The idol of unmet needs (and finding joy in daily living)

If you are a living human (as opposed to, say, a robot reading this post), you have unmet needs. The fallen nature of the world around us means that none of us are living in our perfect scenario. And if, by chance, you are floating high on life right now, I can promise you that troubles and trials will come.
This isn’t a message of despair or depression. This is simply the truth.

My question today is, how do you respond to unmet needs? As higher-drive wives, many of us are often in the scenario where our unmet needs include sex. We would like it more often, more consistently, and possibly in better quality. But those needs are not currently being met. Of course, where you are now is not the end of the story, and that in itself can be the greatest comfort. Our God is the God of the impossible – so lets put the impossible in His hands and see what He does with it.
But for your now, for your today…what to do with those unmet desires and dreams of your heart?

Perhaps, and I say this with the greatest caution, you should gently put them aside.
But Annabel, you say, how can I put aside that thing that I so greatly desire? How can I abandon something so important? How can I rest when I am seeing the thing my heart desires, even needs, going without notice or care?

Please hear me out on this one.
I am not suggesting that you try to muscle your way through life with gritted teeth and a “I don’t need anything” sort of attitude. That is dangerous and false. What I am suggesting is that your need can become your idol. It can become all you think about, all you concentrate on. All of your emotional energy can be focused there. Every spare thought turns to it.

I know, dear sister, that when your sex life is limited, or perhaps even ignored, it hurts. Deeply and desperately. When the planets of our life are out of alignment, things go crashing into each other. You are being sinned against.
But please hear me say this as gently as possible : there is a time for everything. Including joy. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

So what, then, do I mean by all of this? Simply this : whatever your need is, there are still places, somewhere, that are producing life. And instead of standing and staring at those dead patches, maybe every once in a while it would do your heart good to go enjoy some beauty? Beautiful places are different for every person. Perhaps you love to paint or write. Pick it up again, even if just for yourself and your Father. Perhaps spring is calling you outside to play with your children. Go, laugh – allow yourself the grace of a smile on your face. Or maybe it’s the Godly refreshment you find engaging with certain friends – call them up, find a time to meet, to talk and listen.

A few weeks ago I was driving home from a weekly Bible study that I so enjoy. The women are refreshing, the topic always challenging and encouraging. As I turned a corner, I was pondering how much I enjoy that time, when I suddenly remembered some of my own mis-aligned and crashing planets. Almost in the same minute, I realized that I needed to just place those things before God and continue to simply enjoy the sweet gift He had given me. I thought about how often I have not allowed whatever joys He was giving to be a focusing point – but to instead turn my eyes and heart energy towards all that was going wrong. I missed out on the places I could be happy by stubbornly sitting in those that were not.

When needs are screaming who has time to enjoy the beauty of flowers, the warmth of a cup of coffee, the laughter of a child, the warmth of a spring day?
You do, dear friend.

I am praying for you this morning. Praying that you would have eyes to see where He is, indeed, bringing joy. Praying you can see His gifts that are so great towards you. Praying that if you have set up idols of your needs, that they would be taken down. Praying for you to have the strength and hope that is a hallmark of our faith – that is a testimony to the One who rose triumphant.

Pray for me, as well. I am in a season of needing to put some things back in order in my own life (hello, early mornings) in order to find the heart space to see the daily joys.

Your friend,

Confession is good for the soul

I grew up with an amazing woman as my mother. She willingly transplanted from a place of security and comfort to a place full of strangers and foreign ways. She selflessly set aside her own desires to follow the Lord in raising a family and being an amazing wife. She is brave, wise and faithful.
But, like so many of us, she has been deeply hurt. I only have seen shadows and heard whispers of what happened. But I know it was sexual in nature, and I know it wasn’t right. I know it happened in her adult years, and I know that it happened at the hands of someone she should have trusted. And it colored her world. That, along with other situations that I cannot begin to fathom, made my mother an angry woman. My childhood years have memories of her laughter…and her raised voice. I remember her being a gracious host…and I remember being afraid of her responses to little things I would do.
And, like every child, I promised myself that I wouldn’t be like her in those ways. Never, my heart whispered.

And now it is 30-something years later. And I have my own little children, who are still young enough to look at me with eyes of adoration. My personality isn’t cut out for this stay-at-home life. I thrive on change. I love the challenge of starting something new. Routine is deadly to the life in my heart.
And here I am, a stay-at-home mom. Routine is my middle name. Maybe my first. Hi, nice to meet you – I’m Routine.

And the frustration of this God-called life? It finds its way out in anger towards my kids.
Last night I lay in bed and confessed to my husband that I struggle with inconsistency. My little ones have no idea if they will get happy mom or angry mom. I raise my voice at things that just yesterday I greeted with a laugh. I see it in the eyes of my oldest. Fear…and it crushes me.

