The wounding of the Lord is faithful

Good morning sisters,

It is once again early morning. The house is just starting to stir, and I am here with my coffee and you. I have so many thoughts twirling around in my head and heart. How to find ways to share our story, to encourage you, to shine a light towards Christ so that you may see Him clearly?

I pray the words on this small journaling space will be just that – a beacon of hope that points towards our great Hope.

This past year has been the journey I never thought I would go on. When I first received “the news” I thought the road ahead was a road for my husband, in particular. Our marriage had crashed into what I thought was a towering wall…it turns out that we had crashed into the Rock. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him. (Matt 21:44)
We had fallen on the stone, and we found ourselves utterly broken.

May I confess something?
I thought this year would be about him. My husband had committed the grievance. My husband was the one whose sin crashed us into this place, right?
I pictured myself nobly standing next to him as he worked through his issues. Of course it affected us both, of course we would both need help to find our way back, but really – it was about him. Oh sisters, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
This year Christ has humbled me. He has shown me so clearly the depth of my own depravity – the darkness of my own heart. I have never seen my own sin so clearly. I have never known how great my need for Him.

A good friend said to me at the start of these turbulent days, “Annabel, I think this is going to change your life forever. I think the trajectory of everything you have known and thought you would do is altering.”
She couldn’t have been more right.

Everything has changed.
Everything.

At the start of the year, I thought it was about my husband’s healing.
It is my heart that has been shown to be utterly in need of Christ’s forgiveness.
I thought we had crashed into a wall of sin and pain that would leave us scarred and limping forever.
It turned out to be our Rock, our faithful High Priest that we had crashed upon. His breaking has left us more whole, with no scars.
I thought this year was a detour on the path that our life was on.
This year turned out to be a life-altering course change. Our feet left the well-known path, we are now in the wildness of His adventure for us. 

I have so, so many stories. Some about sex. Some about forgiveness. Some about tears. Some about surprises. Some about death. Some about life.
But all of them about Hope. Sweet, sweet Hope.

I am praying for you all this morning. My eyes are filled with the tears I know so many of you shed over your marriages, over your hard places, over your marriage beds. I am mourning with you.
May Christ uphold you. May He allow you and your husband to come crashing onto His truth in the best time.

I love you, sweet sisters. Thank you all for your prayers and thoughts for me over this past year. I have received so many emails. You all have faithfully continued to comment on this little space. I have read every word, and I have been grateful for the community that was reaching out in blindness towards me.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

I know your season may feel like death. Take heart – death itself is a servant of Christ.

Home

Dear long-lost friends,

I have found home. It is a beautiful place – full of the glorious longing of things to come, and gratitude for things past. I have so, so many stories for you. They are good stories. Stories of hope, stories of truth, stories of redemption and healing. My husband and I are together – stronger and braver and truer than we have ever been.

I can’t wait to fill this space again with quiet conversations with you again. You are my “great congregation” – the friends I will be faithful to tell of the Lord’s wondrous deeds.

Do not grow faint of heart, dear sisters.
The Lord is mighty. The Lord is sovereign. The Lord is loving.
And He is moving…

Psalm 40: 1-4, 9-11

My Help and My Deliverer

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

1 I waited patiently for the Lord;

he inclined to me and heard my cry.

He drew me up from the pit of destruction,

out of the miry bog,

and set my feet upon a rock,

making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,

and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man who makes

the Lord his trust,

who does not turn to the proud,

to those who go astray after a lie!

I have told the glad news of deliverance

in the great congregation;

behold, I have not restrained my lips,

as you know, O Lord.

10  I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;

I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;

I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness

from the great congregation.

11  As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain

your mercy from me;

your steadfast love and your faithfulness will

ever preserve me!

I have missed you –

Annabel

The long road home

Dear friends,

It has been so long since I have sat down to write. I have missed you.

