Day 24: Today … and a song

Today I jump out of the narrative account of the past, and give you a little glimpse of my right now.  This 23rd day of October.

I’m tired. I’ve had a 12 hour work day. One of my kids isn’t doing so well. My husband and I have not shared an evening at home this week until tonight. Consequences arising from the relationship with the other are playing out, and at times it doesn’t feel like there is much justice in the world.

Yesterday I was really struggling with not falling face down in a pit of despair. I’ve mentioned previously on this blog that music has the power to affect me very deeply, and because it was something I shared with the other, I have been avoiding it. Yesterday I needed music. I put on my headphones and randomly looked through the spotify lists of my friends. I came across one entitled ‘Sunday Morning’ and thought I’d give it a try. The music was good. I was working and it provided good background and then a song started to play that made me stop and listen. It had my word. Hope.

I bought the song and downloaded it on to my phone. I listened to it on repeat for the entire ninety minute journey home. I claimed the words and the sentiments every time they were sung. I gained strength as I travelled.

I’m sharing this because God hasn’t stopped talking to me. Showing up. Communicating with me in ways I can hear and understand.  Through music I randomly find on a spotify play list.

I am not a believer in the separation of the secular and the sacred.  So I know that God is in all of life and uses all of it to change my heart and soothe my soul.

‘I will hold on hope.’ 

Mumford and Sons. The Cave.

‘So make your siren’s call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

‘Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it’s meant to be

And I will hold on hope

And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways’

 Lights in the Darkness 

( If this is the first time you’ve come to my blog, welcome! I am 24 days into a 31 day series for October. It’s about my search for hope and renewal as my marriage seemingly fell apart at the end of last year. If you want to catch up on the whole story then here is the link to the first post in the series, and here is the link to the series page.)

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Day 23: It doesn’t have to be the end

I wrote an earlier post about going to marriage counselling, and I return to that today. As we moved through the weeks of uncertain emotions within a commitment to stay married, we needed strategies and new tools to help us to improve things. If we had simply said we’re sticking this out, without trying anything new or different in our ways of relating to each other, I don’t think anything would have changed.

We both needed to, and did, maintain an openness to trying new things, alongside being willing to accept that our perceptions of each other were not accurate. That was part of treating hope as a reality, rather than wishful thinking.

Today I want to share something that has been pretty fundamental to this restoration, in the hope that maybe someone reading this will identify and it may help you to see that your situation may not be as hopeless and life draining as you believe it to be. It is possible to come back from a place of deep hurt and find ways to reconnect with your spouse or partner.

I had harboured a belief that my husband did things to hurt me. My logic went as follows. He is a good guy. He isn’t unkind. He treats people well. Therefore if he does something which hurts me it is so out of character that it must be intentional. Yes, even I can see the skewed thinking in there and we had agreed years earlier, that if I thought he was being hurful to me I should assume that he didn’t mean it and that there was some level of misunderstanding. I did try that but over the years the actions seemed to me to be so obvious in their consequences that I couldn’t believe that they were unintentional. Surely he knew me well enough after nearly 20 years together to kow that doing X would make me feel Y?

I came to a realization, through the counselling process, that he was telling the truth when he said that he had never meant to hurt me, but that realisation brought with it a recognition of other difficulties in our relationship.

This was one of the times when the ‘in making decisions turn towards each other and not away’ advice had to be implemented. I could either choose to say I can’t do this , and turn away, permanently. Or I could choose to turn towards my husband and work at finding ways to compensate for the weaknesses that were being highlighted in our relationship.

I write this at this point in the story, because our anniversary weekend away helped me to see a way in which I could choose to turn towards my husband. I enjoyed our time away. I felt happy. Why? Not so much because of what we said, or the feelings that were shared between us, but because we did things that we both enjoyed. We didn’t talk about how they made us feel, nor did we necessarily feel the same things about them, but the by-product of our experiences was positive emotions for each of us. We realised that we could share experiences which would make us individually feel good, and therefore we would equate each other with good emotions. This may seem contrived, but I would suggest it’s being realistic. It was seeing things as they really were and working out how to make them better.

We thought about what we liked to do together. One of those things is bike riding, so we agreed that once each week we would go for a ride together, sometimes with other friends, sometimes just the two of us. We are still doing this. We don’t talk much whilst we ride; we don’t share deeply whilst riding, but we both get exercise, which we crave, we spend an hour outdoors which we love, and we come home exhilarated and with one more positive shared experience in our lives. It gives us hope. Every time.

Lights in the darkness.

