You are my tower

I haven’t written for a long while. It has probably been the longest time of not writing, not thinking and not living the affair since our D-day. It’s a good sign. Sign of moving on, forgetting and letting go.

I am constantly amazed how quickly the healing is coming. I was preparing myself for a long struggle and a time where love is a distant memory or a hope for the future. I read some time after WW that it takes 2 years to heal and gain trust after your partner’s affair. I don’t know to what extent that healing is supposed to take place after 2 years but 1 year on I can only say I’m glad to be in a place that we are now. It’s a place of peace, trust and love. Place of commitment, understanding and knowing each other intimately. We aren’t perfect and never will be but we fully accept and love each other the way we are. The imperfections are what makes us human, part of our personalities but they are not the ones when you deliberately hurt the other person. We give freely and receive fully. We go to bed and wake up with thanksgiving: for love, for family, for grace and forgiveness, for marriage.

I feel so free I could stop writing now but I will continue to finish the story and to give testimony to the One who saves. Recently we attended a course called the Family Project. The leader keeps reminding us: God is in the business of fixing.

So what happened next?

10 days after WW came another milestone – the day of the concert for which our children won tickets on Spirit Radio. We only got two so we were looking forward to spending more time together but before we went we had something even more important to do – the last talk to Ana before she left. She was leaving for home the next day and we were hoping to never see her again, still there were things that had to be said.

It was I who insisted on that meeting. Not to let go of my anger towards her, although there was a lot of it built up inside, but to make Charlie ask her to forgive him for leading her on and to say that I forgive her for her part in the affair. I hadn’t fully ‘felt’ that in my emotions yet, they were too raw at that stage, but I knew it was our gateway to freedom, both for her and for me and this was the only chance to do it. We also wanted to give her one of the books she returned on TT. It was a special edition of “Jane Eyre”, she was very fond of it and mentioned she would like to keep it. Since then I read it and I think she might have identified with the character in the book.

So we asked her for a meeting and to my surprise she agreed. She only had half an hour for us but we didn’t need more than that. We arranged to meet in the office. It was Saturday and there was no one there. Before she came we prayed for peace and God’s presence. She came on time, wearing big hoop earings, with her head held high, as if she tried to say: I’m not hurt and I still have everything under control. However, under this cover I could detect pain, I heard it in her voice and saw it in her eyes. She didn’t answer to my greeting, passed me barely noticing I was there, going straight to Charlie – in other words – doing just what she had been doing since she came to work for us. He smiled to her and said:

Hello Ana. I haven’t seen you in such a long time.

The way he said it showed closeness between them and I felt a pang of jealousy.
We took our seats ending up at three different sides of the table and Charlie started:

Ana, thank you for coming, it means a lot to us. I know it’s not easy and we won’t keep you long. I want you to know that we decided to stay married and for this reason I won’t be in contact with you any more.
I’d like to thank you for all your work. I appreciate your help, it’s been very good although lately your presence was a distraction for me, I lost my focus, or rather my focus was in the wrong place and I started to see the effects of it.
I would also like to apologise for what happened between us and ask for your forgiveness. I know I have deceived you.

Here Ana stopped him for a moment.

You don’t need to apologise, we were adult people who knew what they were doing. The only thing I’m angry about is how you treated me in the last 10 days.”

“I had to do it. I saw I wasn’t a good man and I caused a lot of pain to my family. But I’m changing. Jesus really is powerful.

Ana sniggered quietly but she quickly added:

You know I tolerate all religions and points of view. Everyone has a right to believe what they want.

That’s ok. I saw that our relationship with God depends on whether we see that we are sinful or not. I saw I was. Also, I told you you were the love of my life – I’m sorry I said that to you. Ella is the love of my life and always has been. That’s why I’m sorry if I deceived you. I don’t have much more to say other than I’m sorry again. This is the book you wanted. We want you to keep it. Is there anything you want to say?”

“No. I have nothing to say to you. But I would like if you send me some photographs of our projects when they are finished.”

“Of course. I’ll have that arranged.

She got up and was about to leave but I stopped her.

Ana wait. I also want say a few words.

She looked at me probably for the first time since she walked in, smiled faintly and sat back down.

I was talking to my sister during the last year about how jealous we were of our husbands. I said I would scratch out the eyes of a woman who looked at my Charlie – don’t worry I won’t do it to you. I want you to know that what happened between you and Charlie and the length of time it lasted could take place only because I trusted him. I did have a bad feeling about his friendship with you and I confronted him about it a few times but he denied each time that anything was wrong and I trusted him. I didn’t have many reasons not to, things were good between us although we lacked time together and children often missed him too. We could talk here all day but I know you don’t want to, so I’ll just say one thing – I forgive you. I hope you’ll find someone for yourself and that you’ll never experience what I did because the pain is really huge.”

