From tragedy to joy…REALLY???

philadelphia 2

By Kenneth Justice

Kenneth, did you see how at peace she was? I didn’t sense even a twinge of bitterness in her at all” he said

~ This past weekend I was in Philadelphia on the latest stop in my Drinking in the Culture Tour and I met so many different people I doubt I will even be able to write about everyone. But one of the people I met that really stands out is Rebecca who writes a blog titled I Am Clothed With Joy.

While I had read a number of her posts in the past, I didn’t realize Rebecca (and her four children) lived so close to Philadelphia…..and I also didn’t realize what an incredible story Rebecca had to share.

As we sat there at coffee in the packed La Columbe Coffee House (which is a pretty awesome coffee shop) Rebecca was bursting with questions she wanted to ask me about myself, which humbles me quite a bit because Rebecca’s story is far more interesting and unique than my own.

Ultimately, Rebecca’s story is really hers to tell the world and not me, yet I can’t help but mention a couple of the small details that really blew me away with admiration for this young woman.

Growing up in an evangelical Christian home on the East Coast, Rebecca was inspired to move to India in order to be a missionary (most likely motivated by stories of people like Mother Theresa and Amy Carmichael). Yet unlike many other evangelical Christian women who wait till they get married to go into the mission field, Rebecca fearlessly moved to India to work in an orphanage as single woman and it was there that she met an Indian man who would eventually become her husband.

After a decade of marriage and four children in tow; Rebecca found herself in an unhealthy relationship and decided that what was best for her and her four daughters would be to leave her husband and move back to the states (the details of why she was forced to leave him are not for me to say).

I can’t imagine how incredibly difficult, both emotionally and physically, it was for Rebecca to break away from that bad relationship and move thousands of miles away from India and back to the states. I’m sure that she must have doubted herself at times and perhaps even wondered if she could actually raise four children on her own.

Yet as she sat there across from me at the coffee shop, had she not told me I would have never known all of the turmoil she’d gone through; her face radiated with peace and joy.

Rebecca had brought two of her young daughters with her who aside from their obvious beauty, were incredibly well behaved and charming. You’d never know these girls and their other two sisters are being raised by a single mom who works a full time job and no father in their life whatsoever.

I’ve met a lot of single mothers in my travels and my heart always goes out to them for all that they are sacrificing in raising their children. It’s got to be a herculean task to raise four children all on your own and I won’t pretend to fully comprehend all that goes into it.

Yet despite all of the hardship Rebecca went through in leaving her husband, I didn’t pick up on any resentment in her heart whatsoever. She even said as much, “I don’t regret anything, I’m so thankful for my children”.

A man I’d met at a previous coffee shop earlier in the morning was sitting with us and listening to Rebecca. After she left he remarked,

Kenneth, did you see how at peace she was? No bitterness in her at all. I think its connected to her time in India because they have such a different attitude in life; they just accept things as they are and deal with them. They don’t wallow in regret and misery

I don’t know much about Indian culture at all, but my coffee house friend had been to India before and everything that Rebecca shared with us resonated with his experiences in the country as well. Do we accredit Rebecca’s joyful and positive attitude about life all to the Indian cultural influence? Do we accredit it to her faith in God? Or to Rebecca’s personal inner strength and fortitude? Perhaps it’s a combination of all of those things or none of them. Honestly, I don’t know and it’s not for me to say.

A single mother with four daughters and a full time job; wow!

Thankfully, my family has been a big help since I moved back, and my children have a lot of cousins around so we have a fairly well built in community” she explained. But I’m sure that is nothing more than Rebecca’s modesty coming out, because no matter how much her family helps, at the end of the day it is Rebecca and her four children facing the world; and they are doing so with a tremendous amount of joy springing from their hearts.

Atlanta, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and now Philadelphia are in my rear view window and I can only imagine what people and conversations lie ahead of me in places like Madison, St. Louis, Minneapolis and more. With each new weekend coming and going, I’m realizing how fortunate I am to be able to sit down with so many different people, like Rebecca, who leave me filled with so much more joy and encouragement then before I arrived to their city.


I will be in Madison, Wisconsin this coming Saturday!!! Join me for coffee!

Categories: Culture & Society

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59 replies

  1. Somehow Rebecca echoes a story and outcome of many women like her. Thank you Kenneth

  2. Sometimes hardship steels us and helps us know which of our parts are strong. As my daughter said about some recent trouble for someone in her life…
    “The best thing about the worst time of your life is that you are broken. And in your brokenness, you discover the parts of you that are indestructible.”