Several months ago I received what we shall call the news from my husband. I won’t share here what that news was because isn’t everyone’s story their own to tell? I have had many friends receive the news over the years.  For some it is a financial investment that has gone to ruin, and now their home is gone and their lives will never be the same. For some it is the story of succumbing to the siren song of an addiction (be it alcohol, drugs, porn, pain medication), and now everyone is left clinging to the edge, fighting their way back against abuse. For some it is another that has taken their place, and now they are looking at the ruins of love wondering how and if they can rebuild. The news, my friends, comes in many ways – none of them pretty and none of them fair. All of them cause hurt and grief. All of them wound. All of them take time to rebuild, time to recover, time to heal. The news in this home is private – sharing the bad decisions and heart wounds of someone else is not today’s story.

But here is a hard and glorious fact –
Sometimes being broken against truth is the best thing there could be. In the past three months I have seen and understood the hope of the Gospel more fully than I could have ever imagined. I can honestly say that until this painful journey, I didn’t really grasp the hope that we can be free, that in Christ we are okay, that we are grounded. The hope that means my sin doesn’t control my destiny. That means that when I sin I don’t have to hide. Because Christ has paid the price, friends. It is all covered – which means I am safe to expose it. My husband can be safe to expose it. We aren’t stuck. Do you hear that, friend? You aren’t stuck. In Christ our story is never over until we see Him. And the sweetest promise? When we do finally see Him, we shall be like Him. There is no hopeless situation in light of the Gospel. What a steadfast anchor that is for us, indeed.

I once read that the Kingdom of God is like a city built into the side of a cliff. It is very easy to stand on the cliff edge and feel so close to the city. You can literally drop stones into its very heart. You are close in proximity, but not in relationship. In order to actually get into the city you must be willing to leave the cliff edge and follow the path, which winds down and through a forest. In fact, while journeying towards the city you will be further from it by proximity – but closer to it by relationship.
My husband and I are on that journey. Not that we weren’t Christ-followers before, but in many areas of our life there was a lot of “stone dropping” and not as much “path following”.

I recently saw this story about how the Gospel changed one man’s life. And everything in me says “yes”.

So that’s where I am now. Saying “yes” to a hard, but glorious road.

I am praying for you today, friends. Praying that you will have the courage to say “yes” as well.

Annabel

P.S. If you know what book the cliff-kingdom story is from, can you tell me? I can’t remember and I want to give that author his due.

A story of hope, Pt. II

O my goodness, ladies. I am SO EXCITED to finally be sharing a story with you that has touched my heart so much. Please welcome Joan, a higher-drive wife and amazing woman who has been married for over 35 years. As she so eloquently states, she is “spice” and her husband is “love”. She is bravely and faithfully sharing her story, and in doing so she is truly embracing the Godly model for older women found in Titus 2. Her story brought me to tears and gave me hope and strength for my own journey. I pray it will do so for you, too.

**

This story is told in two parts. So go ahead and get caught up on Joan’s early years of marriage, her journey through children, menopause and cancer here.

Phase 4- Aging and Finally “Getting It”
With health, gratefulness, menopause, and cancer treatment behind me I now had to deal with a new foe- aging. It was a monster of monumental menace. Hubby didn’t get it, for in a sense he had been dealing with this for years. He was only 5 years older than me, but due to his health struggles, felt old before 60. I was approaching that magical number, and was not at all amenable to the reality. However, in another sense, life was better. I had learned not feel rejected anymore. Had gratefulness worked this? Well, what gratefulness began had been taken over by numbness. I liked not hurting. I liked not ever thinking about sex — at all. If he wanted it that was fine. I just did whatever I needed to in order to be as pleasant as possible, meet his needs, and belie my detachment. The home was pleasant. I never wondered if my refusal to accept aging could be connected to the sexual blahs. Instead of thinking about how I wanted to make love to my husband as I used to, I would now spend hours hating growing old. What to do about these wrinkles? What to do about osteopenia? How could the mirror be so mean? Is this really happening to me?? So did my gratefulness have a shelf life? Where was it now?

