Hope is the Lump in Your Throat

You can live in hope or you can live in hopelessness. Or you can merely exist in numbness devoid of hope in any form. This was my chosen method for fifteen long years. Shutting down my emotions eased the agony of an emotionally abusive marriage. Some days I could almost forget it was there. I learned how to hide my scars and secrets. I functioned well. I did the best I could to protect my children. I didn’t know from what at the time. Just that I needed to be more than enough for them.

For me, numbness relieved some of the suffering some of the time. That is what made it a viable survival technique. However, it also reduced my ability to experience positive emotions. You cannot choose which feelings to avoid and which ones to embrace. It is all or nothing.

Unlike the day I chose numbness over hopelessness, I did not make a conscious decision to leave numbness behind in search of a hope filled life. It was my Heavenly Father that set me on that path. But before I could find hope, it was necessary for me to sink into the despair of hopelessness again. You see, God can and will reach down and pull us out of the miry pit, but He can’t do that if we are content to be stuck in the sludge. Often God will set a plan in motion that brings us to our knees in desperation where our only option is to call out to Him.

It is overwhelming and terrifying to have the bandaids pulled off your carefully concealed wounds and watch the bleeding resume all over again. The pain is just as intense the second time around. I wept. I prayed. Or more accurately, I brought the broken and shattered pieces of my heart to God. I did not ask God to mend the fragments. I did not ask God to heal my pain. I simply cried that I didn’t want to hurt anymore. That was it. No requests for love, joy, peace or hope for my future. That was an impossible prayer, a far away dream that I didn’t dare put into words able to betray me. Asking not to hurt anymore was difficult enough.

I recently read a description in Brene Brown’s book “Daring Greatly” of what vulnerability feels like. Someone described it as “A lump in my throat and a knot in my chest.” And I thought, yes, that is also what the beginning of hope feels like. When hope was first offered to me it emerged as a tiny ball in the pit of my stomach, ascended to my chest, my throat, and finally became a pressure behind my eyes that I fought to keep there. Behind my eyes. Where I could deny it and push it away again. Not betraying me by leaking down my cheeks to be seen and felt. My mind fought the possibility of hope, but my body believed and responded before the rest of me was able.

At one time or another you have been advised to listen to your body. Pay attention to its signals. Sleep when you are tired. Eat when you are hungry. Drink when you are thirsty. So, I ask, why not hope when your body is desiring the promise of healing?

Hope is challenging. Hope takes courage. But hope will not disappoint when you place it in the hands of our Abba Father, the One who will wipe every precious tear from your eyes.

Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:5

An Apology to a Brave Man

My husband is a brave man. He has been reading my blog posts even though he is aware that the words he reads will in all likelihood pierce his heart as he continues to learn of the effects his pornography addiction has had on me and our children.

After reading Hope is Scary, he gently brought to my attention an error that I had made in expressing his feelings in my story. My husband was disappointed to not consummate our marriage on our wedding night. I am grateful for his correction as it has taught me a valuable lesson early in the communicating of my story. I am telling my story, not his, and although the two are closely intertwined as our story, I cannot presume to know his feelings and thoughts on all the situations I may write about.

I wrote in truth my perception and feelings based on my reality and memories. And I will continue to do so because it is the truth and reality of the life I have lived. What I will no longer do is transfer my perceptions onto my husband as being his truth.

I apologize to my husband, my biggest fan and supporter, for this unintentional yet hurtful blunder.

And I apologize to tamarshope and the readers of Tears in a Bottle for the inaccuracy. It is my hope that you will extend grace to me as I stumble and learn to find my voice. It is my hope that you will continue along with me and my husband as we walk hand in hand with each other and God on our healing journey.

 

Hope is Scary

Hope is scary. Hope is risky. Hope hurts. Sometimes excruciatingly.