Tears were welling up in my eyes when I said it and my voice started breaking so I didn’t say anything else. I noticed she looked very uncomfortable when I said the word ‘forgive’, almost as if she was offended. She probably would have preferred to hear me curse her rather than forgive her. She got up and left, her nose up not as high as before but still composed and cool. All we heard from her since was a text message she sent to Charlie from the airport next day, thanking him for the work opportunity. He replied with the 1 Corinthians 13 verse, saying “please read it, it is not what we had but I hope you’ll find it one day“. After she left the office we got into the car and drove 2 hours for the concert feeling like we had passed another big milestone and closed the door behind us.

The concert turned out to be one of the greatest gifts we got from God in that time. It felt like 2 hours in heaven. We never heard of the band before it but we love it now. It’s Rexband – an Indian, charismatic, Catholic Christian band – what a mix! High quality music, professional musicians and each one of them have a personal relationship with the Lord, we were told. That night they played the music of our souls, they translated our prayers into notes and led us all into the Spirit. An unforgettable evening, filled with tears of repentance and hope for full reconciliation. If you were there and saw a couple at the back of the hall, who from the start joined wholeheartedly into the worship and thoroughly enjoyed themselves, it was us. Of all the songs one stood out for me and became my prayer – “You are my tower”.

Only when we left the concert hall and got back into the car did it dawn on us how amazing it was to be there. When Charlie was 18, just after he finished secondary school he went to India for a year to do voluntary work. He was in various places including a month in Calcutta working with the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Theresa’s order. During this time he met a born again Catholic girl who led him in prayer for salvation. It couldn’t take on the full meaning for years because of things that were still in his heart and mind but that evening there at the concert it was like he had made a full loop and was back in India, giving his life to God again, this time for real.

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PS. We came across these verses and that picture in one of our bibles (Sunrise Good News Bible) soon after that day. It made us smile.

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“The Lord said, ‘Look how proud the women of Jerusalem are! They walk along with their noses in the air. They are always flirting. They take dainty little steps, and the bracelets on their ankles jingle. But I will punish them – I will shave their heads and leave them bald.’
A day is coming when the Lord will take away from the women of Jerusalem everything they are so proud of – the ornaments they wear on their ankles, on their heads, on their necks, and on their wrists. He will take away their veils and their hats, the magic charms they wear on their arms and at their waists; the rings they wear on their fingers and in their noses; all their fine robes, gowns, cloaks and purses; their revealing garments, their linen handkerchiefs, and the scarves and the long veils they wear on their heads.”

Isaiah 3:16-23

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You are my tower – Rexband (Sonrise)

Everything is a changing all around
Wanna hold on to you
Everyday is a new beginning now
Wanna know what is right

You are my tower
Unchanging power
When storms come raging
You’ll be my road
You alone will do

In the night when I am tossed upon the sea
I will call out your name
When the road takes a million different turns
Wanna follow you lord

You are my tower
Unchanging power
When storms come raging
You’ll be my road
You alone will do

When I’ve lost my way
And I am far away from home
I will seek your face
I will always cling to you Lord

You are my tower
Unchanging power
When storms come raging
You’ll be my road
You alone will do

 

 

Ana

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Who was Ana?

Was she a heartless bitch, a home wrecker, a man eater kind of a woman? Or maybe a vulnerable young girl, insecure and not sure of her own value, looking to prove it by seducing an older man? A bit of both I think.

I am a great believer in the theory that it is our insecurities, the hurts we experience as children and young adults that influence our decisions and behaviour more then the positives in our lives. I find it fascinating to read the life stories of both: people who achieved great things and those who became offenders, like murderers or cheaters. What shaped them? What was their childhood like? What was their upbringing and their relationship with their parents? And most importantly, what is the spiritual legacy they carry in their lives?

When Ana came to work for Charlie she seemed a little more than a teenage girl. There was that youthful nativity and awe about her, and a will to please. By the time she left she was a grown, bitter woman, full of pride and scorn. What happened in between has definitely changed her. She probably didn’t expect it to happen this way when she embarked on the affair. Charlie and I have talked a lot about how it all started and a couple of months after WW he told me the whole story from the beginning to the end. I wasn’t ready to hear it before.

