Chapter 1: For Better….For Worse

We moved to a very small town (Mena) and rented a home in a quiet neighborhood (next to a sweet neighbor that I’m still friends with today, thanks to Facebook!) 😊
Moving to a small town in a different state was a transition, but I loved it and made many wonderful life long friends.

I was 17 when I first met the man I would eventually marry; however, we didn’t date until a little over a year later. He was several years older, so I’m sure at 17 I was way too immature for him. I know it sounds odd to some, but all my life I wanted to be a wife and mom more than anything. I wanted four children (of course I had no idea how much work that entailed ).
I would eventually fall in love and get married on my 19th birthday, November 27,1982
(yikes that makes me sound old). 😊
It was no surprise to anyone that I would end up married to a preacher, it fit with my upbringing and it seemed a perfect match
We lived on a farm in an even smaller area (Pine Ridge) in a mobile home. I was happy and life was good. This will shock some of you, but I actually have experience in driving a tractor and working cattle. I was raised in the city but happily became a farm girl. I taught a few piano lessons at the local school in Oden, but otherwise stayed home and enjoyed cooking and keeping house (a bit old fashioned but for me, living the dream).
August 26, 1984 after 36 hours of hard labor (no such a thing as an epidural at that time…. well in Mena anyway) 😊 I gave birth to a beautiful dark haired, dark eyed 8 pound baby boy. I couldn’t have been happier. We named him Charley. I was a VERY young mom, but had babysat all my life so was fairly capable of the role. Nothing really prepares you for your first baby….first of all I had NO idea he would keep me up at night haha, but oh how I loved the job. I was blessed to be able to stay home with Charley, and we grew up together (so to speak) 😊

1985 or thereabouts, we began to pastor a small baptist church in Oden, Arkansas. This was also a very, very small community but filled with loving people….according to the internet about 200 population in 2012, a 😊 typical little community where everyone knows everyone and will come together to help like nothing you’ve ever seen. I loved (and still love) Oden. The church holds precious memories for me and the people from it. My husband would preach and I would sing and play the piano. Life seemed very simple and pure, and at the time in my mind, perfect.
We bought a home which was so exciting and a very big deal at the time. It was on about 3 acres if I recall correctly and just a simple little 3 bedroom farm home, but to me it was magnificent. I was pregnant with my second baby by this time and on May 29,1987 my second son was born…..little Caleb James. A blond haired brown eyed beauty all of 7lb 5oz. I was only in labor with him for about 19 hours, so a bit better….but still nothing for pain.
Both boys were healthy, happy and life was sweet. My boys were such gifts from God (and still are). I’m so grateful I was able to stay home with them and all that comes with that.

The church was growing and everything seemed to be going exactly as it should. I was completely happy and content and oblivious to any problems there might have been. I loved staying home with the boys; and to this day, being a mom is the highest calling I have ever had. I was not perfect nor would I ever claim to have been, but I was completely dedicated to be being the best I could. My husband and children were the most important thing in my life. In fact looking back that was one of my flaws: I had let God slip into second place behind them. They were my everything and I poured all I had into them. But what a joy it was to me.

Charley turned 5 in August of 1989 and that meant he would start all day kindergarten (3 days later) and be picked up by the school bus at 7:00 am and return at 4:00 pm. It was a very long day, and I can still see him in the back of the bus fast asleep when the bus would pull up to our house. It proved to be more than he could handle. After a week or so and some great advice from his wonderful teacher, I felt we should take him out and give him another year. This turned out to be a great decision(for many reasons) but mostly since his life would soon be turned upside down.