Hope is often a neatly wrapped up package extended to us, the broken and hurting, to offer encouragement and comfort. Just as I did to you in my first post on this blog. And sometimes that works. But I know all too well that hope is not always the promise of delightful butterflies, colourful rainbows, sparkling unicorns and cuddly kittens. Hope is a nice word comparable to love, faith, joy, peace. Inspiring expressions that confused and frustrated my deeply wounded soul. The very idea of hope brought me despair and pain because that is what experience taught me. Hope was useless.

I once had hope. Dreams. An expectation of a happy life. And then I got married. At age twenty, along with our four month old baby we became an instant family. Two days after the wedding, I moved 3,000 km away from my family, friends, church and all that was familiar to me. New adventures awaited us all! It didn’t take me long to discover these “adventures” were beyond the imaginings of any new bride.

We did not consummate our marriage on our wedding night. Or the night after. Even though my parents had gifted us a hotel room for the weekend and babysitting services. I had naturally expected that we would. We had not been together for several months. I was disappointed. He wasn’t. My disappointment grew in the following days, weeks, months. His didn’t. It soon became apparent to me that I was no longer desired sexually or otherwise. Therefore, I was no longer desirable or lovable. I felt helpless to improve the situation. Nothing that I said or did changed anything. During the next ten years, hope faded away until there was nothing left but despair and the immeasurable pain of a despondent, broken spirit. I was now hopeless.

A person cannot live in hopelessness forever. There will come a time when something needs to change. Ten years into my shell of a marriage, I celebrated my thirtieth birthday. I looked back at the previous decade of my life, grieved the loss of my twenties, and decided I was not able to continue living in hopelessness any longer. My marriage was destroying me.  I was disappearing.

I did not choose hope. That would have hurt too much. Instead, I chose numbness. Numbness was the safest way to protect myself. Hope would have involved change and required me to open my heart to a possibility of something, of anything, of I didn’t know what, and that idea was incomprehensible and frightening to me. My shattered heart was too fragile to seek something so unknown and uncertain. A flicker of hope? I snuffed it out before it even had a chance to ignite.

You see, I understand that sometimes hope is just too hard. Hope is risky. Hope is scary. And so, when I tell you there is hope, it is because I have found it to be true.

There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off. Proverbs 23:18

So Glad to Meet You

My name is not Cynthia. Well, that is not entirely true. My birth certificate says it is, but no one has ever identified me by that name. Well, that isn’t entirely true either. When producing my passport, the agent will undoubtedly call me Cynthia as that is the name printed there. But all that does is elicit my blank stare which isn’t at all suspicious when travelling to another destination. And if you were to attempt to get my attention by shouting “Hi Cynthia” to me I would not turn my head, simply because I wouldn’t know that you were. I tell you this so you can stop crossing off the list in your mind of any Cynthias that you may know. I am not her. I also tell you this so that we may begin our journey together today with truthfulness and no traces of deception between us.

I admit that when I read the post introducing me as a guest writer for this blog, I had quite the mix of emotions. It is an absolute honour and privilege to be invited into this valuable blog community where we can heal, grow and learn together. I was completely unprepared for the gracious and kind words used to describe me and my writing. This Cynthia woman sounded amazing. And then came the moments of doubt and fear. Could I really do this? Will I be enough? Will people be disappointed? How could I possibly live up to your expectations when it was me that you were going to meet? And so by writing one and a half paragraphs on this blog so far I have already been shown two truths. One, that the telling of our stories is an integral part of our ongoing healing process and transformation into the person that God created and intended each one of us to be. And secondly, that yes, by the grace of God and through the redemption of Jesus Christ, I am enough.  And so are you.