Confession is good for the soul.
And it’s true – my confession to my husband, my laying bare my mistakes and my failures – it brings life and healing. I find that today I am a little more inclined to choose life. I am a little more apt to look at life and try to find solutions to this season, and not just react to the circumstances around me.

It may seem small, but it is not. Unconfessed sins fester.
So today, I urge you to find a safe place to confess. Ask someone to come alongside. Know that you aren’t alone. We all struggle with secret sins…we all have habits from our history that are causing someone else pain. We need the healing that Light brings.

Praying for you today, sisters. Praying that you would see with honest eyes where you need to confess, and repent. Pray for me, too. Pray that I would embrace this season, with all of its routines, as a gift from Him. As they say, “the days are long, but the years are short.” I want to look back on these short years and see my hands consistently open in surrender.


My words to broken women

This is a blog for broken women.
I didn’t realize it would be so when I started it, but as the months have passed and the comments and emails have added up, I realize that the women drawn here are facing what feels to be impossible situations. Too often their husbands refuse to admit anything is wrong. Sometimes, the counseling they get is unBiblical, or lacking in compassion. Women come crying into this space – filled with hurt from affairs, pornography, rejection.

These things weigh heavy on my heart. There are comments that I struggle to reply to – what to say? How to offer words of comfort or wisdom? I am not a licensed counselor. I am not an ordained minister. I am a simple women who is working through the daily challenges of her own marriage, a woman who is fighting for Truth herself. I am blessed to have seen so much healing in my own heart and home. But it’s not formulaic. And how to offer myself to the crushed and bruised that I find so often laying on my doorstep?

I cannot offer my arms through this gift and frustration we call the Internet. I often think that if we could meet, the greatest thing I could offer would be my silence. Sitting with the broken woman in sackcloth and ashes. Grieving.

But my silence here doesn’t carry that weight. It’s my words that are needed. And here they are – shaking and unsure. May they speak life into dead places.

The strength of the Church
God placed us in the Body for a reason. Our human response to pain is to retreat, like a wounded animal, to a safe place and hide. This response, as natural as it is, hurts us. We need a community of believers. So run, dear sister, run to the strength of fellowship. This may mean a local church body (which I strongly encourage you not to forsake). It may mean a small group that you attend. It may mean a woman or two that is willing to stand in prayer with you. Don’t alienate yourself. Find community.

The safety of the WordGod’s Word is alive. It is sharper than any two-edged sword. It will lead your feet down right paths. It will guide your heart towards truth. Open it. Soak in it. Let it renew your mind and form your worldview. There is safety here, sisters. It will guard your heart from bitterness. It will guard your tongue from lies and cruelty. If you do nothing else, pick up this living Book and let it shape your heart.

The power of prayer
I have said this so many times before – do you truly know the power of prayer? When you are lost and confused – do you ask for answers? Truly? I find so often my prayers are simply complaints – not a true surrendering of my will or a seeking of His. Let prayer be like breathing – a continual pattern that fills your day. Prayer doesn’t need to be a show. You don’t need to be on bended knee (although the humility of that position can help turn your heart towards Him). It can be at your kitchen sink, or sitting at your desk, or as you make your bed. Let prayers rise like incense – ever before Him.

The surrender of the willThis is the mark of a woman who has a true understanding of who this Christ is that she follows. And yet, it can be the hardest thing of them all. When life is a tumult, when your heart is broken – do you stand before Him with open hands? Like Christ, do you say “Not my will, but your will be done”? Those words ache. Do we really embrace that in all things He is working for our good? Do we accept that bearing our Cross may mean this? And God calls us to bear our suffering with joy. Joy?! How is that possible? Only in surrender. May we be women who stand humbly before our God, fighting for and believing in the miraculous, and realizing that His answer may be the changing of our hearts.

The choice of life“Today I set before you life and death…choose life.”
Choosing life is choosing gratitude. It is choosing joy. It is choosing to find expressions of our life that bring beauty to those around us. Serving others through our gifts. It is choosing to build our hearts up with good things, and not things that paint false pictures. Our willingness to engage in things that bring life will bear good fruit. As my counselor once said, “Sometime you have to wake up and ask yourself ‘What would I do today if I felt wonderful?’ and then go and do that thing.” This is a choice to live out of the reality that we cannot see, rather than the one we can.

My dearest friends and sisters. I know you are hurting. I know.
And I know that these words are not enough to answer every question. They are not enough to fill the deep pain in your heart – the tearing that you wonder if you will ever recover from. I offer them with tears and prayers. May they lead you to the only One who can heal your heart. May you find Christ, and in Him find true comfort. He is your heart’s true home – may you be found dwelling in Him.