So I would get out my many books on the sex topic; but even while reading them a nagging conviction would always be on my shoulder. At his core he likes you better detached. Look how pleasant your home is! There is something unattractive about wanting him. This tape of self-protection played in my head often. So, it was obvious I didn’t miss emotional closeness enough to risk being turned down again. Another troubling pattern invaded the bedroom during this time. When I would least expect it, there were those pesky “sneaky” tears. Yes, all he needed to do was touch me tenderly in bed and they would start out of the blue, causing us both much annoyance. In my late 50’s sex was often interrupted this way. Getting the mood back was a tough proposition, and sometimes impossible.

The information gleaned from the books then began to take shape in my mind. Sexuality is intermingled with a person’s sense of identity. If we believe we are unlovely, unworthy, or unacceptable to ourselves, we will not feel sexual freedom toward our mate. Acceptance of self is inextricably attached to proper sexual function. So there was reason for my numbness and dysfunction in light of the aging issue. (I think this numbness is very common among women who struggle against aging.) Still, with raising a family behind me,  I vaguely hoped that one day, even with all my wrinkles, I would fall madly in love with hubby again… and we would be off and running around the world in our sneakers. As for his part, he grew in sacrificial love for me every day. Telling me he saw me as the same girl he married over 30 years ago didn’t seem to fix me.

But God started to show me through prayer that all the things I feared before the post-cancer changes were happening anyway. Though sex was happening, and it was okay sex, heartwarming romance was elusive, scrapping and nitpicking too easy. Life was slipping away at lightning speed, and peace without purpose wasn’t that great. Had I traded real living with all its delight (though risk of pain) for safety in loneliness? Was the problem really sex? Or was my refusal to be vulnerable the problem– costing more than I could afford to pay?
To be willing, even willing to be willing, to move ahead in forgiving fully, was even more terrifying than embarking on general gratefulness. To open myself up was not going to be easy. It seemed God was giving me the C.S. Lewis’ Dawntreader  Eustice treatment. The child was in the dragon’s body, but since selfishness had deformed him, God had to peel the dragon away, painful layer by painful layer, to reveal the boy again. So after our nest emptied, the two perimenopause babies gone, I swallowed hard and made a decision. I decided to embrace inevitable pain for the joy made possible by vulnerability.

Then I discovered something unexpected and disturbing. My libido couldn’t be easily called back. No snapping of the fingers and I would want him again. I could still function sexually. But cutting off vulnerability had created a worse monster than I would have ever guessed. Thirty years ago who would have thought that when my husband poured out his love for me creatively, sweetly, waxing warm and engaging sexually, my heart would be stuck, like stone, continuing cold, unforgiveness having bored a deep groove in my heart? Unthinkable. I had the man I wanted at long last. Now, a battle for my soul raged. Though I knew through salvation I belonged to the Father, there was something vitally important that needed to be fixed. Or we were in big trouble. But, amazingly, “The Fight” was no longer with hubby on any level! It was now completely my own fight. This was a huge step in the right direction.

So it really wasn’t about the sex — that it was supposed to be better- for me or for him. That I was supposed to be happy with less. Or him be happy with more. It was that God required my heart to be soft. And that my soft heart was most obviously revealed by my openness to all the fullness of sex with my husband. Nothing less would do. Relinquishing the frequency of sex into God’s hands would be part of this process. With this tall order, my life began to be a daily quest.
How does one change- or rediscover- one’s emotions? The scripture showed me in Romans 12:1-2. And in Romans 5,6, and 7– that I had to change my thinking. I had to go through a similar process I did after cancer, only with the focus on going further this time. The focus of going on to marital Joy. God is in the business of changing emotions. It just isn’t a quick thing. It takes our hard work, but it is ultimately God’s work. Forgiveness does have to make sense if we are going to do it. Though not in our emotions, in our minds- regarding our own issues. Risking pain has to make sense, though not in my emotions. No one likes emotional pain or even the thought of it. But the risk has to make sense in my mind, regarding my issues. And only God can do that work. When forgiveness is fully real, I will be fully vulnerable. And when I am fully vulnerable I will be experiencing sex as it is meant to be.

