Tag Archive | miracles

Pray Anyway

You don’t have to believe in God to pray. That’s what our Sexual Recovery Therapist told my husband as he outlined the sex addiction recovery program my husband was about to begin. Having a day bookended by prayer wouldn’t have fazed me too much. As a Christian, I didn’t spend as much time talking to God as I could or should have. Twice a day would have been a stretch. But something I would have readily agreed to as a part of my recovery program.

And yet it wasn’t me seeking healing from a pornography addiction, compulsive masturbation and intimacy anorexia. It was my husband. A man who did not believe in the existence of God.

I was highly doubtful that my non-believing husband would agree to pray. My eyes had been glued to our counsellor’s face, grasping every bit of hope his words were offering us. The hope began to fade as I apprehensively glanced at my husband, anticipating his resistance to this instruction to talk to God every morning and every night. He was hesitant.  I saw the conflict on his face. Desiring freedom, but struggling to accept that prayer was part of the answer.

Our counsellor recognized the wrestling occurring in my husband’s heart. As he offered the encouragement that “You don’t have to believe in God to pray,” my husband slowly nodded his head and agreed to the plan.

I don’t know if my husband did pray every morning and evening. Or if he did, what words and emotions those awkward prayers must have included. What I do know is that twenty six days later, my husband asked me if I would begin praying together with him as part of an exercise to rebuild intimacy in our marriage.

I avoided answering the question. On my own, I pleaded, cried, spewed to God throughout my day. Now it was me wrestling with this strange idea to pray together. Although my husband had begun attending church with me the previous weeks, he was not yet ready to accept his need for a Saviour. And even though he was fully embracing his recovery program, my heart was unsure of just what exactly I was committing myself to by agreeing to establish spiritual intimacy while my pain was still so raw and fresh and our future unknown.

He pressed for an answer. His vulnerability was both endearing and unnerving. He was opening his heart to me, and to the world, and inviting me to do the same. A risky endeavour for both of us. That he was willing to take. Which, in my mind, distorted the dynamics of our relationship.  It had always been much easier and more comfortable for me to portray my husband as the villain. But now, as his character was consistently shifting in a positive direction, it ultimately required me to adjust alongside him lest we exchange roles and I become the monster in his place. I said yes.

He took my hands in his. And then his voice led the way in uniting our three hearts together in one intimate conversation. It wasn’t as scary as I had anticipated. I faltered in my words. In expressing my true feelings and thoughts. It wasn’t an eloquent prayer. But it was us. And I told my husband that night that even if we don’t say the right words, God knows what the prayer in our heart is.

We prayed together the next night too. And the following one. And for every day since that pivotal night on January 29, 2015. Even when circumstances physically separate us, praying jointly remains a steadfast component of our bedtime routines. By phone, text or email it happens.  One of the most loving, romantic gestures I have received was a prayer tucked in an envelope and carefully placed on my pillow the first time we were apart. Another cherished memory was praying together in a plane somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean in the minutes before midnight to ensure our commitment to praying together daily didn’t lapse because of a time zone change.

And then after seventeen months of praying daily together, a hiccup occurred. And this time, only one of us was able to pray. But it was enough…….

My husband was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Conscious, but with complete vision loss and confusion. When I arrived in the emergency room, and was given the opportunity to talk to him, I approached the bed, anticipating that my arrival would calm him. I gently told him I was there. He asked me who I was. I said “Cynthia.” He didn’t know who that was. I said “Your wife.” And he replied that he did not know my voice. He became even more upset and agitated than he already was and began to cry.

I started praying out loud for him. Right there in that emergency room. And as my words flowed, I watched the tension ease from his body and relax.

The next day, he told me that when I started praying, that was when he knew it was me. His heart and altered mental state recognized me by the words and cadence of my prayer. That was only possible because we had been praying together daily. And because I had learned how to pray out loud and was bold enough to use the new skills God had been developing in me. A year and a half earlier, my husband never would have known I was at his side. Or that God was.

My husband was heart broken in the following days that he had missed praying with me that night. I assured him that he hadn’t. I may have been the only one who spoke the words, but our hearts were united with each other and God.

Pray anyway. It just may lead to your own blessing and miracle. 

Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. 1 Chronicles 16:11

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Saying “I Do” Again, and This Time Meaning It

As I have been writing the story of my healing journey through my husband’s sex addiction, intimacy anorexia, our joint infidelities and the restoration of our marriage, I have mostly done so in a chronological order. But I have left out two significant events from the first year of our recovery. Purposefully. And yet both situations were answers to prayer, evidence of God’s supernatural healing power, and yes, miracles.