  3. Dear Kenneth,

    This is the kind of story that we never hear on the “news” and yet it’s exactly what our culture needs to hear more of. While most news shows focus on keeping us small, afraid, and angry, this story you shared about Rebecca and her spirit IS the good news.

    Rebecca is a shining example of the strength of a woman. The deep, solid, brave, loving, grounding strength of someone who cares for herself and her children against extremely difficult odds. This is a story of the strength of human love! Thank you for sharing this kind of news. News meant to lift us all up, give us courage, and feel closer to our neighbors instead of farther away.

    Rebecca, if you read this I can tell you that you leave people with a sense of faith and awe when you meet them! I could see it in their faces! Your story is such an important and inspiring one, indeed. God bless!! 🙂

    Peace ~ Allison

  4. What a great story, and sounds like you made some wonderful memories!

  5. I think Rebecca represents a combination of all of those characteristics. She is obviously a woman of substance in that she chose as a single woman to go to India to work at the orphanage. Her experience there most likely gave her the courage to take on the task of raising her own children, even if alone. Anyone who has worked at an orphanage must understand why you would find strength before abandoning children.

    The fact that she left her husband shows an even greater depth…she realized that the relationship was a cancer to herself AND her children. In this case, leaving was a selfless act….sometimes that happens. You confirmed she had a support system with her family…which makes it an easier road.

    To me…the greatest joy comes from no longer being in an unbearable situation…she is free…her children are free. That feeling alone is so powerful and wonderful…the future is an open book. Why bother to be cynical and bitter. Think of those two feeling…which one would you choose?

    Rebecca makes perfect sense to me! So, that’s my analysis…Oh, and Rebecca…hello… You Rock!

    • Great comments Mrs. P,

      Your totally right when you say, “to me, the greatest joy comes from no longer being in an unbearable situation… she is free… her children are free. That feeling alone is so powerful and wonderful”

      I’ve had situations in life where once I walked away from them and cut myself off; I felt so much peace and freedom from no longer being tied to them….. right on 🙂

    • Mrs. P – Thank you! YES! Free. Freedom! This are precious words to me. There is no point to bitterness or cynicism. Every day that I am no longer living in what I once lived though is a JOY.


    • 🙂 Been there! I am so happy you are FREE! 🙂 🙂

  6. Single parents always impress me. Be they mothers or fathers, you know they sacrifice every day for the love of their children. One of my best friends in school was raised only by her mother. She worked two jobs and wasn’t usually home when school let out. From Kindergarten and upward, my friend would walk home to an empty house. Maybe that seems like bad parenting, but this woman tried so hard. She raised good kids who obeyed the rules of the house even when she wasn’t around. Even more, she paid for her daughter to attend our private school. Today, her daughter is still one of the best people I know. I don’t know if being raised by a single parents makes you humbler or what.

    Maybe her mother, like Rebecca, just had a great attitude. This was wonderful to wake up to this morning. Knowing that people like Rebecca can still find joy and peace in the world makes me feel like I can conquer anything thrown at me.

    • Great example TK…. there are so many good single parents out there… its amazing to me all that they do because I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to hold down a full time job and then to raise a family all on their own….

      I love your final sentence,

      “knowing that people like Rebecca can still find joy and peace in the world marksmen feel like I can conquer anything thrown at me”

    • and that’s what I get for using a phone to leave a blog comment.

    • I thought it was a beautiful comment 🙂

    • P.S. I misspelled it when I quoted you… it was my fault! You had it right

  7. It’s hard for everyone to believe that tragedy can end with tears of joy; it’s that moment you been waiting that the pain will heal the wound at some stage and letting another chapter of life to began beating the depression and loneliness; her invisible scars helped her realized her destiny. Hope her future is full with joy and motovations.
    U’re an awesome listener!

  8. What a wonderful story. I spent eight years as a divorced mom of two. Raising children alone takes lots of hard work, dedication and love. It’s so refreshing to see a positive post about single mothers. Rebecca sounds like a jewel. I’m so glad you were able to connect with her. Your posts are always so uplifting. 🙂

  9. I often say that single moms (and dads) amaze me. What a great and uplifting story for a rainy monday morning. Oh, and I live in Madison so I might just see you Saturday…thanks for the invite!

