There was an ongoing custody battle throughout the divorce process. It was going on for over two years. By now I had been forced to move to a poorer neighborhood called “Norwayne”. I could afford the rent that way as I was making minimum wage as a teacher in a Christian school during the school year and a janitor over the summers. My ex-husband moved back into the nice house we had when we were married as his parents had purchased it for the most part.
My son was 10 years old by now. His father was able to take him on vacations and buy him many more things than I could afford. They would go on vacations to Florida and eat in nice restaurants. A woman’s income goes down drastically after divorce and I depended upon the Lord for everything.
I remember that when my teaching job was coming to an end for the summer I sat crying and praying at the kitchen table. I remembered the verse in the Bible about Hagar after she was cast out of Abraham’s house. At the point of starvation and dehydration, as Hagar cries to God, Genesis 21:17 says, “God heard…” and in Genesis 21:19 “then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water…”God provided. And earlier in Genesis, Hagar was treated harshly by Sarai and she ran away from her and the Lord spoke to her comfortingly, giving her hope and Hagar said “You are a God Who Sees…” God sees and hears with Compassion and Provides. He provided a cleaning job over the summer and a cleaning job the next summer too. Later that experience allowed me to get a good paying janitor job in the school system, where I worked for 10 years.
I remember the Christmas Eve I had no money to buy my son Christmas presents. There was a kind man from our neighborhood standing outside of the dollar store. He handed me and several other people a twenty-dollar bill and I was able to go into the store and buy some Christmas presents for my son to open on Christmas morning. I was living next door to a couple in my church. Our doors were always open to each other. On Saturday mornings, Gilbert would open the front door, walk right into the kitchen and open up the cupboard and looking in the fridge, saying, “Whatcha got to eat lady?!”. I always laughed and know now that he was checking up on us to make sure we had food to eat. The church provided so much for me when I had to start over again, love, support, old furniture, bedding, anything I needed as I had nothing.
A few weeks before the final court date in July I was reading through and studying the book of Job. From this study, I wrote the song called “Water Torrents”. Here is the link to the sound file (to listen to)
and here are the words:
Water Torrents by Bobbee Pennington, © 1986
Water torrents wash away the dusty earth
Water wears away the stone;
Yet though the mountains be removed and the hills shake,
God will never forsake you or leave you alone.
“Don’t be scared, fall into God’s arms,
Trust Him- He won’t mistreat you.”*
Lean on the everlasting arms.
We have this treasure in earthen vessels
That the surpassing greatness of power
May be of God and not ourselves.
So I will boast in my weaknesses, for when I am weak then I am strong
For the power of God is perfected in me
And He turns every tear into a song, a song.
Through many tribulations, the light of our true hope
Must overpower the darkness of our ignorant wanderings
After false hope.
God consumes as a moth that which is precious to us,
So that we trust in nothing less,
Trust in nothing less than Jesus, Jesus.
The falling mountain crumbles away and the rock moves from its place;
So God destroys our earthly hope to replace it with the true hope
Of His grace.
I went to court for the final divorce decree and the judge gave his final decision:
He said “Both parents are both good people. You are both teachers.
But you Bobbee live in a poor neighborhood.
I have seen many juvenile delinquents come out of that neighborhood.
He turned to my son’s father and said:
You live in a good neighborhood with a good school.
Therefore I decree that your son will live with his father and the mother will have visitation one night a week and every other weekend.” I reeled….
That evening I was back at home cleaning out my son’s empty room. As I was sweeping, I thought of the scene in the Disney movie Dumbo where they take the baby elephant Dumbo away from his mama. I broke down in tears as I finished cleaning and sweeping.
The next morning I was reading in 1 Peter and was still crying and praying. In 20 minutes, all of the words and music came together for the song, “Patiently Endure”.
Here is the link to the sound file (to listen to)
and here are the words:
Patiently endure suffering
And bear up under sorrow,
For this momentary light affliction will be
An eternal weight of glory tomorrow.
At the revelation of Jesus Christ
When He comes in a flame of fire
You will exult as you behold His eyes
And you’ll know you chose one above Whom no value is higher..
And we will show forth
The praises of God’s excellence,
And one by one, appear before Him as
They tear down our earthly tents.
Keep entrusting yourself
To the One Who judges righteously
And you will rejoice when He comes
At the revelation of His glory
Do not revile when reviled
But give a blessing instead.
Glorify God and keep on rejoicing
And follow in His steps.
Cast all your anxiety on Him
For He cares for you.
And accomplish these sufferings
And along with your brethren, He will establish you.
Suffer according to God’s will and entrust your soul
To a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
Coming to Him as a living stone, rejected by men
But choice and precious in His sight.
In the months following I spent many sleepless nights asking, “Why?” “Was I a bad mother?” “How could this happen?” I also felt much shame and stigma as being a mother who did not get physical custody. Only a few years prior to this the Michigan law changed to “no-fault” divorce. So alimony was not available and now my son was taken from me.
Later that summer, my ex-husband married his new wife. Justin moved in with them. She was kind to me and compassionate. That winter, when Justin was suffering from Strep Throat, I was desperately worried about him. I always was there in the past when he was sick to care for him. She let me into the house and let me spend time with my son watching over him until evening.
Throughout this divorce process (and all through my son’s childhood) I strived to help my son honor his father and respect him and I never criticized his father in front of my son. Proverbs 17:4 says that the glory of children is their father and I knew that my son’s sense of worth came from how the mother portrays the father to the children. A godly woman will teach her children to honor and respect their father by example as well as words.
At the start of this terrible divorce and custody battle, my little son told me, “God never takes away anything unless he replaces it with something much better.” He said that when he was only 7 years old. My dear son. He is now a father and a grandfather. He is such a wonderful man, kind and compassionate. He lives in city nearby in Austin, Texas and I love him dearly.
The following summer after physical custody was granted to my ex-husband he then sued me for child support… I put the court order on the table and folded my hands and prayed. My ex-husband and his new wife were a dual-income family. I was working a minimum wage job ($3.90 per hour) that summer as a maid at Hudson’s department store.
The Lord provided a better paying job that fall and then an even better paying one as a janitor in the public schools. I worked as a janitor in the public schools for over 10 years. I was able to pay off my student loans as well as the child support that my ex-husband used as college savings for our son.
I missed being a teacher very much, especially in the fall when the teachers in the schools I cleaned were preparing their classrooms and bulletin boards for the new semester. When I saw little ones that looked like Justin I longed for my son and missed him so much.
But at that lonely job I was able to think, dream, pray and also sing after everyone left the building. I especially loved cleaning the toilets as when you sing in bathrooms there are really good echoing acoustics. I put a little sign on my work locker that said, “Bloom where you are planted”. God provided and gave me joy no matter the circumstances.