Ana didn’t have many friends and seemed to prefer male company over girl friends. They liked each other from the start, something had ‘clicked’ and I saw it too. That’s why I was so nervous going away that first summer. What neither her nor I knew then was Charlie’s reasons for being so charming towards her and unfortunately she still doesn’t know what really was behind their relationship. There must have been a deep need in her for all that attention since she welcomed it and quickly broke up with her boyfriend. Her attitude in the beginning, and probably for most of the affair, was: we are two consenting adults, who do what they please, there are no strings attached, no regrets and it’s nobody’s business. She has never shown any concern for the fact that Charlie was married and had a family. She said at some point later on that “a divorce is not the end of the world” and that she “knew many children whom it didn’t affect”. She was proud of her strong opinions, veering towards atheism and socialism. She openly scorned Charlie’s Christian beliefs and challenged him during conversations. When she stayed in our house during the second summer I was away, she laughed at the “Jesus is powerful” magnet on the fridge our children made in Sunday school.

In all this she hadn’t noticed how she became a prisoner of her own free will and the situation it created. What started as a game soon wanted to be ‘something more’. She craved Charlie’s attention and time he couldn’t give her without raising suspicions. Gradually from a romantic adventure it became a clichéd affair where she had to wait for his sign and do everything on his conditions.

She walked into the affair with her eyes open, knowing he was married with no intention of separation. She made many moves on him and ‘first steps’ while he appeared chuffed with this new admiration and didn’t resist too much. He did say a few times that he didn’t want it to go any further but then didn’t keep the resolution for long. He was weak and easily tempted. She seemed to know which buttons to press to keep moving the acquaintance onto new levels. She made him feel bad and teased him if he had guilty feelings.

In her excellent book “NOT Just Friends”, the author Shirley P. Glass dedicates the whole chapter to the affair partner. I would like to quote some of it here:

“Many single women who have affairs with married men appear to experience very little guilt. A magazine survey of 4,700 single women involved with married men revealed that 84 percent knew that their lovers were married. Although very few of them had reservations about sharing a man with his wife, 61 percent said that they would break off the relationship if he had another lover besides them.
The married lover frequently feeds into the other woman’s perception that she is doing no harm. To keep his affair partner on the string, he feeds into her belief that he is stuck in an empty-shell marriage because of family responsibilities. But no matter how her married lover may have demeaned his wife, the affair partner who turns his wife into a nonperson is devaluing women, in general.

The other woman may use rationalisation, denial, or unconscious mechanisms to avoid feeling guilty. In some cases, she simply has no conscience about what she is doing and no empathy for the wife and children she is sabotaging. There are as many variations of guilt-free affair partners as there are guilt-free philanderers.

Antagonist: This woman betrays other women by stealing their husbands. She views other women as rivals and feels no need for loyalty or to identification with her own gender. She does not regard herself as “sister” to other women. She seldom has other women as friends and leans on men to enhance her ego and gratify her emotional needs.

Anti traditionalist: Another guilt-free partner is the unconventional woman who opposes the institution of marriage as being outdated. She asserts that all marriages are flawed, so why should she restrict herself to an ancient contract whose main purpose is to suppress women? There’s no reason to constrain the richness of life just because the man you love happens to be married.

Escapist: To deny the existence of his wife and family, the escapist affair partner puts the marriage out of mind and out of sight. She never asks questions about his other life. She doesn’t consider any repercussions from their illicit affair because the time she spends with her lover is an escape into alternate reality.

Family counsellor: Assuming the role of family therapist is another way to assuage guilt. The other woman offers insights to improve her lover’s communication with his children and to help him understand his wife’s point of view. Acting partly out of real concern and partly out of self-preservation, she tries to make things better. Laurel Richardson says that the single woman affair partner does “feminist social work among the married”. As a result, the affair partner perceives herself as a good person who makes positive contributions to her lover’s family life.

Unwitting participant: Finally, the affair partner may not feel guilty because she doesn’t know that she is the “other woman”. Some men pretend to be single as part of their “dating” strategy, especially on the Internet. The unwitting participant in his infidelity doesn’t know that she isn’t his one and only.

Although many women have no guilt about being involved with married men, only a few survive with no regrets. Connecting with a married man may be a one-time aberration or a lifelong pattern that is a connection between the unmarried affair partner and her past. The other woman is often replicating dysfunctional triangles in her family of origin or other significant roles from her childhood relationships.”

I can see traits in her of all of the types mentioned above apart from the last one. She knew fully well she was destroying someone else’s family.

Do I hate Ana?
No.
I do hate the affair but I do not hate her. I know Charlie was equally guilty for what happened, if not more. I still see her as a girl who came looking for work experience rather than the life lesson she got instead. I did have strong feelings against her in the first weeks after FT and WW but those were mainly questions: how could she? How could a woman do it to another woman? And why? What did she get out of it?

