Life doesn’t always go as planned, and that’s okay with me.
When I was a young woman, I didn’t have dreams of getting married and having kids. I had an unusual childhood, spent in a children’s home until the age of twelve when I and my three siblings were adopted by the man who married my biological mother.
A Heritage from My Father
My new father had a background in old school ways, as he was significantly older than my mother. Thanks to his Army life, Italian heritage, and rearing on the streets of New York, he expected teenagers to work hard and have respect for elders.
About a year after marrying my mother, he became a Christian. Our lives changed drastically, and we moved from bustling Florida city life to the hills of Tennessee. I remember vividly hearing the floors creak and the smell of coffee at 4 a.m. as he took out his Bible and began to dive into Scripture.
My father’s business dealings allowed me to live for a time in Costa Rica with an amazing Christian family. I learned how to make homemade ice cream for the family business, picked up a bit of Spanish, and discovered how to shop the outdoor market on Saturdays. This was one of the happiest years of my childhood. Living with a family that loved and honored each other impacted me for life.
My Homeschooling Years
Back home in the US, I started to homeschool. I’ll be honest, I hated it. My parents fought often, and my mother and I didn’t get along – and that’s putting it kindly. I wanted nothing more than to go to school.
It was difficult to homeschool in Tennessee at the time, so my father took it upon himself to change what he could. He formed Tennessee Association of Church Related Schools with Rob Shearer of Greenleaf Press, and our family started a homeschool book business.
To avoid home life, my dad would allow me to go to work each day with him. In those early years of homeschool convention days, I began a shipping company. From there, Dad asked me to program a system for his business and gave me two weeks. I loved a challenge, and I got it done.
My love for computers and programming only grew as I learned multiple systems before the age of eighteen. I continued to work for my dad and learn everything from business management to accounting, logistics, and more. These years of hard work shaped me into an energetic go-getter.
To this day, I credit my father with teaching me to be a planner. He took a legal pad of paper and attached a list to my desk with Velcro. He would write out my tasks, and I would cross out what I finished. When he approved, he checked it off for me. To this day, a mini steno pad is never far from me.
Growing Up the Hard Way
With an increasing amount of stress at home, I left the day I turned eighteen. Angry and hurting, I didn’t want anything to do with a God who didn’t protect me from the many abuses I had encountered as a child and teenager. If God was in control, why did it happen? How could he allow it? The questions swirled in my head as I launched out into the big wide world in my naïve state.
I was often conflicted. I believed in God, because nature proved him. I knew he sent Jesus, and only through love could one die for another. But I could not reconcile how the One who could save from hell would not intervene and save me from the hell I was living on earth. One evening, I remember looking toward heaven and saying to God, “If you are really there and you really love me, if you help me understand, I’ll follow you.” I can see in hindsight that, over the next five years, the Lord walked me step by step into an understanding of him and his love.
As I said, I didn’t have hopes and dreams of marriage and family. I wanted to be a corporate woman. I would date and have boyfriends and maybe even live with a guy, but I was never going to get hitched and have those pesky kids! But remember, I was naïve and lost. I met my soon-to-be husband at work, and within a few dates, I was pregnant. Being raised in a good ol’ Baptist church, I knew that I had to marry because I made the bed and had to lie in it.
It wasn’t a happy marriage. It was often quite difficult. But when my first baby, Jenny, arrived Jenny, my life changed. I didn’t know anything about being a mother, but I did know I wanted to be a good one. I wanted to give my kids a different childhood than I had, and I also suddenly wanted a lot of kids. I didn’t know love like this existed!
I didn’t go back to work after Jenny was born, but decided to stay at home and work on the side. I had no clue what a stay-at-home mom did, so I watched Leave it to Beaver to emulate.
Yes, I did the high heels and dresses while vacuuming.
I knew I needed to attend church, not because I knew God, but because that’s what good southern people did. So we searched for a church not based on any theology but on who taught best about staying married and raising kids. We gravitated to legalism.