Irregardless of our realization of it today, the truth is that we will all one day stand before Him. Our Lamb who gave His life for us. We will see Him, and we will be like Him. And as hard as it is to imagine, we will one day realize that He is worthy of all our suffering. We will not arrive with demands and questions. We will see Him and cast down our crowns, crying “Holy, holy, holy.”

I am praying for you today.
And thank you for your prayers. I have felt the difference as we enter the last week of Lent and look towards the most important day in our Christian calendar – the celebration of His overcoming death and winning us to Himself.

You are loved.

If you are a reader, here are two books I would highly recommend in helping shape your heart towards Truth in hard times.
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Hinds Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard

Soul Cravings (or…why Lent is rocking my world)

We are only a week and a half away from Easter – the celebration of the eternity-altering moment where Christ rose and defeated death, won this wicked Gentile back to Himself, created a place for me in His family. What an incredibly joyous day.

But there are still 11 days until the sun rises on Easter morning.

Do you observe Lent? It’s a hallowed and rich church tradition – forty days of choosing to walk a solemn road, choosing to sacrifice, choosing to be exposed in our weakness. When Lent began this year, I had a thought that I should give up sugar. I fought it. I ignored it.
But three days into the Lenten journey, the Holy Spirit showed me with such utter conviction that this thought was God’s thought for me. The past several weeks have been astounding. I have realized that food (and specifically sugar) has a strong hold on my heart. I have also realized how much my sugar addiction has been hurting this temple that Christ dwells in. Since stopping sugar, and without changing a single other thing, I have lost almost 10 lbs.

The first few weeks weren’t that difficult. My body rather quickly adjusted to all the foods I love sans sugar. Coffee being one of the most paramount. I had the fleeting thought that I might get through Lent without much of a challenge.
Did I say fleeting?

The last week I have found myself utterly craving. I want sugar so bad I find myself pacing in front of the pantry, or opening the fridge several times – looking for the thing I so desperately want. Over and over again I am reminded of my weakness – of the sinful man being put to death daily. I am sent running back to the cross of Christ, back to the arms of a Savior who understands me and has compassion on me.

More than a simple craving for sugar, however, I have been surprised to find myself craving worldliness…sin. Almost a year ago I came out of a very dark place. My escape in those darkest months was found in reading – voracious, all-consuming reading. There wasn’t a moment of the day that you couldn’t find me without a Kindle in hand. I started out with what are (for me) “gateway drugs” – sweet Christian romance novels. Running out of those fairly quickly, I started reading non-Christian, but still (fairly) clean romance novels. But over time that slippery slope led me into erotica. I devoured hundreds of these books. I am so grateful that God rescued me.

But recently? The cravings to escape into easy, cheap words has been strong.
I am not sure why. Perhaps it is because I am feeling the stress of the changes happening in my little world. I think at least a part of it is spiritual backlash from writing this blog.
I hear that siren song often throughout my day, but especially right as the children go down for their afternoon naps. Alone in the house – it would take 10 minutes to download a library book onto my Kindle. My husband would never have to know. I would only read one. I could stop whenever I wanted to. Besides, I deserve a break.

And then, I look over at my dining table, and I see this –

Picture credit

I see a daily reminder of the sacrifice Christ made – of the cross He has called me to bear along with Him.

And so I take dirty dishes to the sink and begin to wash. I sit and compose a card to a dear friend far away. I began to busy myself with the work of following Christ – by serving my family, loving those He sends my way. I fight sin with work – I fight it with busy hands and a busy heart. I fight it with prayer – prayer for you.

I am praying for you today, ladies. I have started a journal filled with the names of all the women that have written on this blog – and I plan on letting you know when God brings you to mind. I plan on sending out a message to you via Twitter when I pray (and I promise I will never give away your name, I will only use the alias you have written under). Feel free to follow me if you would like.

And please keep me in prayer also. Some days the fight is very hard. I cannot tell you how much I rely on the prayers of the Body of Christ.

What about you? What sings a siren song to you? How do you fight the good fight?

Kept in Him,

Choosing to bend

There it is again. The argument. It used to be the same one, but these days it can be almost anything.
We both grow grumpy. And grumpy turns into silent. Silent looks like backs turned in bed – sleep a long ways off.

My feelings are hurt. We don’t see life the same way. And hurt feelings make me stiff. I began to recount the many grievances I hold. I remember that thing he did a few days ago. I had forgotten it, but now I remember. I count up how many days its been since we’ve had sex. I start to say those dangerous “always” and “never” words. My heart grows colder. My soul whispers “No, not me. I will not be the one to give.”
Growing soft is so difficult to do. My pride, my hurt, my self-righteous anger get in the way. The distance between us in that bed, a distance my hand could so easily reach across, grows miles wide.