She felt mistreated but it was a result of Charlie’s switching his attention back to family and cutting the other relationship off as soon as I learned the truth. She got everything she was owed in terms of money for her work, and more. She got back the expenses incurred as the result of her going home sooner then she expected. We didn’t want any debt on our side.

She was hurt in the end although she did her best to hide it. They had made an arrangement but forgot about emotions – you can’t play with fire and not be burned. I hope she will learn and never do it again to another family.

As for us – God had done through her what he couldn’t do through me and that was to break Charlie’s pride and bring him into repentance.

Healing the Traumas

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“The revelation of infidelity is a traumatic event for the betrayed partner. Understanding it as traumatic has important implications for healing. People who have just found out about a partner’s affair may react as if they have been viciously attacked. Where they formerly felt safe, they now feel threatened. In an instant, the betrayed spouse’s assumptions about the world have been shattered. Commonly, betrayed spouses become obsessed with the details of the affair, have trouble eating and sleeping and feel powerless to control their emotions, especially anxiety and grief, which can be overwhelming.”
Shirley P. Glass “NOT Just Friends”

“After having counseled thousands of couples with hundreds of marital conflicts, I am completely convinced that a spouse’s unfaithfulness is the most painful experience that can be inflicted in marriage. Those I’ve counseled who have had the tragic misfortune of having experienced rape, physical abuse, sexual abuse of their children, and infidelity have consistently reported to me that their spouse’s unfaithfulness was their very worst experience. To be convinced of the devastating impact of infidelity, you only need to go through it once.”
Dr. Willard F. Harley – Marriage Builders

I realised quickly it was going to take a long time to get over the affair and feel normal again. It wasn’t a quarrel with a friend or a family misunderstanding but the very fabric of my life, stained and damaged and only time could show how much. Will I be able to trust my husband again, be close to him and, what was most important to me – will I be able to continue to love him the same? Over night, from my closest friend and a person I loved dearly, he became a stranger, someone I didn’t recognise, almost an enemy. It took a lot of faith to see he was essentially still the same person I married and that was what he tried to convince me of. There was a glimpse of hope in the fact that he regretted dearly what he had done and everything he had done since then was right.

I knew I wanted to forgive him, wanted to put it all behind us as quickly as possible but at the same time I couldn’t stop feeling that deep grief and disappointment over what had happened. I questioned everything about him, our marriage and even myself.

It took many sleepless nights, hours of talks and a few revelations to understand that what happened wasn’t my fault, that in fact I couldn’t have done much more then I did and that no matter how much I tried to be a better wife I couldn’t have stopped the affair. If it didn’t happen then it would have happened some other time with someone else only because of what was in Charlie’s heart. It was him who repeatedly stressed that fact to me, him who took that blame on himself. I knew there were areas in my life where I needed change but ultimately it wasn’t what caused him to go the way he did.

Grief and disappointment weren’t the worst of the array of emotions that I was going through. The one I hadn’t anticipated was horror. You expect it in tragic life circumstances like accidents or murder and yet it was exactly what I felt at the thought my husband was with another woman. There were places, both in our house and in the office, that I couldn’t face going to, mental images that replayed over and over and fear that it all could have had much worse outcome for us all than it did. I was glad that I didn’t get a chance to see any more messages or e-mails, no pictures and no real life situations. What was in my mind was bad enough.

Wednesday after TT, one week after WW, as I arrived at the office, I met Charlie in the hall talking to a man I hadn’t met before. He was a son of one of the neighbours on the street, a slightly weird person. Charlie said I was his wife to which he replied “Nice catch”. I laughed – it was so ironic after all we had been going through. Charlie brought me closer to himself and said:
“She is working with me now and she’s a treasure, she makes me a better man.”
“Great! You are actually looking a lot better then when I saw you a week ago. Last time you looked really stressed.”
“I’m in a much better place now” said Charlie.

At around noonday I got a phone call from the children’s school. Our son had had an accident in the yard during play time and he wasn’t feeling well. We both hurried to him not knowing what to expect, thankfully the school was only a few minutes away. Turned out he fell and whacked his head against a concrete window sill. There was a huge bump and a bruise just below his hairline but the skin wasn’t broken. He was pale but conscious and looked himself, although the teacher said it took him a while to come round. We took him back to the office and got a painkiller on the way. I kept a close eye on him for the rest of the day and when he started feeling nauseous I went straight to our doctor. Charlie came to meet us there on the way back from work. I was angry and irritable, couldn’t help but blame Charlie for the accident although, obviously, he didn’t have anything to do with it.