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Day 22: What happens when hope and despair co-exist

First of all can I say thank you so much to all of you for reading this series and encouraging me with your comments and visits to this page and the facebook page of the Hope Diaries. I began this series thinking it would be mostly for my own benefit, little did I realise how many others would read it, and I still pray that God would use my story of brokeness, mess, redemption and hope to demonstrate to others that we are utterly loved always. Nothing can separate us from God’s love.

I am writing about past events and emotions at the moment, but it’s true that some of the emotions and struggles remain part of my current reality too. I was speaking with a friend yesterday about the co-existence in our lives of things which are seemingly opposed to one another. We are good and bad. We are strong and weak. We are decisive and confused (or confusing). We are hopeful and desolate. I could go on. One of the things I have learned in this period of marriage restoration is to accept the dichotomies. This has been really hard as I like to know that something is one thing or the other; but that approach leaves me in a tangle as life is never neatly divided in that way.

Today I want to tell you about a day, a few weeks after the poetry writing weekend, when I was struggling with the clash of uncertainty and hope. It was our wedding anniversary. Most of our wedding anniversaries (and we are approaching the end of our second decade of marriage so there have been a few) had gone entirely unmarked by my husband. Needless to say I was carrying huge amounts of hurt from all the uncelebrated occasions. My husband was doing all he could to work towards restoration of our marriage and so he had made plans for us to have a night away. He had arranged for the care of our children and booked a hotel.

I wrote in my journal ‘I’m scared’. I had completely mixed emotions and that was the cause of my fear. I was going away with my husband to ‘celebrate’ our marriage, and yet I didn’t really even want to be married. I wanted to go away and do the things he’d planned, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do them with him. I was frightened of my enjoyment of things being taken for a whole hearted 100% re-commitment to our relationship and an indication that all was now well.

On the morning we were due to go away I was writing in my journal when a verse from a friend arrived by text;

“ My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.” Psalm 72 v 6.

I texted my friend to thank her and she responded immediately with surprise as she had sent the text about 10 days beforehand. I didn’t need it ten days beforehand. I needed it at the moment it arrived.

I realised an important lesson that morning as I thought about the verse. Yes, relationally things were really difficult, but things were not ‘either or’. My heart and flesh could fail and God would still be good and giving me strength. I was being told that these contradictions would be part of my life.

With that in mind I remembered something another friend had sent to me a few days earlier. Someone else who’d lived through mess and understood the co-existence of uncertainty and commitment, pain and joy, hope and despair. He told me to do this…

“Count your blessings. Discover fun. Feed the body. Nurture the soul. Share your pain. Wonder at beauty. Explore your questions. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.”

Co-existence. Lights in the darkness.

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Day 21: In a sun scorched land

The day after the poetry, the verses I read in my daily bible reading plan were these:

Isaiah 59 : 11-12 

The Lord will guide you always; 

he will satisfy your needs in a sun scorched land

and will strengthen your frame. 

You will be like a well watered garden

like a spring whose waters never fail. 

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age old foundations

You will be called Repairer of Broken walls

Restorer of streets with dwellings. 

Yet another promise that it was the Lord who was going to guide and satisfy me. Even if  I was living in a parched desert, I’d be given the water I needed, not just to survive, but to thrive and repair things.

A few days later the verse was this:

1 Chronicles 22 v 19 

“Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord.”

and the verse at the bottom of my journal page where I began to pour out my heart ….

“Even though the fig trees are all destroyed, and there is neither blossom left nor fruit, and though the olive crops all fail, and the fields lie barren; even if the flocks die in the fields and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be happy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3: 17,18 

The message was plain. The Lord was going to be my reason for rejoicing. My salvation was the cause for celebration. Other things were of much less significance. I needed those reminders, as I was finding things very difficult. I wrote in my journal:

“I feel angry and abandoned. So, so hurt by what has gone before. Daily I remember things said or done and just can’t take in the retraction and lies that followed [this referring to the other's behaviour] . I feel so diminished and stupid and so so vulnerable. Everything in me has wanted to hide this week. Foolishly I thought that making a decision to stay in the marriage would ease everything but of course it hasn’t. If anything it feels as if the battle has intensified. It is all so, so hard to bear. The ‘what if’ questions keep coming. There are no answers so I set it aside. Every day will be one more day and then one more week and then one more month. I never imagined we’d make it to March 23rd. Is God enough? Can he be ? Wait.” 

I turned to the meditation for the day and this is what it said:

“As the rain hides the stars, 

as the autumn mist hides the hills, 

happenings of my lot hide the shining of Thy face from me. 

Yet, if I may hold Thy hand in the darkness, 

it is enough

since I know that though I may stumble in my going, 

Thou dost not fall. “

Alistair McClean.

I couldn’t see a shining face or the stars, but I kept hold of the hand in the darkness.  That was all I could do. That was enough.

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