Tag Archive | pornography

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

Advertisements

My Fight to Reclaim Sexual Intimacy from Porn

Last week I prayed for God to take my hope away. I was walking down the street, chatting with Him when it happened. It wasn’t one of those times when my eyes were blinded by tears and I was in danger of walking into parked cars or falling into a ditch. When the words silently appeared on my tongue, I wasn’t expecting them. It wasn’t a total surprise as I had been struggling to hold onto hope for awhile. And yet I wasn’t in a place of desperation or undue distress. Mostly my heart was weary of waiting.

I tasted the words for a few moments. Unsure of whether to allow them to remain or to quickly retract them. I felt a twinge of guilt, and perhaps hypocrisy, at the realization that I love to offer hope, encouragement and support to others, particularly women healing from the devastation of sexual betrayal trauma and abuse. And yet I was ready to give up.

I allowed my prayer to linger on hold a bit longer. And then I decided it could stay. Which interrupted my conversation with God as my spirit tried to make sense of what to do or say next. I felt sadness, but also relief. In my mind, if hope was removed from my heart, it was possible that the disappointment, discouragement and anxiety woven through it would also leave. I imagined that once hope was eliminated that would also take care of the longing in my heart for more.  The possibility of contentment and fulfillment was within my reach if I could just lower my expectations, be grateful for what I currently had, and just let whatever would be, be.

And by “whatever” I mean sexual intimacy. There I said it. It is hard for me to say. It is still challenging for me to admit that it matters so much to me. That my soul aches for a physical, emotional and spiritual connection with my husband. That my sexual desires and needs continue to hurt me and bring me shame. That my broken sexuality may never be satisfactorily healed. That I may never know what is supposedly so amazing about sex.

I’ve heard and read that sex is fabulous, blissful, rapturous, fun and even sacred. But I’ve never experienced that. Or maybe I have, and I just don’t know it. I wonder about that sometimes. If sexual ecstasy and fulfillment is just a product being expertly sold and I am expecting an outcome beyond its capability. Consequently, when I open the packaging, my unrealistic expectations inevitably lead to disappointment and frustration. Just like the marvellous kitchen gadgets on The Shopping Channel. Too good to be true. So you put it back in the box and place it in the corner of the basement with the shadows and spiders.

The only problem with that scenario is that I can’t reasonably return my sexuality to the stifling darkness it emerged from three years ago when I began healing and recovering from the soul crushing effects of my husband’s porn addiction and intimacy anorexia. There are times that I want to return to the safety of our previously sexless marriage. Where there is comfort in the anguish I know and not have to learn and adapt to a new pain. But with the recovery both my husband and I have made, and the incredible healing in other areas of our marriage, suppressing the fact that I was created and designed by God to be a sexual being just isn’t possible.

And really, I don’t want to. Most of the time I deeply desire the emotional, spiritual and physical intimacy of sex with the man I love and married. I yearn for a one flesh union with our bodies and our hearts. And because of that, there is a battle in my mind and a conflict in my soul between the longing for something I so desperately want, and the despair of believing it is unattainable.

Sexual intimacy is a gift uniquely designed by God for marriage with the intention of bonding a husband and wife to each other. And like any gift, neither I, or anyone else, is entitled to it. Our sexuality and intimacy has been reclaimed from the clutches of pornography and infidelity. But that is not the same as restoring it. It is somehow caught in the land of in between. No longer there, but not quite here. Just like resignedly biding time in an airport terminal. It makes no difference what city you are in, or even if you are coming or going. The journey started, and although you have a destination, you aren’t on the plane.

A few days ago, I prayed again. But not for hope. Rather for a vision and clarity of what is, could be, and never will be.  An acceptance, I suppose, of the amount of time and effort to put into nurturing and building a sexual relationship that perhaps has a limited distance. If my destination is further abroad, I want to enthusiastically run for the boarding gate tightly gripping my husband’s hand. But if my ticket is for right here, I need to find joy and contentment in the place I am, where we are together, and not resentfully and enviously look out the window at where the other couples are landing.

