Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What I've Gained from Divorce

  I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her there.
I will return her vineyards to her
and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope.

--Hosea 2:14-15 NLT


For those of you who regularly read my blog, thanks for putting up with my tangled thoughts about my recent divorce. I know my past few posts have sounded like same song, second verse; but I promise I'll be moving on to other subjects! For example, I'm eager to share something significant I'm doing for my kids... and I'll get to that soon.

But for now, one more thought about the wilderness I've been in the past year.

In my DivorceCare group meeting this week, the leader urged us to write out a list of our losses. Making this list, he said, would help us realize the magnitude of what has been taken from us as a result of divorce so that we can understand the depth of our grief.

I've been putting off this assignment because I didn't want to have to face the reality of how much my life and dreams have changed. But this morning, I sat down with a notebook and made The List.

Most of the list is too personal to share publicly, so here are just a few things on my long list of What I've Lost from Divorce:

1. My husband (obviously).

2. My identity as a wife. I'm no longer a "Mrs." I have to get used to calling myself "Miss Stair." (I still get a little pang of grief every time I say "Miss.")

3. My identity as a pastor's wife. For fourteen years I've been a pastor's wife, and I've loved that role. I really miss it. Now I'm learning how to function as a "regular" member of a church.

4. My church home. The church Brett pastored didn't survive the shock of his sudden leaving. They closed their doors in January. I truly loved that church and poured my life into the people there for five years. But I can't go back to my church home, because it no longer exists.

5. My vision of a life together. When I married Brett, I married for life. I envisioned growing old together, watching our children grow up together, having the kids and their spouses and the grandkids come over for fun family gatherings, like I do with my own mom and sisters. That dream has now been snatched away.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

Anyone who's gone through a significant loss--whether from divorce or death or illness or any unexpected change in life circumstances--could make a simliar list of losses: a lost sense of identity, security, hopes, dreams, financial status, future plans, family life, etc.

My list of losses ended up being pretty long. And to be honest, I was overwhelmed to see them in writing. Somehow writing down all those losses made them seem very REAL.

Then I sensed a strong leading....

Make another list. Make a list of what you've gained.

Gained?! That's crazy, I thought. Who GAINS from divorce? Then I thought, why not give it a try? It couldn't hurt.

And you know what? It's a lot more than I expected.


So here's my second list. The list of What I've Gained from Divorce.

1. A (faithful) heavenly husband. In Hosea 2:14-16, God calls His beloved into the wilderness to speak tenderly to her and to restore her vineyards. There, God promises to "turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope" (v. 15 MSG).

In this desert, she will no longer call God her master, but she will call Him her husband (v. 16 NLT).

As much as I never, ever wanted to be in this postition, the desert of divorce has deepened my relationship with God. I ran to Him because I had nowhere else to go! And during this past year, I have no longer merely known Him as my Lord, but I have known Him as my heavenly husband--the One who loves me with an everlasting love and makes a covenant with me that will never be broken.

"I’ll marry you for good—forever! I’ll marry you true and proper, in love and tenderness. Yes, I’ll marry you and neither leave you nor let you go. You’ll know me, God, for who I really am" (Hosea 2:20 MSG).

2. My identity as a child of God. Being a child of God isn't a new identity for me--I gave my heart to the Lord when I was seven years old. But when my life fell apart last year, I was shaken to my core. In those first few days when I was in such shock that I could barely breathe, when I wasn't even sure who I was anymore... I knew this truth: I am a child of God. 

He is not only my heavenly husband, but He is my heavenly Father.

My father died many years ago. I miss him all the time, but there are certain situations when his absence is achingly palpable. When my husband left, I desperately wanted to run to my dad, for him to wrap his strong arms around me and take care of me and tell me that everything is going to be okay. But I couldn't do that. I don't have a dad anymore.

Instead, in those lonely, grief-stricken days, I found God Himself to be the Father I longed for. I can't fully explain it, and I know this sounds really "girly" (which is SO not me!), but I have felt God's strong, fatherly presence around me during the difficult times when I'm tired of all the responsibilities of being a grown-up and I just want to be a child crawling up in my Daddy's lap so He can hold me and take care of me and tell me that everything is going to be okay.

"God in His holy house is a father to those who have no father" (Psalm 68:5 NLT).