And although they are not secrets to our family, close friends, and in one case, our community and the world of Facebook, I have held the precious memories close to my heart. Maybe too close. Unwilling to taint the experience, perhaps lessen it is some way by not being able to eloquently articulate and express how deeply meaningful and profound it was to me. To my husband. To us. Worried that by sharing it with someone who doesn’t understand or appreciate the bittersweet celebration, it loses its value. Which is absurd. But not much different than tucking away and hiding a favourite, much loved gift rather than using it for fear of it becoming broken or damaged.

In my last post, The Case of the Missing Wedding Rings, I indicated that my husband and I had recently celebrated three years of wearing wedding rings.  But we did more than just present each other with new rings that day. We also renewed our wedding vows. We had numbly acknowledged our twenty fifth wedding anniversary four months prior. This was the real celebration.

I purchased a new dress. Bold, colourful, and flowery to match my growing confidence in life, God, my husband, marriage, and me. My husband, of his own volition, bought himself a dress shirt for the occasion. I never asked him to, so it pleased me that he made that effort.

As this commitment ceremony was only for us and our Father/Father-in-law God, we privately and informally held it on a Wednesday night with only our pastor, assistant pastor and their wives as witnesses. All good friends who had faithfully poured support and love into our lives and with whom we could joyfully celebrate the victorious testimony of God’s transformation in our lives and marriage.

Committing my heart to my husband and my marriage to God while standing in the Himalayas, or more accurately, surrounded by styrofoam mountains and a backdrop of Mount Everest covering the wall for the upcoming Vacation Bible School, added an element of fun and lightness to a deeply powerful experience. I don’t think when I was twenty years old, naively standing at the altar saying “I do”, that I fully understood the true meaning and complexity of wedding vows. I certainly had no vision of the struggle ahead of us with pornography, a sexless marriage and adultery. But honestly, in retrospection, the words were just words I was supposed to say on my way to a happily ever after with my Prince Charming. This second time was truly an intentional commitment. Every word and tear savoured and treasured. Of which there were many flowing from my husband’s eyes and heart throughout the ceremony.

Arriving at the church that night, my nervous stomach was competing with the peace, joy and gratitude reigning in my heart. My emotions had been going a little crazy all day, changing from minute to minute, but always solid in my decision. There was a little sadness at what my marriage had been, but unbelievable thankfulness at what it now was, and where it was going. The blanket of forgiveness and grace covering us was unexplainable. The past was truly put in the past. The only thing that mattered was today and tomorrow. A gift that continues.

We concluded the ceremony with a song that a friend sang at our wedding. Morning Has Broken. I loved it then, but it was lost in the blur of a wedding. However, this time, in these circumstances, listening to Third Day’s version captivated my heart.

I just paused from my writing to listen to the song. At this moment, the lyrics and their significance have me darn near tears. I have been overcome with emotion just writing this post and re-reading an email I sent to a friend the following day. I have never seen, or again written, as many exclamation marks, wows, and praises to God as there are in that email. Pure joy and exuberance at the gift and blessing of my healing journey.

Which is why I haven’t attempted to share our vow renewal on my blog yet. I just can’t adequately express how powerfully overwhelming it was at the time, and the memory still is. I am fearful of the possible reaction, judgment, eye rolling, misunderstanding, skepticism, and well, even indifference, to something that I deeply treasure.  A tarnishing of my miracle and God’s goodness.

But it is a miracle that needs to be told. A rejoicing in answer to prayer. Two broken people restored. A marriage rebuilt and redeemed. We hear about the destruction and messes all the time. I read about beautiful, strong, courageous women fighting for their healing, partners and relationships. And yet so many people are unable to believe that a marriage destroyed by sexual betrayal can be stronger and more beautiful than ever.

We show up every single day with our battle armour on and recovery tools in hand to guard and protect our victory. The battle has been won, but it will never be over. Truthfully, there are scars that remain. But as they fade, they no longer haunt us. And I just want you to know that.

You are the light of the world, like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:14-16

My Jingle Bells Miracle = Healing from Addiction

Last Sunday evening, seventeen people from my church gathered in a circle in the church’s basement to sing Christmas carols. There is nothing particularly extraordinary about that, except that one of them was my husband.

What makes that extraordinarily special is that three years ago, there would have been few instances that brought my husband into a church at all. And certainly not to sing. And even more certainly, not to sing with me, his wife.

Four Christmases ago, my husband did not believe in God. He also did not place much importance in his wedding vows and marriage. He was ensnared in his fantasy world of pornography and masturbation. There was no room for me.