My husband is my gift from God. Freedom from his addiction an abundant blessing to both of us. My healing an unimaginable testament to God’s grace and power. The love, laughter, and joy of our rebuilt marriage a miracle.

My heart rejoices in God’s glory. Again and again throughout this journey to wholeness. I don’t want to lose sight of my numerous miracles because of the one that hasn’t happened. Yet.

Maybe I do want my hope back after all.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

My Hiding Place

Some days, well, most days, I feel an overwhelming need to escape to my hiding place. Sometimes I run, other times I limp. I have even crawled to my place of comfort, where my soul is soothed, even if only momentarily. This is where I peel off my protective bandage and expose the wounds of sexual betrayal and abuse to the fresh air.

 I often get mixed up with the what, where and who of my hiding place. And by mixed up, I mean I settle in and pitch my tent with the wrong thing, location or person in my attempt to relieve the pressure of my emotional pain.

The wrong thing is often obvious. Using alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, gambling to pacify the screams of the heart. But there are other methods of medicating emotional pain that may seem innocent enough, but the temporary release only infects and deepens the wound rather than heals it. Things such as food, shopping, TV, video games, romance books, over sleeping, busyness, etc. This is where my jar of peanut butter and jumbo size package of chocolate chips fits in.

My where is not so much an inappropriate place that I shouldn’t be, (although I do have places and gatherings I avoid that trigger negative emotions in me) but perhaps not being in the location I should be to face and process my pain. When my daughter moved away from home, her bedroom became my office. It is a wonderful sanctuary for me in many ways. It is where I do my daily devotions and Bible reading, where I write. But sometimes I retreat there instead of sitting on the couch in my living room with my husband confronting my inner turmoil.

My who. This is where I frequently muddle the order. I have many safe people with whom to connect for support and guidance. My recovery support group, counsellor, pastor, friends. My husband. God. All sources of refuge. But sometimes I share my pain with others instead of, or before, my husband because I still fear his rejection and abandonment. And sometimes I lay my pain and confusion at my husband’s feet before bringing them to God’s. As the wife of a recovering addict, there may be times when I need solid advice from a trustworthy source before tackling an issue with my husband. And my husband is the physical heart, arms and ears that God has provided me on earth. But……

God is my hiding place.

God is the One who knows me better than I know myself. And He loves me anyway. I find an overwhelming comfort in that knowledge that both calms and brings tears of wonder to my soul. Me and God. God and me. We have some special hideouts to hang out in when I need the safety, security, assurance and protection of His love and grace.

When my heart needs an infusion of peace and stillness, my Abba Daddy takes me by the hand and leads me to a treehouse nestled in a tranquil forest grove where the quiet beauty of His creation surrounds us. Rays of sunlight filtering through the vibrant green foliage. A gentle breeze. The sound of a stream rippling nearby. A curious chipmunk. The hurts and chaos of every day life melts away from my heart, mind and body as the soothing warmth of God’s presence envelops me in this place where no person or thing can find me. Where the sign on the treehouse reads No Pain Allowed.

There are other times when my heart is searching for acceptance and belonging. It is then that God and I gleefully build a magnificent blanket fort. Armed with our flashlights, a Bible, colouring books and pencil crayons, we huddle cozily together whispering and giggling, delighting in our companionship. As we share gummie bears, chocolate chip cookies, hot chocolate from a thermos, soft pillows and fuzzy blankets my heart is filled with contentment and joy that there is no other place God would rather be than right there with me. Just as I am. Just as we are.

This isn’t escapism. This isn’t avoidance. This is the promise that when the burdens of my bumpy healing journey begin to overtake me, God will provide a refuge and allow me time to rest. Sometimes minutes is all I need. Sometimes the minutes become days, or weeks. However long I need in my retreat, I emerge empowered with a calmer, stronger spirit ready to continue the daily battle of recovery. Victory belongs to team God and Cynthia.

