Goals vs. Marriage

The following was submitted by a reader who has given me permission to share this. Bethany writes:

Dear Leslie,

I’m not sure where to even begin with this, to be honest: Do I start with the marriage aspect, the mindset shift aspect, the miracles, or the fear itself of even writing this? Perhaps the best would be to first introduce myself.

My name is Bethany. I just turned 45 years old, and I am the mother of 4 children, ages 20, 19, 14, and 4. I am a member of the Church, went on a mission, married a returned missionary in the temple, have remained faithful in my beliefs, and then found myself a divorced, single, and destitute (financially, spiritually, physically, and emotionally) mother to 3 young children at 37 years old after my husband had decided to leave the church and move in with the woman living across the street from us.

One would think that that would be where things started going “wrong” for me, but it was actually the opposite (although I could not see that in the cloud of darkness I was in back then). Three years later I ended up getting remarried to a fairly new convert to the Church. Many years prior to this (and after having suffered more miscarriages than I can count), I was told that I would no longer be able to have more children, but thankfully God had other plans for me.

Within a few weeks, my new husband and I were expecting. My age classified me as high risk, and my physical and mental health rapidly began to deteriorate. Our family of 5, soon to be 6, ultimately ended up moving in with my sister into her 1200 sq. ft. home in October of 2015. I drastically cut back the number of hours I was working (my husband is disabled) and went back to school full-time. Against all odds, I graduated Magna Cum Laude in December of 2019 with my Bachelor of Science in Accounting.

During those years our family experienced countless traumas and hardships. (Miracles and blessings, too, but the pain has often been debilitating.) My husband has Asperger’s Syndrome, which has created enormous amounts of stress living in small, cramped living conditions, along with all the noise and chaos that goes along with a home full of children. There have been mental health challenges that have resulted in hospitalizations of more than one family member at different times. Physical health challenges. Surgeries. Deaths. Setbacks. The glue during this time has been my understanding of the Gospel, and our little miracle daughter that blessed our family in March of 2016, 10 days before I turned 41 years old.

Last summer (2019), my husband and I were living separately while I was juggling 24 credit hours in school, working from home, and being the primary caregiver for all of the kids, in order for me to get my degree finished. He was staying with his mom in Iowa while I continued living with my sister in Chandler. In July I went to Iowa alone to accompany him to his high school class reunion. The obstacles that came close to preventing me from getting there are hard for me to comprehend looking back, but somehow, I managed to make it there.

The moment I stepped off that plane with no children in tow, and when my mother-in-law wrapped her arms around me, I completely fell apart. The weekend trip to assist my husband cope with some ghosts from his past turned into 4 weeks of me trying to learn to breathe again, while still pushing through my last year of college. Graciously, my sister and adult children cared for my littles while I tried to regain even a tiny bit of strength.

I finally returned home alone, and with a small shred of hope. During my time there I committed to changing one area of my life: I promised my Heavenly Father I would speak to Him daily in prayer no matter what, read from my Book of Mormon, and express gratitude, no matter how hard it was, or how little I felt I had. I ordered a $5.00 daily gratitude journal from Amazon, and arrived home emotionally beaten and battered, but so thankful to have the love of my children surrounding me again.

Shortly after I got home and through Divine intervention, I met a woman who altered the course of my life. She introduced me to a program designed to empower women who have experienced trauma and hardships. …Not long after that, she suggested I look up The Rare Faith Podcasts by Leslie Householder. I laugh about this now because I didn’t even know where to look for it without her help.

I am a little hesitant to simply say “you’ve changed my life!”, because I’ve listened to so many of your podcasts, so many times, and have heard you speak of how many times you’ve heard that, that it just seems redundant. I have a smile as I am typing this, because after listening long enough, I have begun to understand your heartache and trials didn’t magically go away after learning the principles, even though your words continued to change your readers’ lives. (I can’t tell you how hard I have laughed during your “Disappointments, Marriage, and Miracles” episodes when you referred to readers telling you how you have changed their lives and then hearing your sarcastic “awesome!”) So, I’m not going to say you have changed my life, but I want to thank you for helping ME to change my OWN life.

There are two of your podcasts that have completely changed the way I think. The first one is titled “How and Why to Fear Not.” I don’t know how many times I have listened to this one. In January, after another bout of my marriage simply falling apart, leading to a huge argument in which my husband left me to go back to Iowa, yet again, I was struggling to believe in anything. I had come so far, I had finally graduated, but things were still so far from being OK.

I still did not have a job offer in the accounting field, my marriage was looking pretty bleak, and financially we were losing everything, which wasn’t much, considering we are still living with family. One Saturday night I was especially fearful and confused, and I went to sleep with the podcast I mentioned here playing in the background. Going to church the next morning was an enormous feat for me, but I went, and I ended up having the most amazing experience.

After arriving home and while pondering the things I had felt during Sunday School, I heard the panic alarm of my car going off, but thought it was my toddler having gotten the keys: I was mistaken, and it was actually my car being repossessed. My ONLY method of transportation, and my ONLY visible way I had to continue going to interviews had just been taken from me.

