living as a single woman and a single mother for four actual years.
A big part of me thought I’d be living singly for the rest of my life – and I had come to terms with that and had accepted that – but it turned out to be just a season. (Lesson: we never know how long a season will last.)
These past four years have been the hardest, most stretching, most healing, most peaceful, most lovely, most happy, best years of my entire life. Seriously.
And as I headed into my final few days as a single woman, I decided I would look back on these past four years and take stock: what did I learn, how did I fare.
Physically: Though I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself to be in shape, during the non-winter months, I tried to walk or bike every day. I continued drinking my green tea and smoothies daily. I took an occasional yoga class. I did not under- or over-eat. My weight did not go too far up or too far down. I went to the doctor as needed. I got enough rest. Turns out, I am capable of taking care of myself physically, even during a really, really hard time.
Emotionally: I felt all my feelings. I didn’t numb them or stuff them. I did counseling. I did DivorceCare. I met with my mentor as needed. I journaled and blogged. I let myself feel angry, sad and lonely. I’d like to think I didn’t wallow, but I probably did sometimes. (But, heck, divorce is rough, people.)
(with girls) I continued to pursue my closest friendships. Some, I had to let go for a variety of reasons: emotional energy, unhealthy for me to continue, what-have-you. I found a new church home and became involved by leading small groups. I leaned a bit towards alone time and isolation and wished I’d reached out more.
(with boys) I didn’t date too soon. (Thank you, Jesus!) Though I didn’t handle that long-distance friendship of mine perfectly, I got a lot of obsess-y-ness and neediness out of my system, and I was built up enough to be ready to try dating for real. And now I am in a sweet and loving relationship with a good man who has become one of my life’s greatest gifts.
Writing/speaking/ministry: My ministry has become very focused. Unraveling was released. I wrote and released three e-books and my first novel. I created a retreat for divorced women. I write regularly for my blog. I led several small groups in my home and at church. I accompanied a few women to court on their divorce days. I created several private Facebook groups for women in hurting circumstances. I worked with a coach to build up my skillset and my knowledge base. And though my ministry did not become financially self-sustaining, I can say that God has redeemed my pain and is helping me help hurting women, and I am so grateful. Might be most proud of this area.
As an ex-wife: I have stumbled my way through this. I put up too-high boundaries at the beginning, sometimes out of stubbornness and spite. My kids and I have been put through the wringer by one crazy stunt after another leaving me to question my entire marriage, and through it all, I am sad to say that I have reacted more than responded. However, I have gotten so much better at this and have let so much go (more than I wanted to let go). My marital status will not change my ex-wife status but I believe I’ll be able to be a better wife because of what I learned being an ex-wife, mainly, that I can change no one but myself and that God will take care of justice in the end.
As a single mom: The good things were finding us a lovely home and making it a peaceful place for my children to grow up in (finally); navigating them into and through high school and driving and dating and college searches (all on my own); our traditional weekly dinners out; sweet vacations to Michigan, and trips to California and New York; not treating them as my friends and/or dumping grounds; protecting them and fighting for them.
But I am certain I told them too much at times and that I can’t undo. So in the end, I desperately hope they know two things:
-that I love them completely,
-and it was God who got us through these past four years.
Spiritually: My pattern in a hard season is to move closer to Jesus. My pattern in a sweet season is to not lean on him as much. My pattern in a sin season is to stay away from him because of shame. I have cycled in and out of these the past four years, just like the rest of my spiritual walk before divorcing. However, mostly, these four years were a testament to me that God is very real, that he is a providing God, that he is a healing God, and that he is a surprising God.
Perhaps, if you find yourself in the middle of a divorced and/or single mom season, you can ask yourself how you’re doing in these areas too, and what steps you can take to become more whole. And know this, no matter how long your single season lasts, God will be with you every step of the way.