I met Kathleen Pooler on line two or three years ago, and found we had much in common. She loves the Lord, as I do, and she's a mighty fine writer. I found her memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse, to be an encouraging read, and am always interested in what her guest bloggers have to say at Memoir Writers Journey. Here, Kathy shares a bit of her story regarding her struggles over divorce and how her church responded.
Finding Grace Within the Church by Kathleen Pooler
When I married for the first time at the age of twenty-four, I thought I knew what I was doing. My Catholic faith as well as my parent’s own loving marriage had infused me with the expectation that my vows were sacred and would endure life’s challenges. Despite the red flags—my prospective husband Ed’s excessive drinking, and his refusal to attend premarital counseling with the parish priest--I plunged full bore into a life of chaos and uncertainty. It turned out to be far from my dream of finding my Prince Charming.
My growing awareness that Ed was an alcoholic and my life was out of control led me to the doorstep of the rectory where I sought the guidance of my parish priest, Father Fulton.
Father Fulton was a young priest who sported a cowboy hat and cowboy boots at church functions. He loved to have a good time but he let me down at a time when I needed support and guidance. It was difficult to see beyond my own needs but as I think about it now, he probably had no idea how to help me. The guilt and shame of a possible divorce kept me locked in my own conspiracy of silence. A good Catholic girl in the 1970s did not entertain divorce.
Excerpt from Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse
One day I bundled six-month-old Leigh Ann up and dragged her through the snow on a sled, ending up three blocks away on the doorstep of the rectory of the Catholic Church, in tears. Ed had stayed out late again. Another bowling night when I couldn’t sleep. I felt exhausted and sad. I had thought for sure he would change his ways.
I’m glad I didn’t give up on my church though.
I always had a faith in God and yet, it wasn’t until I was a single parent with two school-aged children after my first divorce that I found God in a personal way. However, I must have lost sight of that connection, for a few years after, when I met my second husband, I seemed to be driven by a need to be an intact family again rather than guided by faith. It turned out to be at a steep cost.
But this soul-shattering mistake led me to a deeper faith and out of a dangerous situation.
I began focusing on God as I prayed for discernment and sought guidance through scripture readings. This fed my hope that better days were ahead. I ended up mustering the courage to escape in broad daylight with my two school-age children from a man who showed the capability of being physically abusive.
My church community has been very supportive.
Back in the 80s when I was a single parent, I joined a group called Separated and Divorced Catholics. Though there was division within the church about accepting divorce, many clergy were open to the changing times and provided me and my children a safe place to nurture our faith and each other. I also went through the process of having my first marriage annulled by the Catholic Church. This was a healing process that enabled me to move forward in my life.
With counseling, faith, supportive friends and family, I have been able to see my role in allowing abusive relationships and to forgive myself for subjecting myself and my children to unacceptable behavior. I am very grateful that I was able to extract myself from two abusive marriages and learn from my mistakes. In finding my voice, I found a life of joy, peace and gratitude. I finally feel deserving of all the gifts God wanted for me all along.
I’m empowered knowing I am in charge of my choices.
While some members of the clergy can be judgmental, I trust my God wants what’s best for me. I know this because every time I have cried out in pain, He has answered and filled me with the peace of His presence. In 1996, as I paced the floor in the emergency room, awaiting the results of a CT scan to identify the cause of shortness of breath and a persistent cough, I had cried out “Lord, give me strength for this battle of my life and for my life”. A sense of total peace washed over me that night and carried me through the next two years of treatment for Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“Be still, and know that I am God.”
God wasn’t on the beach, watching a mountain sunrise, or dreaming by a babbling brook when he said those words he spoke. He was on the battlefield with me, giving me strength.
Kathy lives with her husband Wayne in eastern New York. She blogs weekly at her Memoir Writer’s Journey blog: http://krpooler.com. You can also find her at the following:
Twitter @kathypooler https://twitter.com/KathyPooler
LinkedIn: Kathleen Pooler: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/kathleen-pooler/16/a95/20a
Google+:Kathleen Pooler: https://plus.google.com/109860737182349547026/posts
Personal page, Kathy Pooler : https://www.facebook.com/kathleen.pooler
Author page, Kathleen Pooler/Memoir Writer’s Journey: https://www.facebook.com/memoirwritersjourney
Linda says: Do you have a divorce experience to share? Have you been shamed by a church because of your divorce? There are hurting people who need to hear your story, who need to know they are not alone, and who need to be encouraged. If you are interested in sharing your story, email Linda for guidelines: Linda@LindaMKurth.com