We went in to see the doctor, he examined our son’s head and decided it was a small concussion, advised to give him plenty of rest, no TV or screen games for a few days to let the head trauma heal. He said to keep a watchful eye in case other symptoms appeared; he gave us a list of them and when he mentioned: confusion, memory problems and irrational behaviour out of character, I thought to myself “My husband must have been concussed for the whole last year”.

That evening I finally knew what to do with the ring. There was no point in giving it back to the shop or to anyone, we would never want anyone to wear it, not with it’s history. Having it back gave us an opportunity to throw it away somewhere, in an act if cutting off the past. We just couldn’t think of an appropriate place. None of the places that came to our minds felt right but then I got it – it was right there under my nose all the time, the photograph of it was on our wall, it was near to one of our favourite walks and we went there with Ana that first summer when she arrived and we took her to the beach. It looked like a cauldron and had an evil look to it.

Let’s return to the devil what he tried to give us – we said.

Terrible Tuesday

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The way of the aftershock waves is that when you are up, you have to go down again and sometimes it seems like ‘down’ has no end.

Tuesday after MM (Miraculous Monday) was my rock bottom, one of those days when you don’t believe you are going to make it and you don’t even particularly want to.

During the weekend we sent a message to Ana saying she has to return the ring. There were other things Charlie gave her over the previous 15 months but I didn’t mind them as much. The ring symbolised to me his connection to her, a vow of having her in his mind and memory for ever. Now that we wanted to cut the affair out of our marriage we had to do everything to get it back. She got very upset and initially refused but Charlie insisted. They arranged she would bring it to the office outside work hours altogether with things she borrowed from us and leave it there with the keys she still had.

On Tuesday morning we came to the office to collect them. We were planning to travel out of town for two meetings that day and we wouldn’t be back for the whole day. The bag was under Charlie’s desk: several books, a scarf, a hat, some jewellery including the ring, a few bits and pieces like tea and some gadgets. It all had a strange, New Age aura, particularly some of the books and made me feel uncomfortable. She returned everything, to the last little thing. It seemed she got so mad at him for wanting the ring back that she thought: “You want it back? You might as well have it all.” There was a note on his chair and a letter in the bag. We took a quick look at the note, just an information about the bag and then a P.S.: “The state of my former desk, knowing that I was coming, has hurt me beyond belief.”

I took a deep breath and tried to remain calm. The state of her former DESK? How about my MARRIAGE? The one I cherished more then anything else? Has she never paused to at least consider what she was doing to my marriage, my children, my family? How can a woman do it to another woman and then care about the look of her desk? I felt like screaming, not for the first time since WW.

We took the bag to the car and drove to a nearby parking lot, knowing people would start coming to work soon. There, Charlie took the letter out and we started reading. In the first paragraph she asked him to read it by himself. I waited for his reaction, he said: “We will read it together, there is nothing I want to hide anymore, no more secrets, unless you feel uncomfortable about it”. I did and I didn’t. I knew why she wrote it,  she still believed that what was between them was real, that he truly meant the words he had said, that she could reach into his heart and maybe stir a little sadness about the break up. Now she was the abandoned one and it felt bad.

I was a little apprehensive that she might have written about something I hadn’t heard yet from Charlie but it was something I had to face. We started reading. She wrote about her disappointment for the way he treated her after D-day, about him not being able to take away the memories with the things she just gave back and about believing he was nevertheless a good guy at heart. She wrote she didn’t regret what had happened and she hoped he didn’t either, that life is too short to miss the opportunity they had had. She referred to herself as a “person with a heart of gold” and she thanked him for the year of good work experience.

I could feel her pain although she wanted to come across as strong. I didn’t cry even though the letter made everything that happened seem so real. I was in survival mode. Move on and don’t look back. Deal with it and don’t let it crush you.

Charlie folded the letter, put it back in the envelope and we drove on carrying with us the returned things and a strange heaviness. It was a beautiful, foggy morning. Light just lingered on the fields as we passed them talking about how unreal it all was.

Here we were, fighting for our marriage after so many happy years together. The question kept coming back then and for a long time after: how did we get to this place?

The first meeting went on for ages. I have never met the people there so Charlie introduced me as his wife. I was aware I didn’t have my rings on, they were still waiting on Charlie’s shelf, and I caught myself hiding my hands a few times. I felt naked without them and I missed them terribly.

