Divorce is an option

I don’t think I’ll ever forget her eyes.

Or the way her face changed when she told me, matter-of-factly, that it was done. Her husband left her and he wasn’t coming back.

The last two—three?—weeks have been circled around this very decision. We’ve all been impacted—losing sleep and losing our minds. He was our close friend too. It was a complete betrayal that left us all shocked and hurt.

He came home one day, packed a bag, and said the “D” word that means all the things that our worst fears and nightmares are made out of. He walked past their wedding album, grabbed a shirt she had bought him on vacation a couple months before, and that was that.

And it was nearly midnight when I got the call and came to—not pick up the pieces—but sit with her in the mess of pieces he left behind. There was no explanation. Now, three weeks later, there still isn’t. But it doesn’t matter because he’s gone.

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I watched her go from helpless to sad to angry to sad again to strong to weak all in the matter of hours and days. But there was no other choice. I helped her pack. I helped her cut up credit cards. I distracted her with Slurpees and potato chips and episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. I stayed up with her until she fell asleep and then I cried myself to sleep because I hadn’t had a chance to yet.

I watched her make the decision to get out of bed each day and the decision to quit her job and move out of state and the decision to start over. I watched her confront her mom and dad with eyes full of tears and I carried her hope chest into a waiting car, my arms carrying the weight of memories. I watched her wrestle with feelings of self doubt and grief and pain and anger with Heavenly Father. I watched her question whether she was pretty enough. Strong enough. Good enough. She never thought she’d be “that” girl.

But who does?

“Divorce isn’t an option,” she said to me a million times, once when I was half asleep one night. “Doesn’t he know that?”

And that’s when I realized: It is.

Of course divorce is an option. When we forget that, we judge incorrectly. We have a stigma within our churches and even within society that says, “Divorce isn’t an option” and instead of it being meant as, “Divorce shouldn’t ever be the first option and it shouldn’t be the convenient escape route” it casts a bad light on those who are left, who have to leave because of abuse or addiction, or for those who found themselves oppressed or abandoned in some other way.

We were sent to this earth with options. We have an option to get married—and we have the option to leave it, too. We have the option to abuse and hate and live for ourselves–and we have the option to choose God. Do we always choose the right options? No. Watching my friend curl up on the ground, watching her withdraw her paycheck and cancel her phone and leave her life behind for good to start all over—I know for a fact it wasn’t the right option he chose. But he made that decision. And she shouldn’t be left with the red letter A on her forehead. Because out of the terrible choices of others will always come remarkable blessings anyway.

woman with christ

The simple truth found in Isaiah 41:10 speaks plainly: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, yes, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” 

No matter which choices we make–no matter what choices those around us make–we are in the palm of his hand. We are his children. Divorced, abused, heartbroken, lost, angry or abandoned–we’re his children. And we’ll make it.

I’m not writing this because I take marriage lightly or because I am an advocate for slipping the ring on and off without a second thought. I’m writing this because I watched someone I love break apart into a million pieces as soon as the door shut one Friday night—and I watched her keep breathing.

If divorce wasn’t an option—if we didn’t have the choice to move on from a terrible abuser or rise above the ashes of insecurity and self-hatred; if we didn’t have the agency to not only make a horrendous choice, but a choice to move forward with strength and choose well, then what kind of life would this be? And how would it ever lead to eternal life?

She is already branded. Stigmatized. Walking around with “young and divorced” as a banner isn’t a light load to lift. And especially within the church and Christianity and our own little social circles she will continue to be…all because “divorce isn’t an option”.

“He has his agency,” I remember telling her one night, staring toward an empty wall. “And he chose.”

And now she has to choose.

I’m inspired by her. Before we said our goodbyes she smiled and she said she knew she’d be okay. And I know she cried after she got in the car. Just like I did. But she moved her feet and kept going. She decided it wasn’t the end. That was her choice.

I learned a lot from her. Divorce is an option.

