When we’re younger and dreaming about the future, we don’t think about all of the ways that our dreams could go terribly wrong. Death, divorce, heartbreak, and betrayal don’t have a place in the imaginations of hopeful young kids, but as we grow older, we see how these tragedies are much more common than any actual happy endings. There might be happy moments within the bad times, but unless we focus on them, we might end up stewing in our sadness for years. This woman found her beautiful marriage destroyed in just weeks – and she didn’t know where to turn…until one day, she found solace in the most surprising of places.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am. There must be a mistake. We have your husband scheduled as being on vacation.”
The voice on the other end of the line spoke in carefully arranged words.
“Vacation! No, no. He’s supposed to be on a business trip.”
“I’m sorry.” Pause. The voice began to falter a little as we both realized what was happening.
“We have no information about a business trip.”
And so it was that a life that began in bliss ended in betrayal.
It’s not a cliche, when it’s your life.
My husband had kissed me tenderly before he left for the airport that day. “You’ve never looked more beautiful,” he said. “Don’t forget Wednesday is our date night. I love you.”
I had noted how handsome he was, as always, with his tall frame, salt-and-pepper hair, and a sharp business suit. After thirty years of marriage, three children and three grandchildren, I could honestly say my heart still flip-flopped every time he walked in the door.
After he left, though, I spent the day fighting off an unusual feeling of loneliness. Blaming it on the dreary weather, I spent the day by the fire with a book until I finally retired, still uneasy. At 6:00 A.M. I awoke feeling that something was very wrong. Thinking I’d had a bad dream, I waited for the panic to pass, but it didn’t. Finally I decided to do something I almost never did: phone my husband at his hotel. Every night when he was away on business he would phone me. I had never felt the need to call myself. This time I did.
It was after the hotel call, the one where a desk clerk found “no one registered under that name,” that I called the office hoping for a hotel mix-up.
A few months later, my husband filed for divorce.
A few years later, still working through the pain, I began leading divorce-recovery workshop groups at my local church. I had endured personal loss, defeat and rejection. I had dealt with the pain my family had to bear on my behalf. My deepest wounds, though, had been self-inflicted, brought on by my anger at being an unwilling participant in a divorce. While doing housework one day, I was thinking about how much pain I could have avoided — and others could, too — when I suddenly turned off the vacuum and sat down with a notepad and pen. I began writing. Page after page. Spilling out words of healing, a few lines at a time.
When I ran out of thoughts, I looked at the pages and shrugged, wondering what it was all about. Then I stuck them in a desk drawer.
Yet I kept feeling the urge to get those notes out and read them again. After a while, I did, and was surprised to find that they read like greeting-card verses. Where was I going with this? I had no funds to hire an artist or pay a printer.I put the notes back in the drawer.
The nudgings continued. Then it occurred to me that I did know one artist. Without giving myself a chance to back out, I called my former husband and, in a rush of words, preluded with “This is strictly business,” I told him my idea.
He asked me to read some of the verses, then after hearing a few said he’d love to design original watercolor art for them. He would provide funds for printing costs, as well. A week later, my former husband delivered to my door a bouquet of eight beautiful watercolors, all perfectly matching the emotion of my verses.
I named the cards “Ex’s & Oh’s.”
A front-page article about my venture and my unique partnership with my ex-husband appeared in the business section of the Colorado Springs newspaper. The story was picked up by the Associated Press, generating phone calls from across the country. I did radio, television and newspaper interviews, and even got a call inviting me to be a guest on the Today show.
Thanks to all this publicity, “Ex’s & Oh’s” have been sent to spouses, children, parents, in-laws and friends going through divorce. And the calls that have meant the most to me by far haven’t been from media. They’ve been from individuals who have told me how they’ve used the greeting cards to work through the “I’ll-get-you-back” kind of pain that can be the most debilitating in a divorce.
One woman who ordered the greeting cards wrote me saying, “Thank you for being a light in the darkness.”
That’s what astonishes me the most about all this. God had plans for me. He somehow squeezed light from the darkest moments of my life.
I had a drawer that wouldn’t close. So I looked inside it. And I found the plans for a new life.
Would anyone else have had the courage to pursue something like this in the face of such betrayal? I might have held onto that anger for a few more decades. But she has a point. There are some things that we just can’t control, and letting the wounds fester will never help us to move on. Find something to grab a hold of and live your life. Learn to let go of the baggage, and life will have new and beautiful purpose. You just have to look for it!
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