We left quickly after the meeting to be on time for our second one. It was about a project I was involved in and I wanted to attend it with Charlie. We stopped on the way to get some food. I went to the loo and there a thought stroke me. I felt another wave coming. I wanted to stop it but I knew I would have to confront it. We got back into the car and I asked Charlie: “Do you remember last summer, when my dad was here and we went to your parent’s holiday house? You said you had an important meeting you had to attend one day. Did you see her on that day before you came back?” I expected him to say something in the line: yes I saw her afterwards. He looked at me with one of ‘those looks’ and said slowly: “There was no meeting. I went especially to be with her.”

I felt my stomach tighten and I lost all appetite. I put the sandwich away and looked outside the window. What had he just said? There was no meeting? He left us there in this beautiful place to be with her in that dungeon of hers?

I didn’t think of myself as much as of the kids. They were so looking forward to spending a few days with him. We asked if there was a possibility to postpone that meeting, he said it was too important, too many people involved, he had to be there. Why did he do that? For sex? I was there, every morning, every night, next to him, why not me? Did she ask him to come? Was she jealous he was with us?

Hundreds of questions were flooding me but what I felt most was abandonment. It wasn’t that he just stayed longer after work or conveniently took her with him to a site but he purposely lied and left us behind while on our holiday for something I couldn’t understand. I was quiet for a good while, in that time my attitude and feelings changed.

I wanted OUT. Out of the lies, away from the cheater. This was not part of the bargain when we said “I do”. If he wanted her he could have her, I wasn’t going to stop him. In fact I believed God must have someone better in store for me. Suddenly I felt strong, even my appetite came back. I leaned down to pick up my sandwich and started eating. Charlie was surprised, “Are you ok?” he asked. “Never been better” I answered “In fact at last I know what I want – I’m leaving. You can see the children as much as you want but I don’t want you anymore, not after what you have done. You can ring Ana and tell her, maybe she’ll have you back.”

I said many more hurtful things, it almost gave me pleasure. I wanted to hurt him just as much as he hurt me. I was angry, furious and bitter. If I had had the rings on in that moment I would have thrown them out the window happily to prove to him I wasn’t joking. “I’m not going for the meeting, you’ll have to go by yourself. I don’t want to have anything to do with you anymore.”

I still don’t know what exactly hurt me so badly in that particular situation and his confession but whatever it was it hardened my heart. Forgiveness? Forget about it. I was going to show him what it feels like to be rejected and left behind. At least he deserved that.

We got to the place, I left the car, slammed the door and didn’t look back.
“Will you be ok?” I heard Charlie’s voice behind me.
“Don’t you worry about me. Let me know when you’re finished and we’ll meet here.”

I was in a town I didn’t know at all. I realised I was very vulnerable, particularly in my state. Luckily we were in the centre so I just followed the main street. I wasn’t sure where to go or what to do next. I just wanted to be alone. I checked my phone and there was a missed call from J&D. I called them back and said I was really upset. We talked for about an hour while I was walking up and down the street, probably looking like a lunatic as I attracted a few strange looks. I said to them I didn’t want to be with Charlie anymore and I wanted to have another chance with someone else. I meant it. D’s reaction was fast: “Ella, I forbid you to say that. Your place is next to your husband and you are going to keep fighting. Whatever happened is in the past. He is repenting from it now. I don’t want to hear you say that again.”

I laughed. Not because of what she said but because of how quickly I was put in my place. Almost immediately I saw I was pitying myself, exaggerating and looking for an excuse to get back at Charlie. It was a normal, human reaction but I needed to stand above it, look at my Lord and keep walking the waves. I lost my focus and went down under. She helped me to see it, that conversation, however difficult was essential. I will forever be grateful for the people God put in the right place in that time.

I went back to the building where we parked. There was a café in the ground floor, I went in and got a cup of coffee. I sent Charlie a text saying to come meet me there after the meeting and I let him know I felt better. He came as quickly as he could, we both apologised, prayed, cried, laughed and left a lot happier then we came.

Back at home I asked him to give my rings back as I didn’t want to be without them anymore and we decided we would get a new ring to renew our vows when we both felt ready for it.

Miraculous Monday

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Monday was a special day. So special we called it Miraculous. The miracles that happened were small but God spoke to us through them in His unique language, just as He speaks to all of us using the language we can understand and letting us know He is close.

It was my first day back at work after a short break and first after WW (Wicked Wednesday). First after reclaiming my desk and my place in the office, next to my husband. We learned in the morning it was also World Architecture Day – what great timing – I thought.

