Marital Problems

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Mary, Denver CO

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“I feel like I didn’t get to have a childhood,” Mary says sadly. Mary was the eldest of seven children. One of her parents struggled with alcoholism and another with serious mental illness.

The week after her 18th birthday she joined a convent. “It was quiet there, silent most of the time. I liked the idea of community. It felt safe,” she explains. Over two years later, just before taking her vows to become a nun, they unexpectedly asked her to leave. She was crushed and couldn't make sense of it.

For the next 25 years, Mary tried to do what she thought God was asking of her. After a failed marriage, she earned a degree in Biology and tried to move forward with her life. In her second marriage, Mary endured 19 years of abuse. At age 49, she decided to put an end to the suffering. She filed for divorce and signed up to get her teaching license in the same month.

But finding a stable job proved more difficult than expected: “The abuse made me feel like I wasn't worth much. I would accept jobs that weren't good jobs,” says Mary. “I accepted a teaching job in New Mexico. I packed up all my stuff and moved,ˮ she says. “When I got there, the position was no longer available.ˮ And this became a pattern. She moved from city to city, finding and losing jobs, ending up in Denver.

During this frustrating process, Mary was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This diagnosis helped her understand new things about herself and her work habits.

Mary found a job in 1999 with a specialized insurance company and stayed through two company reorganizations. She bought a house in 2005, settling into her life in Colorado. Just a year later, they let her go. “I was depressed,ˮ Mary remembers. “I thought God was punishing me. I kept searching my mind to figure out where my responsibility was in all that had happened.ˮ

For years she took tutoring jobs and some difficult minimum-wage jobs, constantly trying to obtain full-time employment. She strung together enough money to make partial payments on her mortgage, but eventually lost her home.

Mary did the only thing left to do: she typed “homelessness” into the Google search bar. The very first website she found was Denver Rescue Mission's, where she read about the STAR Transitional Program at The Crossing. In October 2012, she moved in. “Counseling was probably what helped me the most. Loyce [a volunteer counselor at The Crossing] is closer to my age, so she understood some of the things I was going through,” explains Mary. “I would often think, ‘Will I have anything to present to Christ when I get [to heaven]?’ We worked through things like that.”

Mary’s outlook began to change. She attended Bible classes each week led by Larry Chatman and Yolanda Sonnenberg, case managers at the Mission. She received counseling once a week. She did a book study with Mandy, an intern and Mary’s case manager. She was a foster-grandparent at the local elementary school last year. She even co-teaches a Bible study at her church each Thursday for cognitively challenged adults! These activities slowly built her confidence in herself and in God.

Mary’s science background, coupled with her own disabilities, have given her a deep passion for brain health. She believes there are many ways to prevent brain disorders and some diseases, and dreams of starting her own company to raise awareness and offer solutions.

“When you find out late in life that you have disabilities, you tend to think of all you can't do instead of what you can do,” says Mary. But she’s discovered many things that she’s capable of: “When I came [to The Crossing], I thought I could never be self-supporting. Now, I can afford housing. I've made connections here that have given me hope that I didn't have before.”

She now sees life with eternity in mind and places far less emphasis on her earthly possessions: “I used to get discouraged by how long painful circumstances can last. One day, Larry drew a line across a huge whiteboard, representing all of eternity and put a little dot on the line to show how small a lifetime is. There will come a time when nothing is important except that you got through it. In my Father's house, there are many dwelling places. I'm going to have a home, and it won't be shabby.”

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Sandy Leonetti, Bucks County PA

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It was 1972.I lost my second child, a baby boy, in the delivery room. The hope and joy I had felt as a mother, with all the anticipation of a newborn cradled in my arms, was crushed.

Several months later, with the tears continuing to run down my cheeks, my husband Rich left me for reasons of his drug addiction. When I wasn’t thinking about how to end my life, I turned to alcohol to hug and comfort me. Hour after hour, day after day.

I cried out to God.

“Is this all you are? There has to be more to you than this!”

A friend of mind handed me a Bible. A Bible? Really? Who reads the Bible?

There was something in my heart that was calling me to open the book. I wanted to know God. I wanted to know who this God was that had allowed so much disaster in my life. As I consumed the pages of scripture, I continued to consume alcohol, a bottle of pills by my side.

One night, a dear friend called me and said God had a message for me – “enough of this Sandy! I hear your cry. Stop the drinking and turn to me!”

As I continued to pour my heart into scripture, the verses began to jump off the page, as if God had written them to me personally. Isaiah 62:4 states that the “Lord will take delight in you and your land will be married.”

Wow! Did that connect with me! He loved me. If I seek Him, He will heal my life….and my marriage.

In a Hollywood script, I would tell you that it was “happily ever after” from that point forward. It wasn’t. As a matter of fact, things got worse. Rich dived deeper into drug addiction and he met a woman 20 years younger than me. I started to attend prayer meetings and women’s Bible studies where I would share my confidence Rich would return. The ladies would join me in prayer.

Rich was furious. On several occasions he burst into the Bible study and announced to everyone he would never return to me. We were all ridiculous to pray for that. Truthfully, it was not easy to keep up the faith that Rich would return with him mocking me so publicly. On top of it all, his girlfriend came to me and said they would take my surviving son from me. I spent night after night sobbing into my pillow.

However, the Lord told me that He never gave up on me. How can I give up on Rich? He made it clear that He is working on Rich and I need to keep waiting and trusting in Him.

Thankfully, Rich was gracious to me and said he would not take our son from me. God was gracious to Rich, as his lifestyle should have killed him. God was gracious on his girlfriend. Several years before she passed away from cancer, she came to faith in Christ after God gave me the grace to witness to her.

However, there is no greater witness to the love of God than – love. Forgiving, patient, and long suffering love. Oh, I don’t take credit for it. It was an act of God to help me love Rich, even as I kissed him good night as I knew he was leaving the home on his way to be with his girlfriend.

It was this love that broke Rich and transformed him. It was the love Jesus Christ had for me that transformed him. It was also the reality that he learned his girlfriend was sleeping with other men. “Surprisingly”, she was not faithful to Rich and that made my faithfulness all the more beautiful to him. At one point she threatened to kill Richard at gun point.

Rich came back to me. We have enjoyed 48 years of marriage, the last 40 years in restoration. Rich has become a lover of Jesus Christ and a man who loves to serve others in need. Our 42 year old son has blessed us with 3 grandchildren and one adorable great-granddaughter.

I had said to the Lord that if he would restore my marriage, I would spend a lifetime helping other married couples recover from adversity. Rich and I have been involved in ministry for decades now, reaching out to many other couples who have lost hope. Rich encourages women in our ministry to never ever give up on their men. They may be looking for something but have no idea what they are looking for.

Keep up the faith, people. Love, authored and designed by God, can do amazing acts of healing and restoration.

We reviewed Sandy’s story in hope reflections.  Click here to read the review.

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