But so is love. So is strength. So is understanding.

And I’m grateful for that.

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**Picture and story used with permission**

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To the mom who ‘has it harder’ than me: I’d like you to think again

To the mom who has it “harder than me”,

I have a confession.

As a blogger, I hate open letters.

I try to steer clear. But here I am writing one. I just can’t help it.

I feel that writing this to you is mainly for me anyway. Or for anyone who may—down the road—decide that what you taught me today is something valuable for them as well. It’s worth being talked about, don’t you think?

I met you last night, as I was ready to head home for the day. You and your husband weren’t too much older than I am and I was willing to stay an extra hour or so and help you out with what you needed.

During that extra hour we talked about the chubby-cheeked kids on your cell phone screen and we chatted about your husband’s job, which takes him away a lot. I listened to you tell me how you juggle it all and I complimented you for your strength.

You asked me if I had children and then—“well, are you going to?”

I hesitated sharing, but I told you no, and it might be a while before I do.

You didn’t pry.

I appreciated that.

We could easily be friends if I was on the other side of the counter.

money

But then today happened. You called me, pretty upset, because of a mistake that happened that I had no control over. I tried to resolve it and even felt bad that you had to drive a half hour to the nearest location to get things in order. Really I felt bad. And you had a reason to be frustrated. But that’s not why I’m writing this letter because we’re all warranted to get frustrated from time to time. It’s what you said after all of that.

“I know you don’t have kids, but not all of us get the easy life,” you said into the phone. “You wouldn’t understand how it is to be a busy mother. You wouldn’t get it, would you?”

When you first said that I think I said something about my manager taking care of it later. I think I hung up. I think I choked a little as I remained professional all the way to the bathroom. And that’s when I cried into the bathroom sink.

Why, you might ask?

Because you’re right.

I DON’T know what it’s like to juggle two kids. I don’t know what it’s like to be torn every which way by little hands and sticky faces. I don’t know what it’s like to have everything you have.

But I wish I did.

What you don’t know about me is my struggle with infertility.

tiny feet

What you don’t know about me is the fact that last night when you showed me that picture of your children a pain struck my heart and I absolutely loved hearing your stories about how you can’t get them to sleep in their own beds.

What you don’t know is there are battles unseen that I combat every day that you have been freely given.

What you don’t know, my friend, is that you happened to choose the very battle I wrestle with and tried to use it for …what? A discount? Justice? Some kind of “I’m right and you’re wrong” speech?

What you don’t know is that you taught me a lesson.

I went from crying in a bathroom sink to sitting down and examining the way I speak to people. I’ve been writing a list of all the things I’m blessed with that some might lack and all the things I might say that are insensitive to that fact. You made me think about me.

One of my favorite quotes is from Plato. Even thousands of years ago he seemed to just get it. “Be kind,” he said. “For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

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I’m deciding to be thankful for you today.

I’m thankful that I was able to sit back and examine the unkind thoughts I had toward you when you said those things—that I was able to realize you might be fighting a battle too.

Maybe you woke up in pain. Maybe a loved one is fighting cancer. Maybe you were up at two in the morning with a sick baby. Either way, there’s a battle I don’t know about. Just like my battle.

I’m thankful that the words that hurt me are now words that encourage me to look at my blessings—my great job, my writing, my fantastic family, my entourage of friends and mentors who teach me how to simply be better—and to remember that those things aren’t promised to everyone. The battlefield has all kinds of weapons…all kinds of dips and valleys and shadows that spatter over our lives and strengthen us in some capacity to fight in the war.

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For you, it’s the sleepless nights and the messy minivan. For me, it’s the quiet nights and the spotless car that wouldn’t mind some Cheetos on the floor if it meant an extra set of little hands.

I needed to write this more than you needed to read it, really. So thank you.

Good luck in your battles, friend.

Because we’re actually in it together.

 

 

Style as desired: Message from a bottle

“What on earth is she WEARING?!”