You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7

Where is your hiding place? Or favourite place to hang out or visit? 

Who would you take with you? Or would you go alone?

What I Found When My Husband’s Porn Addiction Lost

A man. That’s what I found when my husband began to battle his porn addiction and intimacy anorexia. I found a broken, lost, little boy standing in his own puddle of tears make the courageous decision to grow up and face his pain rather than continue running from it.

A husband. I found a man who desired a wife with whom to share his heart, life and home. A man, who with determination and commitment, embarked on a daily quest to honour, respect, and love me, his wife.

A father to our children. I found a man willing to share parenting responsibilities. A man attempting to channel his remorse and regrets into repairing and building relationships with his children.

The seemingly logical follow-up to my previous post, What I Lost When My Husband’s Porn Addiction Won, would be a simple reversal of my list of losses. But that’s not how it works. Firstly, there is nothing simple and easy about healing from the effects of sexual betrayal trauma. But most importantly, my husband choosing to fight for healing and freedom from his wounds and addiction does not, and cannot, restore my heart and return everything to me that I lost. No matter how successful and miraculous his recovery journey is, it is his recovery journey.  When he triumphs over pornography, he wins.

Certainly, having a healing husband with consistent and believable recovery behaviours has made my life easier and things in our home flow more smoothly. He has created a supportive and loving environment conducive to my own healing. And yes, some of the losses that were dependant on his behaviour alone have been returned to me. Fidelity being one. And there are other losses, such as companionship, where his new participation in our relationship has provided me the opportunity to regain what I lost should I actively choose to accept the offering.

But the deep wounds of my emotional and spiritual brokenness are something that only I have the ability to heal. The removal of pornography from my husband’s life and our marriage does not magically restore my own self worth.  That is like expecting that if we both were injured in a car accident, the cast on my husband’s leg would mend my fractured arm. Addiction and sexual betrayal trauma are each a separate injury to a different person thereby requiring individual healing.

I have been diligently working on my recovery for three years. It has become a new and rewarding lifestyle. And because of that, many of the losses I suffered have been returned to me. I laugh more now than I remember doing at any other time in my life. Other losses are still a work in progress. Trust and intimacy take time to re-establish. And others, like learning to dream, haven’t yet arrived. But I believe they will. My path is leading me to wholeness.

What I found when my husband won, and his porn addiction lost, was a transformed man. The healing I have found in me would have occurred whatever the outcome of that struggle because my war is no longer against pornography. My battle is with my own heart and mind.

Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

All Pain Hurts – No Measuring Stick Required

When I first received an offering of hope and the opportunity to heal from sexual betrayal trauma, I desperately grasped the branch being held out to me, not knowing if it was strong enough to rescue me, or would snap from the weight of my despair. The answer didn’t really matter because I couldn’t imagine hurting more than I already was anyways.

Although I had experienced the soul crushing effects of my husband’s porn addiction and a sexless marriage for twenty five years, I was astoundingly ill informed about these topics. I was not in denial as much as I was ignorant and naïve. Which was not bliss. But did allow me to survive and function at a level that no one ever suspected the magnitude of emotional and sexual abuse occurring in my marriage. Not even me.

It’s not that I didn’t know something was very wrong with my marriage. It was just that I did nothing to gain a better understanding of the cause of the dysfunction. I lived with the symptoms without seeking a diagnosis until the pain became unbearable and numbing my emotions impossible.

And then wondrously, the mystery, the underlying cause of my shameful loneliness and sexual rejection was identified. My husband chose and preferred a fantasy world of pornography and masturbation over me. As hurtful as that revelation was, this new awareness was enlightening.

My husband met the criteria for both a sex addiction and intimacy anorexia. The intimacy disorder made sense. But I was confused that a man who intentionally shamed and berated his wife for having sexual needs and desires could be addicted to sex. I felt desperately alone.