I was driving to work, alone in the car as Charlie dropped the kids to school earlier, delighting in the silence and colours of the Autumn. I left the radio off as to not let anything distract me from my prayer of thanksgiving. Although it was too early to say our marriage was out of the woods, we were going in the right direction. As I got closer to the city centre I noticed a rainbow which ended approximately where the office was. I smiled to myself. I arrived to find a sweet message from Charlie on my chair saying how happy he was to have me there. Soon after that he came in and asked: “Did you hear us on the Spirit Radio? We won tickets for a concert!”. Ha! I give up buying lottery tickets only to win something the next day when I’m not even playing! I loved it. It turned out it was our children who won it for us. They entered a competition for a landmark building and got lucky. We got 2 tickets for a concert on the following Saturday.

It was a strangely quiet morning in the office. Usually the phone doesn’t stop ringing but that day it rang only once, our colleague answered, it was for Charlie, his friend Frank. We looked at each other. Frank? Ringing the office number? Today? Frank was on old friend of Charlie, from many years ago when we lived in my home country before we moved back. He kept in touch, usually calling us at home about once a year. He had a sad life story which we always referred to as ‘how to lose your life’ kind of a thing. He had a successful business in England which he lost in a recession and moved to Spain with his family to start a new life. There he had a short affair with a Spanish girl, his wife found out and that was the end of their marriage. He had to give her their house, new business, leave their children and move away. He spent the next many years teaching English in the eastern block saving for holidays to visit his children. He has NEVER called the office before so why was he doing it today? They had a short conversation from which I recall Charlie saying “I thought I needed a change but I realise now I was wrong.” Throughout the time he was on the phone we kept looking at each other, smiling and shaking our heads in astonishment.

We collected the children together after school and I asked Charlie if he could walk with us for piano lessons. We had to go past Ana’s house and I couldn’t bring myself to do it alone. Just when we were passing it I slipped on a dog’s poo, it was classic. We looked at each other and burst out laughing, after the story I heard the day before this seemed so funny. God really has a wacky sense of humour.

Next stop after piano was a shopping centre. I had an idea to get a book and a bookmark for Charlie. The book’s title was “The Shack”. I read it some years earlier and remembered it spoke well on the subject of forgiveness. I’ve wanted him to read it for a long time. I found it in the bookshop, there was only one copy. I looked for a bookmark to go with it but they were all very uninspiring. After checking a few other shops I went to a card store and there it was, first one on the display and one of a kind. I knew it was waiting for me. There was a picture of a sun with a silhouette of a dove on it and there were the words:

I thanked God for YOU today.
You are one of my heart’s favourite people, and I want you to know that I thanked God for you today. I wished you an abundance of love and joy, good health and the best of everything. I prayed that you would have the kind of faith and wisdom you need to accomplish anything and everything your heart desires. I wished you happiness. People who enrich our lives are such a blessing. I consider you a treasure that I would never want to lose.

(by Donna Fargo)

I gave it to him when he came home, he was very moved and could not believe those words. “Is this for me? Do you really mean it?” , he asked.

I did, more as a friend than a wife in that moment but I did.

God answers prayer

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There were a few things that became tools in fighting for our marriage. Apart from the obvious ones like: full transparency, honesty and long conversations there was fasting, prayer and communion (sharing bread and wine at home as symbols of the body and blood of Jesus and applying it over our marriage). We also used the symbolism of objects and places to help with healing, for example: praying in certain places or destroying objects that had a meaning.

We put off any physical intimacy for an indefinite period of time. Our marriage, vows and my heart were broken. We had no idea how long the healing was going to take: weeks, months, maybe longer. At some stage we wanted to renew our vows but until then all we could do was wait.

First Sunday morning was hard. The ‘waves’ were crashing against what once was a safe harbour of our home. I couldn’t believe that this man who has hurt me so badly was the same one I used to trust blindly. Was it possible that I made a mistake and married someone who existed only in my mind? That his real nature was not at all what I believed it was? Maybe it was better if we separated?

I was sitting on my bed, my eyes and face swollen from crying, considering the possibility of a split up when it came to my mind – someone in my family had already been in this situation – my grandma.

When my dad was 7 she discovered my grandfather had been having an affair. He apologised but she couldn’t forgive. He had to go and she cut off all contact between them, he wasn’t even allowed to visit my father. A few years back, my sister found a letter in which he apparently begged her to have him back but she never changed her mind. Maybe she knew better, she herself was his second wife. I do not judge her for her decision but the fact was that it had a profound impact on my dad’s emotional development. That in turn had an impact on my parent’s marriage, our family life, their divorce, my sister’s life choices and so on. Of course there are many other factors at play, life is very complex, but this one decision was life changing for many people.