Slowly, slowly, I am digging myself out of the hole of selfishness and unforgiveness.  My relationship with my husband is being transformed into a thing of beauty if I will only stay the course. God is “building my house”.

Joan

I hope & pray that you ladies have all enjoyed Joan’s story as much as I have. I pray today that it speaks into your heart, and that the Lord uses it to reveal to all of us where we are walking in deception, unkindness, self-centerdness, or unloving ways. May His grace abound to each one of our lives. May we each be able to say that God is building our house.

Annabel

A story of hope, Pt. I

O my goodness, ladies. I am SO EXCITED to finally be sharing a story with you that has touched my heart so much. Please welcome Joan, a higher-drive wife and amazing woman who has been married for over 35 years. As she so eloquently states, she is “spice” and her husband is “love”. She is bravely and faithfully sharing her story, and in doing so she is truly embracing the Godly model for older women found in Titus 2. Her story brought me to tears and gave me hope and strength for my own journey. I pray it will do so for you, too. Joan’s story will be shared in two parts, today & on Friday. So be sure to come back and hear the rest of what she had to say.

***

We have been married 36 years and have 4 grown children and 8 grandchildren. I am “spice” and my husband is “love”. When I barely knew how to love he has always loved me and been consistently faithful. Although he has largely operated out of shame and remorse due to his rebellion and involvement in the drug culture of the 70’s, I see freshly every day how blessed I am to have this “new creature in Christ”- a truly godly man. And that it was sin (pride) in me which shaped much of my reaction to the issues of sex in our marriage. God is showing me that my response is my responsibility. That He is a good God, and a Sovereign one. That nothing of our journey here on earth, when offered to Him, is wasted.
We aren’t really sure if I was always the higher drive partner, but we agree that his difficulty with  my needs as a “physical touch” (love language), wreaked havoc in our relationship. We also agree that God used the resulting excruciating pain to make us more like Jesus.
So, my hubby is not averse to my sharing our story- but it is difficult for him because I think most men with seemingly high drive wives can often feel like a failure, not wholly normal. Mine did.
This is my story so far, divided into phases.

Phase 1– The First 10 Years– Beginning of “The Fight”
My father emotionally rejected my mother, and not surprisingly I entered marriage with much ambivalence and fear. My being a Christian and virgin juxtaposed greatly to my husband’s new faith in Christ and his promiscuous past (including a brief, failed marriage). Yet, during that first year, with understandable difficulty trying to figure things out sexually, I was shocked that he only wanted sex about once a week. There were short periods of daily sex, but between those I would inwardly panic- unable to express my feelings of rejection, inadvertently going silent and “tugging at him” at the same time. In those early days he admitted that he had been taught to fear, as many men do, being controlled by a wife, and also that “aggressive girls” were not “good girls.” That this crazy thought was even in his head devastated me!
Then in answer to my desperate prayer during our 2nd year, he made a concerted effort to switch gears, learned how to meet my needs, making sure I was getting all I could out of our times together. Soon our first two children arrived close behind each other and, boom, I was again bombarded with fear. Surely babies would banish our new-found sex life. I was busy and happy being a mom. Why would the suspense of wondering when he would want me again set up a crazy cycle? I was insecure. However, even though his stability and love kept us afloat, by our 10th year his work was demanding- and sex was sporadic. He was puzzled by my unhappiness and confusion. What had I missed learning about sex? While people thought we were the cutest family, secretly I wondered what was wrong with me. Or, what was wrong with him? Was this a  frequency problem? Or was it my response to irrational fear? “The Fight” was on, even though we didn’t call it that– yet.