That’s all I heard from behind me last Sunday and that’s all I could think about for the rest of the class.

I was in Relief Society with my sister-in-law at her home ward, surrounded by ladies I didn’t know. And that was the first thing I heard from the woman behind me as soon as the sister missionaries stood up in front of the class to give a little lesson.

I wish I could tell you I was shocked. But I wasn’t. It happens SO often, that I don’t even flinch now. It’s expected. And I’m not beating up on my LDS church because that’s not the only place where judgment with others’ appearances resides. I’m beating up on every place in the entire world that holds more than two humans together at one time. *Hence, everywhere*

But when it happens among Christians, that really rubs me the wrong way. As Christians, shouldn’t we be better? Shouldn’t we think more highly of each other and grant each other the option to express his or her individuality in whatever colors or accessories or hairstyles he or she wants? It disturbs me–enough, in fact,that I’m writing this in a hurried frenzy. Don’t worry, I’ll do a spell-check before I post this.

I’m not going to go into what the missionary was wearing because…well, it doesn’t matter. It never matters.

What matters is that it happened. A girl with a big smile and a Book of Mormon in her hands was suddenly judged for what she was wearing quicker than she could get out two words. And it happens all the time. I cringe to think of all the times I may have done the same kind of thing, judging someone by their shoes or hairstyle or pierced lip as they sit across from me in church. It’s simply something to be ashamed of.

This nagging issue was still on my mind as I was reading the back of a hair-conditioning spray the day after. It relayed the instructions carefully on the back of the bottle, then simply stated: “Style as desired”. See? Even the simplest of things–a bottle of hair product– has it right. You follow the instructions–modesty, cleanliness, respectfulness toward your body. Then you style as desired.

If that means flower patches on your jeans, great. If that means not being afraid to wear short-sleeved shirts that show a tattoo that you got long ago (the one people try to convince you to regret and keep hidden)–good. If that means sporting bright green shoes because you happen to love the color green–GO FOR IT. Because no one can be you. You are your own work of art.

I can’t forget the day that I wore this dress to an event.orangedress

Five minutes into being there I was asked which Halloween store I bought this at. Great, I thought. Now I’ll feel like a pumpkin all night.

And then there’s my sister. The spunky, larger-than-life, unique girl who just happens to like black. A lot of black, actually. And people will dare to ask her why she’s goth if she’s Mormon. This oftentimes comes from not only the school halls, but her own church classrooms.

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And it’s unacceptable. 

We are called to be kinder, gentler, more understanding. We’re called to embrace diversity and celebrate our own.

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(Picture by Julene Jorgensen photography–http://www.designstonotice.com)

No matter what age we are, we have beauty that is our own. Beauty that is crafted by the hands of our own creative spark. And shouldn’t that be celebrated?

So, my dear lady, sitting behind me in Relief Society, I will tell you what the answers might be to your whispered question of “WHAT on earth is she wearing”.

She is wearing what makes her shine.

ivy

She wears her hair short and curly because it’s too hard to keep up if it’s long, and by golly–she looks good with it.

  kylynn

She is wearing her hair in curls reminiscent to the 1940’s because she has the face of a movie star from those classic black and white movies and she digs the old-fashioned look.

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(Picture by Joey Ferguson photography, fergmedia.com)

She has rain-soaked hair and play clothes because she loves to play. And that’s what you caught her doing.

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(Picture by Julene Jorgensen photography, www.designstonotice.com)

She’s wearing bright colors  and ripped jeans because she’s young–and she has the personality of the sun.

joey

He’s wearing a bow tie because that’s his favorite way of dressing up. And he simply owns a drawer full of them.

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She just simply loves yellow and looks GREAT in that color.

We’re all different. And it doesn’t matter.

What really matters is that we love that we are.

So, to the sister behind me, and to all of us really: What is she wearing?

Something different than you. And that’s what makes life so interesting. And so gosh-darn beautiful.