How to bend in such a moment? How to be the one to curl my body, soft, around his and whisper the words of reconciliation?
We are in that season, the one where leaves are falling off and we see so starkly that beneath the green we really are very different. What brought us together, anyway? How could we not know how much there was to divide? It seems that every day brings a new topic we do not see eye-to-eye on. As spring blooms around us, as days grow warm and long, our hearts grow stiff and cold.
I look at the children we have made together – their sweet smiles and curl-locked hair exploring the world with wonder and delight. Will this be the last hold that draws us together? In years to come, as they chase their dreams, will I find myself living with a stranger?

The rigors of life – the bills, the long work hours, the never-ending laundry and dishes that pile high. This is the stuff our life is made of now. Our children are young – they require so much work. Diligent work. Repetitive work. Who has the time to find a common ground? We have been married long enough to have changed. But are our changes bringing us closer? Or further apart?

So here we are.
Different opinions.
Different interests.
Different sex drives.

So much different. What is the same?

And my back is still stiff. And I rehearse all of these things in my head – all of these questions loom large, like a mountain, ominous and frightening.And yet…
The mountain is mostly of my own making. I see the bare branches and forget that it is just a season. I have forgotten that we both crave sunshine, need air, bud green.

You’ve seen it, haven’t you? The flower that has been beaten down by the rain? And yet, when the sun comes out, it finds its life and strength again. And that flower lifts up it’s face and grows tall again. I want to be like that.
I want the ability to bend and sway – I want the softness that is true strength.

Help me.
I whisper into the darkness.

And I choose to bend. I choose to curl my body around his. To take his hand. To say “I am sorry”, or “I was being petty”, or “I am with you”.
What do you choose to do today?



A coffee chat: Wife or Mom?

Hi friends! Every so often I so, so wish that I could pull you across my computer screen and sit and drink coffee with you and ask you questions. I so wish I could meet you all face-to-face! I know you have experiences and wisdom I need. So, I do the next best thing. I ask you to make some coffee (or tea, or hot chocolate, or even just a cup of water) and sit with me and help me ponder a question, and maybe glean some wisdom in the process.

Will you join me? I would make scones, but I am fasting sugar for Lent (and yes, it’s really hard). So instead I will invite you to have a cracker with me. And probably some cheese. And maybe an apple for good measure.

So here is my question:
I have recently been pondering my life’s priorities, and realizing that my “mom” role is far, far, far outweighing my “wife” role. In fact, the “mom” hat on my head feels fairly stuck. I do have two children – one who is just figuring out how to talk and the other who can’t even crawl. So suffice it to say I am in the thick of things where being a mom is concerned. I know that some of this is simply seasonal. However, I really am at a loss for how to do better, right where I am at, in putting my husband where he belongs. The last thing I need to do is make him a “third child” (and I believe that viewing him that way is disrespectful and wrong).

So I would love your thoughts. How do you make sure that your husband knows he is your second most-important priority? How do you wrench the “mom” hat off your head? I would love to share your battle stories and your wisdom.

So come make a cuppa and let’s chat.


On life right now

Hello dear friends,

I just wanted to give you a quick update. Over the past few months I have tried to post three times a week, and it has been a wonderful challenge for me. As time has passed, however, I have felt more and more pressure to become one of the (amazing) bloggers who posts regularly and always has something amazing to say. This pressure weighs on me almost continually right now, and I have decided that it’s just silly. I started this blog to be a voice where there was no voice. I wanted to connect with other women and find a place of community. I wrote because I couldn’t talk, and I wrote because I really wanted to be having coffee with you amazing ladies. I have no real aspirations to be the next “big” marriage blogger. God will do what He will do with this little space. But I am letting go of the pressure to always have something amazing to say. My heart desires to write, and I know that the discipline of it can be a good thing. But I have two sweet little children who need me too, and of course the husband I am always writing so often about! I will still be here, and still be writing, but it may not be quite as often as before. Also, I always read the comments and my emails, but please give me some time to reply – I promise to, it just may take me a while.

The best way to know when I have written (rather than just randomly coming to check), is to follow me on Twitter or by RSS feed. You can also sign up to get emailed updates – just enter your email address under the “Follow Blog Via Email” on the sidebar to the right of the blog.

I want you all to know how much you are in my prayers and my heart. Your marriages are often on my mind, and I pray those of you whose names I know and many of you who I just know by story. I pray grace over you. I pray peace for your hearts. I pray miracles for your marriages. More than anything, I pray you would know Christ’s love and find yourself more engaged by His glory every day.
Please continue to pray for me too. My little family is in the middle of quite a few life changes, which are wonderful, but busy and time-consuming. We need wisdom and grace to approach the days ahead.

Finally, if there are any burning questions or topics you would like me to blog about, will you let me know?

Here’s to many good days ahead, Annabel