One Sunday, Kristyn’s husband didn’t meet her at church as planned. Pushing aside her uneasiness, Kristyn told herself that he was probably just tired after his long work shift aboard one of the Navy ships docked near their home in Norfolk, Virginia.
Yet later, while doing laundry, she found a Starbucks receipt for two beverages, timestamped for when he should’ve been at church with her. Kristyn stared at the receipt. There had been other signs, but her mind hadn’t wanted to accept them. She closed her eyes. This was the moment. Jesus, you have to wipe away all the denial and lies for me. Let me see what is true.
Over the next several hours, she searched their computer and finally managed to access their bank account, finding a trail of receipts and emails. Even the owner of a pawn shop called to discuss a recent purchase of $2,000-worth of stereo equipment that Kristyn knew nothing about.
“Jesus, you have to wipe away all the denial and lies for me. Let me see what is true.”
When Kristyn confronted her husband about the Starbucks receipt and big purchase, her spouse denied none of it. Instead, he began to nonchalantly clean his gun. A prickle of fear went up Kristyn’s spine. This seemed much more ominous than the verbal abuse and gaslighting that she had become accustomed to from him.
Accepting The Truth
During her husband’s next long shift, Kristyn packed up and left with their 13-month-old daughter, flying home to Minnesota to stay with her parents. She left a letter behind, leaving room for them to somehow salvage their marriage, maybe with counseling. But he was unwilling.
“Once you accept things as they are,” Kristyn said, “you have to act on them. Living with the painful truths is better than the soft lies.” She began to follow the trail, emails to women, pornography and alcohol purchases, more electronics equipment. He had opened up multiple accounts in her name. Soon she had court dates for unpaid debts.
“My marriage was over when I was 31,” Kristyn said. “I felt so broken and ugly.” At a loss, she called her former pastor back in Virginia, and he helped her walk through the hard decisions.
In the midst of her divorce, Kristyn felt God urging her to go to the Divorce Care program at church. “When I walked in, I knew I was in the right place,” she said. “Everyone in that room understood how deep the pain and anger went. We shared an emotional language that I hadn’t known existed. So often I’d walk into a room with lots of married people around, and feel like a failure, so alone. But not here.”
“Living with the painful truths is better than the soft lies.”
Still Kristyn found it hard to talk in public about what had happened. “I was ashamed. My parents have been married for over 40 years. And then there was me. It’s such a lifestyle change and there’s so much mourning and grief to deal with. Being in Divorce Care helped me through the process, and I learned so much from those who had already gone through it.”
Beauty In The Brokenness
One evening after leaving Divorce Care, Kristyn bought a CD, using most of the $19 she had in her bank account, and drove to a nearby lake’s edge, the moon’s bright reflection over the water lighting the sky and surrounding pines. She listened to David Crowder sing Stars. “And how could such a thing, shine its light on me. And make everything beautiful again.”
Kristyn looked up at the sky through the open sunroof. Everything? How could God make her life beautiful again after this? She began to cry. “God, I don’t know what you can do with this, but I just don’t want to be broken anymore.” She felt gutted, tears turning to sobs. Slowly the sky deepened with stars and brightened with a radiant light. She knew God was reminding her of his healing power. In that moment, she made a decision. She would trust him to turn even all this ugliness into something beautiful again.
“‘Why’ gets you nowhere. It keeps you from forgiving yourself and the other person, and from moving on.”
Through Divorce Care, Kristyn learned to accept and own her part in the disintegration of her marriage. “I focused on what I could change in myself, owning what I did wrong and how I handled some things. And something super important—I stopped asking the question, ‘why’ because there is no answer my ex-husband could give that would make it better. ‘Why’ gets you nowhere. It keeps you from forgiving yourself and the other person, and from moving on.”
In 2010, Kristyn moved with her daughter to Charleston, South Carolina where Kristyn had lived after college. She got a job at the SC Aquarium. “It was the stable job I needed to restart my life here,” she said. She also returned to Seacoast which had been her church home during college.
As hard as it was to talk about, Kristyn felt that God wanted her to use the brokenness from her marriage to help others, so she went to speak with Julie Hiott who was in charge of Seacoast’s Divorce Care program. “You are the leader we’ve been waiting and praying for,” Julie told her.
Kristyn knew how important it was to let people—when they were ready—share their personal testimonies. “It helps you connect with the group and see that these people understand your hurt because they’ve experienced it themselves. It takes away the shame of feeling like it’s just you.”
Drawing pieces of herself back together, Kristyn worked hard to restore her credit and eventually started her own travel agency. In 2015, she remarried.
Mending The Pieces
But within two years, it ended. “I had two Fs on my report card,” Kristyn said “Another failed marriage. I wanted to crawl into a corner in the fetal position. I knew I needed support to get through this, but no way did I want to go back to Divorce Care. What would that say about me?”
“I’m letting God use what has been broken in me to pull others to him, to make everything beautiful again.”
But God did not let shame or pride keep her from where she needed to be, from the people she needed to be with. Thankfully, her former co-leader didn’t give up, texting and emailing her to reconsider not only rejoining Divorce Care, but leading it again. Finally, she agreed.
“My life makes me think of the Japanese art of Kintsugi,” Kristyn said of the art where they take a broken vase and put the pieces back together using liquid gold, silver, or lacquered gold dust to enhance the breaks. “They highlight scars rather than hide them. For me, God is the gold binding those cracks. I’m letting God use what has been broken in me to pull others to him, to make everything beautiful again, just in a different way.”