Through counselling, reading recovery material, and attending a support group for partners of sex addicts, I received information that propelled me into a healing process. Although my pain was being validated, and the knowledge I gained was empowering, I still felt distressingly isolated in my abnormal situation.

The ache in my heart longed to find similarities to my story in the voices I read and heard. But it was rare. I needed to know that there was someone else like me. Someone who shared and understood that approximately 9,125 days of being sexually rejected by your husband was traumatic and a form of both sexual betrayal and sexual abuse. Someone who had found healing of her own damaged sexuality. But I couldn’t find her.

I began reading books written by women who had traversed the healing journey from the crippling effects of sexual betrayal trauma. I found encouragement, support and practical ways to navigate through the pain and chaos. I found beautiful testimonies of healing and restoration. I found evidence of God’s supernatural strength, love and guidance. But I didn’t find the details of their husband’s destructive behaviour and betrayal. I didn’t know what their husbands had specifically done. I didn’t find a way to compare and measure atrocities, to mark off behaviours on a checklist that would rate my experiences against anyone else’s. There was no ranking and winner in the pain department. All pain hurts.

I vowed that if I ever wrote my story, I would write with complete vulnerability and transparency. That every wound and scar would be open for the world to see. My motivation was not for sympathy, but rather to fight the darkness of isolation. There had to be another woman like me. And if I couldn’t find her, maybe she would find me.

And then I healed. And understood why the graphic details were missing. They weren’t important to the story. Or to my story. I have borne the consequences of the sinful behaviour inflicted upon me, but I did not cause it. Thus, the offenses are not mine to confess and recklessly proclaim to others. It is the journey from Point A to B that matters. The starting point need only provide a reference and introduction.

That doesn’t mean the many facets and layers of sexual betrayal are insignificant. For me, there were many specific words spoken and acting out behaviours from my husband that I needed to process to be able to heal from them. But the best place for that was with a counsellor or my husband. I chose to clean up the poison rather than spread it further.

There have been times, and will continue to be, when I share certain offenses of my husband’s betrayal and abuse with someone. When the generalities and vagueness just isn’t enough to break through the suffering. When one of us just needs the assurance that there is another person who “gets” it.  But I have found that those are the times God has connected two hurting women together with the purpose of bringing further healing and restoration to one or both of our hearts. When we are led by love, grace, forgiveness and compassion.

The most important part of my story isn’t what happened, but what I have learned from it, and how I allow God to use it to make me a better person.

I am learning to live my life with a new vulnerability and authenticity.  For me, that also includes this reminder from Neil T. Anderson – “Don’t forsake love in your eagerness to be honest.”

And in the words of Solomon:

“He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9

What I Lost When My Husband’s Porn Addiction Won

There have been many losses in my life created by my husband’s porn addiction and intimacy anorexia. Many things were blatantly stolen from me throughout my marriage leaving me dazed and confused. But others were a slower trickle that I didn’t even notice until the emptiness engulfed my soul.

Either way, I lost. And my husband’s addiction won. It wasn’t fair that I was an unknowing participant in a battle I knew nothing about it. I wasn’t prepared. I had no warning. I didn’t even know it was occurring. I repeatedly got knocked down, each time multiplying the losses and shattered shards of my heart. Until one day, I lay battered and crumpled on the floor. My opponent oblivious and uncaring that he and his addiction were the cause. On my knees, I cried out to Jesus for mercy and help. And then I rose unsteadily, turned around, and hobbled away from the ruins.

Sexual betrayal devastates and ravages a person to their very core. It is a complete and brutal attack against the whole being. Heart, mind and body. There is nothing left untouched, unaffected, unquestioned. Once you begin trudging through the aftermath of destruction, sifting through the truths and deceptions, the sense of loss settles in. And as grief often does, it incapacitates as your reality is shaken. When you no longer know what your reality was, is, or will be.