3. My identity as God's servant. On Sunday, November 6, 2011, Brett stood in the pulpit at The Church at Sendera Ranch, told the congregation he was no longer eligible to be pastor, walked out of the church, came home to pack his things, and moved out. In a single day--just a few hours, really--my identity as pastor's wife was stripped away.

This was a much harder blow than I had anticipated. I didn't realize how much I had treasured the role of pastor's wife. Yes, full-time ministry is hard. It's life-consuming, to be sure. But I enjoyed the opportunities that came with being the pastor's wife. And, well, let me be honest here: I loved the status of being a pastor's wife. It made me feel significant, as if I was doing something really important for God.

Oops. Um, there's a word for that.


It would have been nice if I could have learned this lesson an easier way, but through the divorce God reminded me that I am His servant. The Christian life is NOT about my identity as a pastor's wife or Bible study teacher or anything of that sort. In fact, it's not about me at all. It's all about God. I'm just His humble servant.

And in the upside-down economy of God's kingdom, where the last become first, I've found that being God's servant is the most important thing I could ever do.

"Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you" (2 Corinthians 4:5 MSG).

4. A new church home. Finding a new church home after the divorce was challenging for me. For all of my married life I had gone to the churches where Brett was on staff. The kids and I continued to go to The Church at Sendera Ranch after Brett quit, because we loved the people there and they poured out God's love and compassion on us. 

But when the church closed its doors, I was on my own for the first time in fourteen years.

Through friends and God's leading, the kids and I started going to a local, nondenominational church. After our divorce was finalized on July 23, and after the 30-day appeal period had passed (to give Brett every opportunity to change his mind), the kids and I met with the pastor and became official members of the church. It's a much larger congregation than the kids have ever been part of, but they love it there. And every Sunday, as we worship with the community of believers at Hillside, I feel a strong sense of peace and belonging.

I am confident that this place--this congregation--is the church body God has prepared for us. So as a result of the divorce, I have gained a new church home. 

"But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired" (1 Corinthians 12:18 NASB).

5. A new vision of a life together in community with loved ones. Journalist Walter Winchell once said, "A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." And since November, I have found this to be true! At the moment of my deepest pain, when I felt isolated and abandoned, God sent a deluge of friends to care for us. I've written about my friends elsewhere, but suffice it to say that my home has been filled with the happy chaos of kids and friends and loved ones, just as I had envisioned it.

In fact, this year has been filled with more fun and love and joy than I could ever have imagined prior to the divorce.

While my losses nowhere compare in scope to those of the Old Testament Job, I am finding this to be true: "The Lord blessed the last part of Job's life even more than the first part" (Job 42:12 NLT).

So for as many years as God gives me in this life, I will celebrate His love with the new family of friends and loved ones that God has so bountifully provided for the kids and me.

"God sets the lonely in families" (Psalm 68:6 NIV).


I guess what I'm trying to say in this long post can be wrapped up in this:

Though my cup may be stained and marred and cracked... my cup runneth over (Psalm 23:4 KJV).



  1. I wish I had had this kind of wisdom after my divorce. Would have made my life much easier. I'm so glad you have used this experience to grow closer to God rather than turn your back on Him. You are such an encouragement and I know God has wonderful things planned for you and your family.

    1. Thanks, Stacy! You've been such an encouragement to me during this journey as well. I appreciate your friendship so much!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Christie! I've been so blessed by your friendship and encouragement. Our God is good and faithful, and He has such great plans for us--plans for a future and a hope! Hugs to you and your sweet family.

  3. Beautifully spoken Jen... I myself experienced the same losses, but also experienced the same gains as you. It has made my life sweeter since I depend on the LORD and not a man to fulfill me. Thank you for sharing this with others and I pray that it touches someone and is used as an encouragement so that they know they are not alone and can draw closer to HIM through all the pain.
    Call me sometime-- I will message you my phone number on fb.
    Christi Dostal

    1. Aw, thank you, Christi! I'm so sorry that you've walked down this hard road too, but how amazing is our God to restore the years that the locusts have eaten! You're so right... we are NOT alone!!! That's something God has been showing me over and over: that He will never leave me or forsake me (Heb. 13:5). And more than that, He will bring precious friends (like you!) alongside me as I move forward into the future He has planned. Love you!

