HAPPILY EVER AFTER: Walking with Peace and Courage Through a Year of Divorce
Kristin Armstrong's divorce from professional cyclist Lance Armstrong led her to write HAPPILY EVER AFTER: Walking with Peace and Courage Through a Year of Divorce, a personal 365-day devotional geared toward women (especially with children) whose marriages are dissolving.
"I never imagined that divorce would be part of my life history or my family's legacy," writes Armstrong, mother of three, whose marriage to Lance lasted five years. "I have walked this path, from the trenches of despair, through pitfalls of anger, bottlenecks of blame, along the cliffs of loneliness and fear."
As she navigated through her divorce, Armstrong kept a journal of the scriptures that were most encouraging to her. The result is this book, she writes in the introduction. The scriptures are a mixed bag, with such gems as the Isaiah 40:31 passage "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength…" to more obscure ones like Amos 6:1: "Woe to you who are complacent in Zion."
The book begins on Day 1 as Armstrong acknowledges the tough road ahead. "This year will be epic for you…Every day, many times a day, you will make decisions that determine the rest of your story…Eventually you will be surprised to find yourself healed, whole, and happily living your brand-new life." As the devotional continues, she addresses difficult issues such as the need for forgiveness, letting go of retaliation and gossip, and letting go of the worry over preserving your reputation. "To practice silence and discretion in these situations is wise," she advises.
There is a welcome tone of quiet and resolve that permeates the pages. "The path of sour bitterness, crusty resentment, and cold regret breeds generations of despair. The path of righteousness grants generations of peace, quietness and confidence," she writes in an early devotion. Many readers longing for comfort and kindness will find them in Armstrong's words, as she reminds them in the persona of a close girlfriend: "Now is not the time to make sense of this mess…. Sweetheart, now is the time to trust in the Lord with all your heart."
There is an occasional question mark. Armstrong says in one essay that she believes it is important to experience your pain fully rather than numbing it with "remedies" --- therapy, coping pills, exercise, massage. Does she believe these are wrong things to do? Or that they are not enough? A little more context here would be helpful, as it would in the devotional telling of the story of a couple who refused to accept their cancer diagnosis: "She and her husband, Bob, are both cancer free today." (What about those who are not healed?) Occasionally, there is some repetition, such as two devotionals centered on the word "betrothed" (Day 251 and Day 92).
But overwhelmingly, Armstrong's soothing essays prompt women toward growth, resilience and an opportunity for reinvention while acknowledging their pain and need for God. Repeatedly, she affirms the reader and assures her of God's love: "(God) loves you, cherishes you, is faithful to you, is honest with you, and will never leave you." She includes glimpses into her own divorce, such as the pain of walking through grocery store checkouts and seeing the tabloid headlines, but laudably these are asides rather than the focus. One of the most moving devotions tells of her baptism as an infant, and then her "baptism" as an adult in a rainstorm.
What repeatedly comes through is her unquestioning faith that God will bring something good out of divorce. The devotions are peppered with the phrase, "I am blessed…." Her gratitude and seeming lack of visible bitterness keep the devotions centered squarely on God and healing. "It's natural to lament the death of a marriage, but in our grief let us not lose sight of or appreciation for the fact that we are still betrothed, still desired, still vital to the one Being who will never fail us."
Armstrong writes, "I found my unshakeable compass in the Lord… May you find your center, a strength and courage you did not know you could summon…. The terrain ahead is rough, but there are gifts hidden along your path of faith."
This moving and encouraging collection of readings will help and encourage women as they journey through their first year of divorce.
--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby. Contact Cindy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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