My husband’s sex addiction, unbeknownst to me, insinuated itself into our entire marriage. And I suffered immensely because of it. Loss upon loss upon loss as I slowly faded away.

I never knew just how much his addiction cost me until several months into my recovery. An exercise in my Partner’s Recovery Guide encouraged me to identify and acknowledge each of my very real losses so that I could release them from my head and into a healing process. I was entitled to own every loss, allow myself to grieve, and then stop the betrayal from taking anything else away from me by “throwing it all away”. I was hesitant to trust this new concept of loss and grieving. My heart was guarded, but I was committed to searching for any offering that might hasten my healing.

The exercise’s directions were to make the list as long as it needed to be, followed by the instruction to write down one loss per sheet of paper. The example used was that if you had thirty losses you would need thirty pieces of paper. I was quite bewildered at the possibility of anyone having thirty losses because of their partner’s sex addiction. But because I had been diligent in my recovery program thus far, I found a stack of paper, sat down and stared at the blank pages.

A few losses came to mind immediately resulting from my sexless marriage. The obvious one being the withholding of sexual intimacy. As I reflected on that, the related losses snowballed: lack of any physical affection or touch; my sexuality, needs and desires; the ability to feel sexy, attractive or desirable; healthy body image; comparing myself to other women; comparing my marriage to other marriages; fidelity.

Soon the recognition of my losses was coming faster than I could write: trust; security; respect; acceptance; sense of belonging; self worth; confidence; praise and affirmation; emotional intimacy; companionship; receiving love; giving love; joy; peace.

Followed by the isolation and deficiency in: family time together with our children; doing things with other families or couples; time with my parents and other family members; close friendships; spiritual intimacy with God, my husband and others.

And then the crushing weight of understanding just how far reaching, just how much living in a marriage and home riddled by my husband’s addiction and intimacy anorexia had stolen from me: the ability to express and identify my emotions, needs, desires, and likes; the ability to have fun and laugh, or relax and just be; my sense of adventure; travelling, outings, new experiences; spending money on myself; dreams; hope for the future.

I wrote more than thirty pages. A lot more. My pile was disconcerting. Each scrap was a missing part of me.

The next step of the exercise required me to actively and symbolically let go and rid myself of each loss/page one at a time. There were several methods suggested. I liked the idea of starting a fire, tossing the papers in and watching them disintegrate into ashes. But as that wasn’t a viable option, I found a cigarette lighter and pie plate and began burning them one by one in my kitchen sink.

The moment didn’t bring me instant freedom. My world didn’t suddenly fall into place. My thumb was raw from setting the pages ablaze. My back ached from leaning over the sink.

What I did receive was an expanding hope for my full recovery. Knowing that with each effort I made, I was doing everything that I could for my healing and not expecting it to just happen. Freedom may not have been immediate, but I was moving closer towards it.

Through this recovery exercise, God opened my eyes and heart to the possibility and probability of a deep healing from sexual betrayal trauma. But first, I needed to recognize my losses and gain an understanding of what I was grieving. It isn’t true that what you don’t know can’t hurt you.

What I do know now is that what was lost can be found. What was stolen can be replaced with something better, brighter and more beautiful. And amazingly, what was once mourned will be celebrated.

The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; He will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing. Isaiah 51:3

No, I Didn’t Bring a Pot of Soup

I made a church lady gasp in disbelief. And I admit I liked it. Occasionally, I wonder if I should be confessing a sin for delighting in her astonishment and discomfort. Three years later, I still giggle in amusement at our encounter. It was a significant moment in my fledgling recovery and journey to wholeness that I gleefully celebrate.  Because sometimes setting boundaries and saying “No” with a church lady can be just as daunting as with a husband addicted to pornography.

Three months into our recoveries from my husband’s sex addiction and intimacy anorexia, our church’s youth group held a soup and pie fundraising luncheon. Every year, I dutifully supplied my contribution to the event. One year, I brought a pot of chili and called it chili soup. I have never been mistaken for a soup connoisseur, but I was always obliging.