    • It would be great to meet you 🙂 I’m not sure how many bloggers/readers I have in the Madison and Milwaukee area so I’m gonna show up not sure if one person will be there or a dozen people…. keeping my fingers crossed 🙂

  10. KJ – as with most of us, what gets onto the published page hides an awful lot of “me”. Always will for loads of different reasons. And I have just had a lightbulb moment writing that …

    Your “social network” commentary: anyone who contributes will choose the “profile” and “identity” they present to the world. Of necessity (and commonsense) the “real person” will always be far fuller, with more depth, more heroics, more “wow” than they present in writing or pictures or music.

    In a fairly unique way, your tour is revealing that “real person” the rest of us will never get to see or know.

    Maybe the saddest part of this “social networking” socialising is simply that. We will never get to know or see the real and far more powerful person writing words on a keyboard. If that is all is ever is.

    (I have a small dream of taking a holiday to the US and meeting a few who have become “family” over these blogs – simply because deep inside I know I am getting a pencil sketch rather than the real thing. Mrs Paul would not be as interested – hence it remaining a dream for now – and why I think you have caught the imagination of so many actually “doing it”.)

    • Paul, right on 🙂 That is the beauty of my tour and why I’m so thankful for this opportunity. I’m getting to meet face to face with people, and I get to see more of who ‘they really are’…. not merely the internet profile they use, or the image they want to convey to the world…. and the people I’m meeting are far more wonderful than their blogs and websites even convey 🙂

  11. The last weekend changed you a bit Kenneth, more positive, more of yes. That’s fantastic!
    I believe that a Mother, single parent or not, is a heroine and I believe that nothing should take this attribute especially from Rebecca.

    • Dana, your totally right. I’m just amazed at how wonderful everyone has been. I had no idea I would be able to meet so many readers and fellow bloggers; I’m totally blown away!

  12. A truly touching story and I appreciated the way you were able to share the details without sharing the details! Being a single parent is a very hard road to travel but in looking back over my life, I only have one son whereas Rebecca has four children. I didn’t have to uproot myself and children when my marriage fell apart whereas Rebecca had to move from one country to another. It is amazing she is able to be at peace especially since many women remain bitter for a long time, but as the quote earlier on in the comments suggested your biggest challenges in life teach you just how strong you can be. May Rebecca continue her walk in life with peace and acceptance while being a shining example to other single moms. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you Gale…… you totally nailed what I was aiming at with this sentence of yours, “the way you were able to share the details without sharing the details”….exactly! Especially with fellow bloggers, I feel like their story is their story to write about, not mine 🙂

  13. I can tell right now that life is going to feel so dull for you after this little experiment lol. You may even be hooked and try and do it again on perhaps a small scale, which certainly wouldn’t be bad. 🙂 Isn’t it amazing to sit in the presence of someone who’s so at peace with life? I wish I could so easily accept that type of attitude because my life would be so much easier for me but no…my brain is in overdrive most of the time lol. Oh well. I’ll figure it out somehow. She certainly has an awesome story to tell and it’s even more amazing at how well she handles it. Very impressive and inspiring. Certainly makes you want to not be so down on yourself, pick yourself up by the bootstraps and keep on truckin’. I hope things continue to go well for her and her children. She’s earned it.

    • It won’t be dull next year; I’m going to move to Needles and make it my full time job to harass you every day by following you around while I blare music music from massive sub-woofers in my car; Britney Spears, kasha… oh yea sweetie; 2015 can’t come soon enough 😉 lol

    • LOL omg! I guess it’s a good thing I’m looking to move. 🙂 Kesha would be an improvement over Spears lol but really? Man your life is dull if that’s exciting for you 😉

    • Ha ha you like Ke$ha Jen? I wouldn’t of guessed that!

    • I’m not sure like is the word I’d use lol but there’s a song or two that I can enjoy. 🙂

  14. I pray she continues being clothed in joy and peace; this will make all else seem unimportant. vw

  15. I can’t imagine how much courage is was to go to India in the first place and how much it took to leave again with four children in tow. Kudos to her.

  16. I am privileged to know Rebecca – we grew up in church together, I prayed for her while she was in India, and now I am thrilled to be able to worship at church together every Sunday! She is truly a beautiful woman inside and out and her girls are adorable!


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