In these churches, I sought out women who I thought had it all together. Their kids dressed well, behaved well, and seemed happy. I would shadow these women and ask a gazillion questions. I began to learn to cook, and I loved it. I enjoyed learning the art of homemaking and, with my A-type personality, set out to do the best I could. I had dinner on the table at 5:30, a fresh-made dessert each evening, laundry all done, and the house ready for company at any moment.
I looked as if I had it all together, and along came baby number two, Abby, and then three, AnneMarie. By this time, marriage was growing even more difficult. We were both selfish people and had not learned how to disagree well. I was searching for answers. I loved my kids, but I didn’t have very much patience. I was trying to love my husband, but I didn’t respect him.
Freedom in Christ
When AnneMarie was three months old, I had another all-out fight with my husband and was incredibly low, completely exasperated, and at a loss to know what to do. So, I said a prayer for help. In that moment, although I had known the gospel story and the prayer of salvation all along, it was like a blindfold was lifted and I saw myself as a sinner in need of a Savior. I pleaded for salvation, and a million pounds were lifted from me. My Lord called, and I answered. I was his and finally free.
Before salvation, I often took the messages of the churches we attended and tried to check off the list of things they recommended. I read my Bible and prayed, but it was so hollow. After I met Christ, Scripture came alive. I would spend hours upon hours talking to God, reading his Word, and journaling. I discovered a God who not only loved me but would help me become like him.
I discovered the power of the Holy Spirit as he convicted my heart and I repented, only to feel even freer! I learned to have patience with my children, love them, do for them, and develop amazing relationships. I learned to hold my tongue with my husband and choose the battles wisely.
My Growing Faith and Family
Along came baby number four, John, and then my last, Joseph. By now Jenny was ready for school. Having hated homeschooling, I wasn’t going do that to my kids. However, I realized it wasn’t the method that was the problem. It was the relationship. I began homeschooling her and loved it. Like everything else in life, it took practice and patience, but we soon found a rhythm and routine that worked for us. I value the relationships I have been able to build with my kids because of the time homeschooling has afforded us to be together.
Time went on and the kids grew, but my marriage did not improve. It became apparent I was married to an unreasonable man and had to learn how to navigate and avoid conflicts while protecting the kids as much as possible. I found that I really could do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
With a husband who refused to hold a job, I began taking on more and more work, first starting a graphic and programming design company, and then an engineering company. Juggling the responsibilities of work, home- schooling, parenting, and laundry, I learned a lot about time management!
During this time, as I continued to study the Scriptures, I had lots of questions. The legalism wasn’t adding up to the grace of the gospel. I switched churches several times, each time gravitating toward congregations that were less and less legalistic. I developed a passion for wanting to help other women know that the truth and freedom of Christ is polar opposite to the oppression often found in fundamental churches, churches that homeschoolers tend to be attracted to.
With a passion to share a message of grace and encourage homeschooling families to embrace the unique life God calls them to, I started Family Magazine. Shortly after, I wrote Well Planned Day planners, and my publishing company took off in ways that eyes have not seen, nor ear hath heard.
My story is far from over
For years, I asked God for a better marriage or a way out. For many, many years, the answer was no. Although I had biblical grounds in multiple areas, coupled with children who asked me to divorce, the Lord used those years as sandpaper to form and mold me into a more patience and wiser woman. In 2015, asking God again for a way out, I heard a very clear yes. I filed for divorce.
Although, to most, a divorce is a time of great sadness, I find comfort in my quiet time as the Lord has faithfully shown me that, at times, divorce is used as a rescue plan. Over the years, I’ve heard advice from friends, relatives, and the church, but I only find true rest in following God’s leadership, only he knows the bigger picture and the perfect timing.
My hope and desire is to share with other women the many lessons I’ve learned in navigating a difficult marriage, parenting five distinct kiddos, running a home, and managing a business. I want women to know that, no matter what happens in life, whether pleasant or difficult, there is ample power and grace through Christ, not only to make it through, but to use the experience to gain wisdom as we learn to be like our Savior – taking what we learn, becoming more like him, and impacting our children and culture towards the redeeming power of Christ.