My husband has always grudgingly attended Christmas Eve church services with me. For that I am grateful. It was a gift to me that our family was together, even though his heart was still far away. For that evening, his physical presence brought me the semblance of the regular loving family that my heart craved. I didn’t have to make any excuses for why he wasn’t with us. I could pretend we were happy. For this night, we were worth his time, and I clung to that offering.

Things have changed in the last few years. God revealed the extent of my husband’s sex addiction to both of us in the weeks before that Christmas three years ago. It was a Christmas of profound sadness, heavy hearts, and utter brokenness. He was a mess. My heart was shattered. We didn’t know how to clean any of it up. And I didn’t know if we could. He hadn’t valued my heart, and now that it was in little jagged pieces, I held the shards tightly in my hand.

In the following weeks, God gently unclenched my grasp. He tenderly took each precious fragment, began the process of restoration and gave me the strength to offer piece after piece to my husband. While this was happening, God was also doing a miraculous work in softening and mending my husband’s heart. God was making us a safe place for each other.

My husband regularly attends church with me. At my side. But not just physically. Also emotionally, mentally and spiritually. That is my gift.

It is also my miracle. And his miracle. Because as he freely joined me in singing Christmas carols last weekend, my heart was full. For so many reasons. His recovery from sex addiction. My healing from sexual betrayal trauma and emotional abuse. The redemption of our marriage. The celebration of baby Jesus coming to earth so that one day I could gloriously have my sin and shame washed away.

Those are big things. Really big, significant things. But sometimes, when you are healing and recovering from addiction, abuse or betrayal, seemingly inconsequential incidents are worthy of acknowledgement and celebration too.

Like jingle bells. I wasn’t afraid to ring jingle bells that night. I wasn’t worried that I would shake them wrong. I wasn’t self conscious of looking or feeling foolish to my husband or others. The possibility of receiving disapproval did not fill me with anxiety and paralyze me like it would have in the past. I wanted to ring jingle bells, so I did. And it made me happy.

Standing beside my husband, united as a couple, singing and ringing bells with abandon. Freedom, joy, peace, and acceptance. Acceptance of each other. Acceptance of ourselves. Just as we were. And just as we are. My Christmas miracle.

These words were taken from my Jesus Calling devotional this morning: “As you persevere along the path I (Jesus) have prepared for you, depending on My strength to sustain you, expect to see miracles – and you will. Miracles are not always visible to the naked eye, but those who live by faith can see them clearly.”

I can see my miracles clearly. Sometimes they sound just like jingle bells.

He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. Job 5:9

Sundogs and Rainbows – or When God Sends a Hug and a Promise

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. God sends me rainbows. I’m not kidding. Or imagining things. Rainbows have shown up too many times, at just the right moment when my heart needed reassurance of God’s care and presence in a situation for them to be a coincidence. Sure, rainbows have randomly occurred on days that are just any other days for me. And then I can smile at how marvellously God has designed every aspect of creation for our delight. There is always a message in the beauty of creation for my heart to receive.

And then one day I received a sundog. Disclaimer that this is not scientifically correct, but the most understandable way to describe a sundog if you haven’t seen one would be that it is a rainbow on either side of the sun that is formed in cold weather by ice crystals. Winter’s rainbow.

And so it was, that frosty January afternoon as our truck left town and turned onto the highway, a brilliant sundog appeared ahead of us. This was only a few days after hearing the words from my husband “I am a sex addict.” The reason we were unaccustomedly in a vehicle together going to the city, or anywhere for that matter, was for individual counselling appointments with a sex addictions recovery therapist. My first. His second.

The atmosphere inside the truck was as heavy and still as the frigid air outside. But we were together. And that meant something. Especially when I looked up and saw the sundog. God’s hug in that moment. For me. God’s promise that He was with me holding my hand on this journey He was setting before me. The unmistakable sign that I was not alone. That whatever may or may not happen, God was with me. I would be okay.

God has signs all around us all the time. Some are obvious. Others we don’t recognize for what they are. But the miracles and wonders are there. I call these “God moments.” A friend describes them as “God-incidences.” God knows exactly what will speak words of comfort, peace, strength, courage and hope to my soul and to yours. He knows what will make each of our hearts smile when we need it most. A hummingbird, a smile from a stranger, a flower growing in an unexpected place, a meaningful compliment, a starry night……. a sundog on a desperation filled day.

Did the knot in my stomach untangle? No. Did the lump in my throat disappear? No. But the warmth of God’s embrace allowed me to take a deep breath, look heavenward, and thank God for the inevitable and much needed change that was beginning in my life. And as an added blessing, He brought my husband along for the ride too.

For I am the Lord , your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear, I will help you. Isaiah 41:13