For a moment I was frozen, and then the words came to my mind “keep calm and watch what happens.” So, I took a bath. And after the bath I went for a walk, repeating over and over and over “I choose to believe. I choose to believe. I choose to believe.” I had no idea what I was even believing in at that point, because from what I could see, everything was gone. With my car gone, I did not just lose a vehicle, but my hope, my security, and the ONE thing I had that was mine. And. It. Was. Gone.

I honestly don’t know how I managed it, but I would not allow myself to drown in the darkness of fear. It’s not that I was positive and hopeful; I just consciously, moment by moment, made the decision to simply not fear. Two weeks later, with no money exchanged, no contract signed, and nothing but a good faith promise, I was handed the keys to a 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe. The miracles that brought this about are still hard for me to comprehend.

With my new car came a very clear understanding of just how swift and REAL rare faith truly is. I was now in a part-time accounting internship, and life was looking up; except for one thing…..my husband (still in Iowa) was spiraling downhill and I truly did not know how my Heavenly Father could possibly ask me to continue in such a toxic relationship, even though I have felt and understand WHY I was always supposed to be with him, and what our lives will be like one day, from an eternal perspective. (We were able to be sealed together with our daughter when she was 6 weeks old.)

He was still in Iowa and was a complete mess. I was here in Arizona progressing at breakneck speed, and I felt I was in a serious dilemma: How could I possible remain with him after learning the laws in Hidden Treasures, when he clearly would never choose to do the same? I struggled with this for weeks, and even considered reaching out to you at that point, desperate for some clarity. I spent countless hours in prayer, searching my scriptures, and simply could not understand how a loving Father in Heaven would lead me to these principles only to have to leave them behind for the sake of a marriage that had stopped bringing me joy.

But, as He always does, my Heavenly Father sent me the exact answer I was searching for. Stuck in traffic, I decided to listen to a different episode from your podcasts, and I begin listening to “Marriage, Miracles, and Disappointments”. Part I kept me in stitches from laughing so much, but then Part II…….it’s as if God was sitting next to me, answering me word for word, my EXACT questions, but he did it through you. I listened to this over and over and over for the next few days, in almost disbelief: “If I have to choose a vision or marriage, I choose marriage.” The first part of this particular podcast was like listening to the pleas from my own heart.

I’m not going to say receiving this clear and direct answer has been easy, and in fact, it’s the opposite. However, I have reached a level of peace and understanding that was missing before. I could write for days about so much more than just this, but I won’t do that here. I can tell you that this experience happened only two short months ago, and my sweet (OK, sometimes not-so-sweet) husband is back home with us and our relationship has reached a level that I truly did not believe would be possible in this life, although I always knew it would happen in the next.

The greatest affirmation for me of the shift that our marriage and family has experienced was two weeks ago when we went on a long drive with just our 4-year-old daughter. (To better explain, my husband’s autism makes spending long periods of time in a car together incredibly difficult.) Halfway through the day, our daughter said from her car seat in the back “Mommy, I love my dad. Can I keep him this time?”

While it’s taken some serious prompting to get me to finally write this letter, a few weeks ago something you said in one of your episodes reiterated to me that I needed to express my gratitude to you, and it wasn’t just about me. You spoke of how your husband and you have always wanted to serve a mission together when you are older, but recently you and he had begun to think that maybe THIS is your mission: teaching these principles. I can only speak for myself, but you have led me to a deeper understanding of the beliefs I have already known. What I have learned has led me to shift my mindset, has opened doors for me, but more important than anything else, my marriage has been saved. I do not believe Deron and I would have ever divorced, but we were looking at long-term separation – advice even given to us recently by a marriage coach who specializes in Asperger’s/Non-Asperger’s marriages, such as ours. So, thank you, and please, never stop fulfilling this mission of yours.

I’m not exactly sure why, but I felt I should share something with you that I wrote the day after my car was repossessed, and when I had no idea how I was possibly going to be able to go on. I am including it below. I love to write, but I think that this piece is probably the most significant thing I have written for myself to date. I do feel that one day I will end up writing a book to share my full story, but for now, I just live each day to the best of my own ability.

My situation still hasn’t changed. I am still living in a garage with makeshift walls. I still wake up to the garage door opener hanging over my bed. I still do not have job security, financial security, nor even a single prospect for a full-time position. I am still in debt. None of that really matters to me any longer, because what I DO have is the realization that I don’t have to wait for the ideal living situation, financial security, or anything else that feels “safe” to find peace and clarity. And if I can find peace and clarity where I am at now, I can only imagine what things will be like when eventually my Father accepts my efforts, declares “It is done”, and floods me with everything I have been dreaming of.

With Sincerest Gratitude,

Bethany Theulen

Click here to read Bethany’s Part 2 – “Riding my Storms with Intention”

Leslie Householder
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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Thank you Bethany for letting your story be shared. And thank you Leslie for sharing it with us. Inspiring.

  2. I can relate to her on so many levels. I know that holding faith and being patient can work miracles. I am living them. Thank you!

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