Phase 2- The 2nd Decade –Crazy Cycle
During this phase my husband developed a myriad of physical issues and mild depression. All this was understandable, given his self-abusive past, yet every time back injury or pain  robbed his interest in sex, I thought he was rejecting me. So a pattern settled in – emotional closeness followed by a physical ailment or emotional/sexual withdrawal. At year 14 and 15 two more babies arrived. My libido dropped while they were toddlers, and fortunately my husband missed the closeness of being connected sexually. He was concerned when I didn’t have a sex drive- and was willing to work at it. But by now I was conflicted. Should I go for the closeness of sexual intimacy, only to be rejected and frustrated? Or should I not want it and operate emotionally detached? I hated the feeling of detachment and I longed for closeness. So even when I did detach, I resented his lapses. These cycles were driving me crazy.

Phase 3- Menopause and Cancer– “Logs” Revealed
At the onset of perimenopause (around age 45) I suddenly got a surge of libido again. It was as if I were a newlywed- only much free-er. I felt I must get better at sex, therefore needed practice. Second, I believed I deserved lots of sex because I had saved myself until my mid-twenties. It was an entitlement mentality brought on by a fresh influx of new fear. This time it was the fear that life was slipping through my fingers–our eldest daughter was getting married! But now my husband was used to sex about once a week, and didn’t respond to my rejuvenated needs. Nearing 50, he thought I was being ridiculous, patently telling me I was “demanding.” Heading into menopause, feeling as though I was finally getting “good” at sex, enjoying it with more abandon, it was utter torment to be rejected– worse than ever before. I was now more able to pour out my heart to him, expressing the deep yearning I had for him, and when he didn’t respond, devastated, not being able to sleep, I often roamed the house at night. “The Fight” was no longer the elephant in the room. It was identified by both of us as the intruder who wouldn’t leave.
Where was God now? I blamed Him- I blamed both of them. I began to see that my relationship to the Lord was under its most rigorous attack or test. Would I trust God with my life, my needs? My husband was a good provider, a good father, and a good friend. Of course he had faults. But by any normal standards I knew he also would be considered a good lover. I just couldn’t see then that this whole mess sprang from me being “all about me.” I had made an idol of my needs at his expense. Sex and romance had actually been idols from before we were married. Mired in grief I thought the flow of tears would never end and I’d be carried to the morgue from a puddle one day. I was actually becoming engulfed by blackness— bitterness. During this time we sought counseling, never quite able to resolve our confusion in this “fight.”
When breast cancer arrived, we were totally unprepared. Yet hubby sprang into action, working diligently to care for me, selflessly thinking the sex issue could be revisited later. Really mature thinking. But for me, it was so much deeper. Through the surgeries and treatments we continued to have sex occasionally because I insisted on it– supposedly for him. Ironically, I cried after each time. I couldn’t explain my complicated emotions about sex while sick. Then in the middle of cancer treatment, God did begin an amazing work. Through a counselor, He opened my eyes to the log in them. This man told me I wouldn’t get well unless I changed my thinking about my problems. (I had secretly asked God why He would heal me….for this husband? Why? That’s how serious my bitterness had become!) I asked God to remove the huge log to see the gift of tremendous moral support my husband had given– more support than any woman could hope for.

Thus I began to dig out of the darkness. Even though I still couldn’t grasp how my sexual needs had to be placed on the altar, I willed to become grateful for the man God gave me, grateful for all the good things I did have! More than could ever be listed. And I did get well. Our home became more enjoyable. Nonetheless, besides the physical aftermath of breast cancer, I came out on the other side with “heart” scars.

Please come back on Friday to hear the conclusion of this incredible story. Joan shares how God is dealing with her heart scars, the challenges brought about by aging, and how she is walking in the light with her marriage & marriage bed.

I love each of you ladies, and I hope and pray that this story impacts your heart as much as it has mine.

Annabel