  4. You will never know what this meant today. I happened upon it because a friend shared it on Facebook. Today my husband of 22 years let me know he had signed the divorce papers. Yes I too thought that I had married for life. But God is good and today I let go of 22 years of family vacations, school programs for my 2 boys ages 14 and 11, years of special events, friends and even family. I have a Heavenly Father that will be my "Husband" to me and "Father" to my boys. Thanks for sharing your heart. I felt like it was written just for me.

    1. Oh, honey, my heart breaks for you and your boys. Divorce is so hard! As you know all too well, it's a painful ripping apart of the "one flesh" that God never intended to be torn. But I'm so glad I can share my journey with you. I, too, am walking through the valley of the shadow of divorce...and I'm finding that God, my Shepherd, is staying close beside me (Psalm 23:4 NLT). He's there beside me when I dissolve into a puddle of tears. When I am awash in grief. When I think I simply cannot bear the pain anymore. I know the coming days will be SO hard but please try to remember this: God will never, ever leave me--or you. Or your boys! Here's a verse someone shared with me early on that I've clung to the past few months:

      God Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down (nor) relax My hold on you! Assuredly not! (Heb. 13:5 AMP)

      Sweetheart, I don't know your name, but God does. He knows everything about you. He wrote ALL the days of your life--yes, even TODAY, as painful as it is--in His book before there was yet one of them (Psalm 139:16). God Himself is the Author of your story... and He is the Author of the story of your boys' lives as well. For some reason, He allowed this chapter to be written into all of your lives--He wrote this day in His book before any of you were born. As horrific as divorce is, it didn't surprise God. And He has put it into Your story for a reason that we simply cannot yet comprehend.

      I'll be praying for you today and in the days ahead. Together, we'll cling to the God who holds us together moment by moment! :)

  5. Wow Jennifer! I have gone thru similar experiences with divorce. The same emotions and feelings. As I have grown or recognized things that I normally wouldn't have known had I not gone thru this. I have tremendous praises and have also had my struggles. I try to remember who my maker is, but I falter so much more. I have found it so difficult to get thru my emotions because I am by myself. I don't have the support system that you have. I lost all my friends, livelihood, my security, my sense of self worth, confidence, everything. I am glad to hear that you have that and have found a church home at Hillside. Congrats to you as you plow ahead with your new found freedom.

    1. Oh, honey, I falter too! Please don't think I "have it all together"--because I don't. I'm just a big ol' broken mess who takes all my broken pieces to the God who knits me together. After all these months, just when I think my heart has healed, I'll stumble across something--a place that stirs up a memory, a Facebook post, a reminder of some kind--and the grief washes over me all over again. Divorce is a difficult, painful process for all of us. Please don't be hard on yourself!!!!

      And oh, how I wish I could run over and give you a great big hug! Sweetheart, you simply cannot do this alone. This is FAR too deep a pain, too great a life change, than one person can bear. Is there a DivorceCare group meeting anywhere near you? (Check out Or maybe a church that offers a divorce support group of some kind? Please, please try to find some friends or a group to walk alongside you during this time.

      I'm absolutely not trying to put pressure on you in any way, but I cannot imagine going through the grief of divorce alone. If nothing else, keep in touch with me at! We NEED each other. Sending a great big hug to you!

    2. Thank you for your kind words and information. I am with you on all the surroundings are a constant reminder of what once was. The wounds keep breaking open with every part of life. But the good news is even though I have gone thru this myself, this last week I started to venture out to find a church in my area. With that I will find new friends. I have already found one in you :) Thanks for the hug, sending hugs back at you

  6. Jen, thank you for sharing. I always read and loved your articles in our Haslet magazine :) and I am going to pass this on to Ted's brother. His wife 'served' him divorce papers after 19 years and he is reeling...both are good people, as I have spent time with them both, but for many reasons, she feels that God wants her to have something different. It is strange, and my heart aches for Ted's brother and his 3 boys, but, he too, knows God, knows he is a child of God, as do His children. In our church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) we are all raised singing a children' hymn, "I am a child of God, and He has sent me here, has given me an earthyly home.." I will send you a copy of it. :) You and your kids will love it. Anyway, my brother in law will need all the words of wisdome and love he can get so I feel grateful that I may guide him to read this and know that he is not alone. Lots of love, Robyn

  7. Good to hear that you are coping well with your divorce. Yes, you will experience loss along the way, but you will gain so much more too. Never look at it as the end. Instead, look at it as a brand new start. Life offers so much more. Anyway, good luck with life, Jennifer!