But this year was different. All my energy was being consumed by my efforts to claw my way through the devastating effects of sexual betrayal trauma. Knowing that I would be anxious all week about whether I could classify chili as soup again, or if I needed to recklessly attempt an unproven recipe, or when I would have time to hastily create a culinary masterpiece, added a stress and burden that needlessly overwhelmed me. I decided to be kind to myself and forego bringing anything but myself to the lunch. I was learning and practicing self care.

That Sunday after the church service, as we waited for lunch to begin, I was provided with my next opportunity to practice the skills I was gaining through my recovery program.

Resulting from a life time of low self esteem, it was always my natural inclination to silently blend into the setting around me attracting as little attention as possible. Avoiding eye contact was essential, lest it seem like an invitation to acknowledge my presence and commence an awkward conversation. And yet, somehow that day, I saw The Church Lady approaching and I could not hide or stop the dread and unease from forming.

She probably said hello, and engaged in small chit chat, but all I remember is the alarming question: “What did you bring?”

“Nothing.” I replied.

My answer clearly confused The Church Lady. She looked at me incredulously, and then asked me again, (in case I didn’t hear her properly?), “You didn’t bring anything?!?”

So, I said again, “Yes, nothing.”

And then she waited expectantly for me to say more. To explain my negligence to her. I didn’t. I watched her squirm a little. I wish I could say I wasn’t squirming too, but I was. I had never opposed a church lady before. I was proud of myself for not offering a lame excuse.

At the time, I was certainly not going to tell her the real reason. But afterwards, my amusement grew at what might have happened if I had.

“Well, I didn’t make any soup because:

I am trying to navigate through the aftermath of my husband’s sex addiction.

All my time and energy is being used to heal my shattered heart and broken marriage.

I have no appetite to eat, so cooking food would just upset me and make me nauseous.

I can’t sleep at night, so getting dressed and going to work is my day’s accomplishment.

I thought the addition of my tears to the broth might make the soup too salty.”

And then I imagine God standing behind The Church Lady laughing and giving me a wink. I know, I just know, that my Abba Daddy delights in the stretching, growing and healing we are doing together. In all my relationships. In all areas of my life. Healing and wholeness reaches far beyond the confines of my marriage and home.

What may seem like the tiniest of baby steps, or not even a step at all, was actually a risky, giant leap over the gaping pit of my insecurities, fears, and feelings of worthlessness. I celebrate that on that day, I glimpsed myself through God’s eyes and I was enough just as I was. No matter what measuring stick I, or anyone else held. It was a victory for me to be able to sit and be still in my season of rest and healing, and ignore the outside clanging trying to distract me from my purpose. From God’s purpose.

Self care and extending grace and kindness to ourselves is essential to mending a wounded heart. As lovely and refreshing as gifting ourselves a pedicure, bubble bath or flowers can be, self care goes deeper than that. Self care is setting boundaries to protect and guard our heart and mind. It is learning to say “No” to others, and to ourselves. It is learning that “No” is a complete sentence and requires no justification or explanation. Self care is listening to that still, small voice that prioritizes how, and with whom, you will share the limited and valuable resource of your time. For me, that changes from day to day, and from week to week.

I am gaining the ability, and granting myself permission, to acknowledge and accept my limitations at any given time. Finding a balance is healthy, not selfish. One time I might say, “No, I cannot bring a pot of soup.” Other times I offer an alternative that will work for me, “But I could pick up some buns.” And sometimes I say, “Yes, I would love to help in that way.” Regardless of what my answer is, it has become an intentional decision which frees my heart from anxiety, bitterness, resentment and the stealing of my peace and joy.

I choose to celebrate every baby step. Every accomplishment and act of courage. They have all added up and joined to become beautiful stepping stones on my winding path to healing and recovery.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7