I’m sure it had been building for some time, but for me it was “out of the blue.” In a matter of weeks we went from being normal (in my eyes) to a point where my husband told me he could no longer live with me and filed for divorce the day after our 7th anniversary and my 26th birthday. I was devastated (a huge understatement). In a few short weeks my life crumbled at my feet in a million tiny pieces, shattered not just broken. To this day it was the worst feeling I have experienced in my life. Watching my family torn apart and in the process loosing the person I planned to love forever for better or worse. I couldn’t comprehend it since I always thought only unhappy people got divorced and I had been happy. I realize now that you can feel like all is well and even be happy yourself ….all the while things may very well be coming apart at the seams. I begged, groveled, made a fool of myself…..all the things you think you’d NEVER do, but then you find yourself doing all the above. Humiliation, despair, heartbreak……then simultaneously I entered a deep, dark tunnel. This is how I refer to the depression that closed in on me and began to choke the life from me. I felt my everything slipping away, EVERYTHING, and the depression was so thick I could barely breath. There was no light in this tunnel, not even a flicker……only tears, regrets, brokenness, fear, and pain. My heart and life had just been crushed. I cried for days; hopelessness began to settle in all around me until I was immersed to the point of drowning in it…..I knew I needed to pull myself together for my sons. They were only 2 and 5, and their little lives had just been turned upside down as well. I tried but the depression was too deep and thick and I felt powerless. I did not want my marriage to fail, I was desperate and at times I’m sure seemed a little crazy. I felt like I was loosing my mind. Divorce and all it entails will do that to you. I questioned everything, read every book I could get my hands on, clinging to any hope I could but feeling it slipping from my fingers. I knew we were the conversation at a lot of dinner tables in that small community. I felt the sting of that as well…..I didn’t want to leave my house. I remember one particular afternoon lying on my floor (I was alone) I had some music playing and I just laid there and cried for hours. Eventually the sun set and I was there in the dark, too distraught to even get up and turn on a light. There’s no way to describe the emptiness I felt, I ached not only for myself but for all of us. Our lives would never be the same, and at the time for me that meant life was over. The rest would be just be pain and loneliness, going through the motions but not really living.
I cried out to God for help, spent days and nights crying, not caring if I lived or died. Most of the time I had no words to pray; but I know God collected my tears, each one representing a prayer, a piece of my shattered heart.Even though at the time I thought he didn’t hear, I know now he did. His plans for me and my boys had never changed. People change, circumstances change; but God remains the same. I felt alone….SO alone, but I wasn’t not for a minute. Even there in my darkest days,when I would cry out and say “God where are you? Why aren’t you hearing me?” I know now He had not abandoned me. When I thought nothing was changing, prayers weren’t being answered, that things were going from bad to worse, God was answering them all but in His way not mine. For this situation had not surprised him like it had me. No, He knows what’s in our path before we are ever born and He goes ahead and makes provision ….I was asking God where are you and He was busy answering my prayers with the preparation of my plan B, which would not be second best but the very best. My future was bright, very bright, I just had no idea, could not fathom I would ever be happy again. Little did I know my best days were ahead of me, being drawn out like a beautiful painting, down to every detail and in colors of beauty I could not fathom I just needed to hold on to His hand, let His love comfort me… for even when He seemed so far away and almost nonexistent, He was right there holding me in His arms and whispering sweet peace to me.

Deuteronomy 31:6
“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated…..because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”