If you are wondering what I will be writing on this blog, so am I. Because I will be leaving that decision up to God. But what I can tell you now is that you will hear of our mighty God’s miraculous healing power that has redeemed the untold pain and despair of my life and marriage. You will hear how beautifully God has designed every detail of the healing that He has available for us. You will hear that I am a wife of a man recovering from sex addiction and intimacy anorexia, married for 27 years, the last two happily. And I would be amiss if I did not tell you that I am the blessed mother of two awesome young adult children and a beautiful daughter-in-law. But most importantly, I am an extravagantly loved and cherished daughter of God which took me nearly 46 years to discover.

I am Cynthia. But if you are reading this, then quite possibly so are you. Or maybe it is the woman sitting beside you at church, your neighbour, or co-worker. It may even be your best friend, daughter or mother. There are many Cynthias living each day in invisible pain and shame.  Many Cynthias that need to know, and not only know, but believe that there is hope and healing for the wounds and pain they have kept hidden for so long. Because there is. Oh, there is. And my prayer for you is that as we journey together you will open your heart enough to glimpse the hope and healing that is within your reach. No matter how faint the glimmer may be, there is One that can and will take the smallest offering brought to Him and turn it into more than you can ever imagine. I know because His name is Jesus and He has become my best friend.

Look at the nations and watch, and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told. Habakkuk 1:5

Welcome a New Writer!

I have invited a guest writer to my blog and although she will introduce herself in the coming days and weeks and she shares her story and her heart, I would like to take a moment to say a few words about her and to welcome her to Tears in A Bottle. 

A few years ago when my life seemed to unravel I often thought; “I’m so alone! No one else gets it!”

And then God brought Cynthia into my life!! And though our stories may be different there is a common thread that runs through them.

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Cynthia is a talented writer, a wife and mom and a dear friend. She sees, not only with her eyes, but with heart and spirit.

She writes about the invisible grit, the soul parts that we feel but can’t see. And she does so with gracefulness, honesty, and whispered words of faith.

She is a gift to me.

Cynthia’s honesty challenges me. Truly. And yet, her honesty shows me grace, not shame.

I am grateful for that about her. Over the last couple of years as I’ve come to know Cynthia and have read what she writes, I kept thinking; “this has got to be shared!”

 

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And so from time to time I would mention this blog and ask if she would consider writing and sharing her story here…..because I know there are many who need her words of encouragement, life and yes, even challenge.

It’s a scary thing to write on a blog, but she was willing to listen to God’s voice…and in His timing move forward in faithful obedience…knowing He’s right there beside her.

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Really, for all of us, whether it is with a pencil or a paintbrush or a mixing bowl or a microphone or a dust cloth, an empty page, a blank canvas or a sheet of music.

They are tools….and we are called create.

Friends, for each of us, it’s time to peel back the layers, remove the veil and find the art – the gifts – deep within. Uncover them. Dust them off. They are yours. Unique to you.

And like Cynthia, in His timing, we use them. I encourage each of you, use your gifts to influence those around you. This is your art.

You will find that Cynthia writes with feeling, depth and truth. You will see glimpses of her heart through her words, her writing is her art.

Beautiful

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I hope that you will welcome Cynthia and read her words and hear her heart, because through them God will impact your life.

Thank you Cynthia for saying “Yes” to the invitation to share your heart.

Thank you for your obedience Cynthia and the legacy you’re leaving. Thank you for sharing with us your art. 

Where have I been?

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I checked my email this week and found an email asking me how I am doing? Where have I been?
I know I have sort of vanished from this blog….for a few different reasons, some of which I will share here.

 

If you have followed my blog you will know that my marriage hit a hard place a couple of years ago….it was a very difficult, painful and personal time. Thankfully we continue to work through and face some issues in our marriage….it isn’t perfect, but then neither are we, but we are progressing and together caring for each others hearts while choosing to heal, personally and together.

Amid the trouble, I shared some things here on the blog….but soon found I needed to set up a security password, mainly to block one person from reading. Why? Because it happened to be a person that was part of my church, and someone who used what I shared against my husband.

Not helpful when you are working through things in your marriage.