Chapter 2: Starting Over

The end of 1989 was extremely difficult and those few months seemed like years to me.
Depression wasn’t as understood back then; so I thought I was just physically sick and went to the doctor. I was so blessed to have a physician’s assistant that spotted my problem right away. Even though he didn’t know the “why,” he did explain to me depression and how situations can bring it on and make you feel the way I was feeling. He prescribed an anti-depressant for me to try. He let me know I wouldn’t have to always be on the medication, but just until things were better. It took several weeks to kick in fully. I was still very sad and depressed, but now I could at least function. I still cried a lot but instead of crying for days I would have shorter times of intense sorrow and grieving; then I could dry my tears and do whatever I needed to do. With the medical help I was better able to care for my sons and do more than just exist.
One of the heart wrenching memories I have is of my boys seeing me cry so much and so often. One day little 2 year old Caleb said,”Mommy, please don’t cry anymore, ok?”
They needed their mom to be whole and healthy and that didn’t happen overnight.
Somehow I made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas. I felt like I never got warm that winter…..I felt hollow, unwanted, and just plain sad, cold through and through.
About a month or so after the divorce was filed, the reality began to sink in that I had to get a job and get a car (I didn’t have my own). I began to open up my heart to a few people and was met always with open arms and compassion. Depression loves the isolation. The more you reach out, the less power it has over your life.
As I told the story in my earlier post “A January from the Past,” the thought of finding a job was overwhelming, not just because of my depression but also the fact I had no college education or career. I knew I would have to leave my boys with others while I worked and that was hard as well. I pulled up to the Sonic Drive In in Mena, Arkansas that cold January day; and somehow I knew after many stops at other places with no success, I would be offered a job there. That’s exactly what happened.
I was barely 26, but I felt like I was 126… confidence, no self worth, empty and sad .
When I left there I cried in my car because it was not the job I wanted, to be honest. Back then only 16 year olds car hopped and I felt silly as a woman with 2 children to be a carhop….but I had to work, I had no other options; so I did what I knew was necessary.
My Sonic job holds many sweet memories as well. I would have never imagined I would ever look back on that time as anything but humiliating; however, I always smile when I pass a Sonic 🙂
I didn’t know at the time that people tipped at Sonic. I was so surprised when I started getting tips. I was not only the oldest car hop in history (in my mind, ha) but I also became the highest tipped one. I made more in tips and salary than I could have ever made at -say, the bank or a more glamorous place. I also was able to pick my hours every week, which helped with scheduling around times my boys were taken care of. Added bonuses were I was forced to be outside walking (a lot), fresh air and human connections, all of which are so good in fighting depression. At first I wanted to hide when I would see someone pull up that I knew. I hated feeling the stares, knowing what the talk inside the car was; but I had to face them, no room for pride. I slowly realized that I needed to do my job and not worry about people and gossip. Before you know it, I was in full swing as a car hop. Not long after I got the job, I found a car for sale. With the help of one of my aunts and uncles who were willing to co- sign for me, I was able to buy it. It was nothing fancy, a little maroon and silver/white Chevy Spectrum 😁
Another reality during this same time frame was that I could no longer live in the house where we had lived as a family; I simply could not afford it, not even slightly.
A wonderful energetic minister’s wife that I had known for years and still adore, took me under her wing and said, ” I’m coming with you and we are going to find you a place to live.” A couple of days later she and I were pulled up in front of the Polk County Housing Authority (government subsidized housing), and again I felt that same feeling as I had when offered the job at Sonic.
I filled out the paperwork with her encouraging me all the while, reminding me this wouldn’t be forever; but it was the next step. I was almost relieved when they said there was a waiting list and it would take possibly a couple of months or so. The thought of leaving my home with all the memories, the boys’ tire swing in the big tree, sand box, my flower beds I had worked so hard in; everywhere there was a connection. Less than a week later I received a call from the office and was told that, amazingly, a little duplex had just opened up and would be ready to be moved into in a matter of days. I remember a hint of excitement rose up in me, because I knew this could only have been possible through God when it was supposed to take months. The excitement was short lived as the reality sunk in that I was moving, not to a cute little house or adorable apartment, but to a government housing duplex. Not where I wanted to be; but just like Sonic, it was exactly where I needed to be.
About a week later, truck after truck of loving friends from the little church I was attending pulled up to my house and loaded all that I owned (which wasn’t much) and moved Charley, Caleb , and me to our new little duplex. It smelled a little funny but it was now home. Everyone helped me unload everything and got things set up for me …..the quietness of the evening settled in; and as I lay there in my bed, I felt one of the first real feelings of peace in a very long time. The beautiful country moon that had shown over my home in the country was replaced by a street light. The solitude I knew there was now the fact that I lived in a duplex with total strangers who were just a wall away, but still there was undeniably a trace of peace. It was just right for us, really; and the boys and I could live here for 32.00 a month, rent was based on salary. Soon with the help of the scented candles and other touches I brought to this new home, the funny smell was gone, a few pictures began to be hung, and the beautiful trees that budded and surrounded us later that spring gave us a new beauty, a new hope, a new beginning. This was our little house, and even though it had a few bugs that came out at night at times, it was ours! Little did I know I would find a greater peace than I thought possible while living there.
As spring began and I was able to plant a few flowers in front; the beauty of the wooded area on one side of the complex was very inviting…..color, warmth, freshness that only spring brings. Looking back I see how in my life the same process was starting. It was slow in my eyes; but just as spring had brought things to life, my life and that of my little boys was ever so slightly beginning to bloom again. I just could not see it at the time. In my dark, dark tunnel of depression…..around this time , if I looked very close every now and then, I would catch a glimpse of a flicker of light, just a hint of hope; and every now and then, I would smile.
Though sadness still ruled my life for the most part, it would not always….I was starting to heal. A few of those shattered pieces of my heart were lovingly being worked on and cared for awaiting the day that each piece would be restored without a hint of a fracture….it was beginning to happen, I just didn’t know.

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have everything I need.
He lets me rest in fields of green grass
and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.
He gives me new strength.
He guides me in the right paths,
as he has promised.
Even if I go through the deepest darkness,
I will not be afraid, Lord,
for you are with me.
Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.
You prepare a banquet for me,
where all my enemies can see me;
you welcome me as an honored guest
and fill my cup to the brim.
I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life;
and your house will be my home as long as I live.