I may never understand why this person used my own words to twist and bend them to support their own “agenda”.  It hurt me very deeply and it caused me to feel unsafe…..especially in my own church.

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Fellowship with believers can be one of life’s sweetest desserts. There’s nothing quite like being with a group of people who love you, warts and all. There’s great peace in sharing life with folks who are there to weep when you weep and to rejoice when you rejoice. In times of discouragement, you can rest in the comfort and prayers of sisters and brothers who will help bear your burdens. In times of weakness they will be there to lift you up.

I’ve yet to experience that kind of church, as in a specific body of believers, meaning a church as in being something you can go to as in a specific event, location or organized group.

I think Jesus looks at the church quite differently. He didn’t talk about it as a place to go to, but a way of living in relationship to him and to other followers of His. And in this way I have experienced it.

But what about the flip side.  The glory of fellowship among believers makes its failures all the more painful. It always hurts when somebody is mean to you, when someone wounds you.

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And if that person happens to be a  brother or sister in Christ, then the pain is magnified several times over.

One of the essential and wonderful characteristics of fellowship is vulnerability, the opening of your heart to others as they open their hearts to you.

But vulnerability can come back to bite you painfully.life4

The word “vulnerable” stems from the Latin meaning “capable of being wounded.”

If you’re vulnerable you’ve let down your guard, which means unkind words and deeds don’t bounce off your shell. Instead, they pierce your heart.

Some of my most traumatic times in life have been in the context of the body of Christ.

And this grieves my spirit.

So after some time I did what Jesus asks us to do when we are sinned against by another brother or sister in Christ.

I confronted…in love….my heart motive was love.

The definition of confrontation is: to “regain” (the Greek verb means “gain” or “earn”) the one who wronged you.

Jesus could not be more obvious about the purpose of the confrontation. It isn’t about getting even, or, worse, getting revenge. It isn’t about putting the offender in his or her place. It surely isn’t about punishment. And it isn’t about winning an argument. Rather, it’s about winning a person. It’s about rebuilding a broken relationship with the one who sinned against you. The goal of confrontation is genuine reconciliation.

But this goal can be very hard to keep in mind when you’ve been hurt by someone. My flesh wanted its own pound of flesh. I wanted to make the other person pay, or at least grovel for a while. But if I go to confront someone with motives like these, I will be unable to do what Jesus asks of me, to reconcile and forgive.

Forgiveness is deciding that I won’t get even, that I won’t punish the offender either through my actions or inactions.

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Jesus is not asking me to pretend as if the hurt has completely disappeared. This sort of healing process takes time, and forgiveness contributes to the healing, but it’s not the same as feeling better.

Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation, though it is almost always part of reconciliation. Forgiving someone is giving the offense and hurt to God. I can do this no matter what the offending party does. Reconciliation, on the contrary, requires that the other person own the wrong and repent of it. Reconciliation, therefore, is dependent on the other person. Forgiveness is not.

The command to forgive is a very hard command to obey, isn’t it?

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If someone has really hurt us, the last thing we want to do is to forgive. We’d much rather hang onto our pain as a means of self-protection. We’d much rather grovel in self-pity than regain relationship with the offender. Yet Jesus couldn’t be much clearer. He says that if you have anything against anyone – and that’s pretty inclusive, don’t you think? Anything against anyone! – you should forgive. Period. Forgiveness is scary because it means taking down the walls that protect us, and we’re understandably afraid to do this.

And so in conclusion, I have forgiven…..but, that does not mean I trust this person completely or even at all. And I need to do what I can to guard my heart. Which in this case for me, right now, means choosing to not blog…..

Do I miss blogging? Most definitely, but at the same time my life took a turn after our marriage began to heal that threw me for a loop…..changes, some for the better, and some that caused my faith to waver….I am still wading and trying to stay afloat through the life events that rocked my world.

So, will I continue this blog or shut it down…..I’m not sure…..it is something I will pray about in 2017.

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