Suddenly I saw myself in her situation, I was back in time about to make the same decision. Our son was almost 7 at that stage, same as my dad then. I couldn’t do it to him, he adored Charlie. Every day he was waiting for him to come home, play games or soccer or go shopping and just hang out together. What would I say if he asked me were daddy was? And our girls? They needed their dad too, just as much.

We went to church with heavy hearts. Worshipping that day was a cry for God’s presence. There was a guest speaker and when he called people out for a prayer Charlie was the first one up. He went to the front of the room to pray with the elders and I stayed back on my chair. Tears were streaming down and I couldn’t care less what people might think. I was looking at Charlie from a distance and prayed “God please change his heart. Unless you do that I can’t stay with him. I would have to let him go and I really don’t want to.” I was crying so much I could feel the tears dripping down. I opened my eyes for a moment only to see blood on my hands – my nose was bleeding. I grabbed some tissues and tried to stop it. Somewhere in the middle of that I noticed my son sitting beside me on the floor. He was looking at me visibly concerned. He said: “Mummy look what I drew for you at the Sunday school”. In his hands he was holding a drawing, which said: “God answers prayer”. I couldn’t believe it, it was the best thing he could have done for me in that moment. It made me cry even more but this time the tears were not so bitter. I had God’s promise.

Right after the meeting we went to our office. We needed to get my desk ready for the next day and pray in a few places. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to sit, the obvious place was replacing Ana at her desk but was it were I wanted to be? When I was wondering about it our daughter said: “You should sit here, you’ll be closer to daddy”. It seemed like a good reason so it was settled. I tided and cleaned it, put up a few children’s pictures and made it my own. It was also the first desk I was sitting at when I started working there years earlier – I just reclaimed it. A few weeks later I framed the “God answers prayer” picture and put it up beside it.

While there, Charlie told me an interesting story that shed some light for me on Ana’s character. A couple of weeks earlier Charlie employed a new girl. She was a nice, positive person, married with 2 small children. Somehow Ana must have seen her as a threat, a potential new lover maybe, and in a moment of unfounded jealousy she said “I feel like making a poo on her desk”. It made Charlie look at her in a different light. It made me wonder too about who she really was and how insecure she must have felt. I don’t even try to imagine what she wanted to do to me or my things.

We went home feeling positive, like we have won a few battles. Then we all walked to the local shop to get the briquettes for a fire and while in the shop I promised myself I would never again get a lottery ticket. I have been struggling with a compulsive need to buy it regularly, never spent more then a fiver on it but it was bothering me nevertheless. I would sometimes try to break it but always went back to the habit. I said to myself: if Charlie can break a few bad habits in his life so can I. It was time for changes. Time to put all my trust in God.

At home we put a fire on and sat in front of it together after the kids went to bed. I wanted to look at our wedding pictures but just before we opened the album a thought came to me. I pointed to our pictures on the mantelpiece and I asked: “How were you able to bring her here with all those pictures around?” Did you not feel like they were looking at you?” “I didn’t, I took them off and put them away”. It was one of the saddest images of him in my mind from that time – putting our pictures away, as if you could hide reality and not look in it’s face.

I lost all desire to look at the wedding album. Instead Charlie suggested that maybe we could burn something in the fire, to symbolise the end of what happened. I knew immediately what to bring. A few weeks earlier I noticed a bookmark in a book he was reading. It was a picture of “The lover’s kiss” by Gustav Klimt. I asked him at the time where he got it and he just replied he had bought it in a bookstore. It seemed odd to me but I didn’t question it further. So I brought it down and handed it to him now.
“How did you know it was from her?” he asked. I really didn’t need to answer that.
We put it in the fire and watched it burn slowly.

The wedding album had to wait another few weeks before we both had enough courage to look at it.

The waves

The ‘waves’ were the hardest part of the aftermath of the affair. They reminded me of the labour contractions, some stronger, some weaker, each bringing an amount of pain, fear and discomfort with it. I learned to cope with them in the same way I learned to cope with contractions at birth: rather then trying to run away from them I would face and embrace them knowing they were going to pass and push me along the process. I just wasn’t sure what the end result would be in this case.

The shock of the truth had overwhelmed me, I couldn’t comprehend it’s enormity at once. I wasn’t dealing with one or two lies but with the whole mountain of it that had accumulated over the previous 15 months, more than that, years of other stuff as well, that for the moment I was putting aside as it didn’t present as much danger to me in the way the affair did. It slowly started to sink in, day by day, the various implications of what had led to what, the dates and places took on a new meaning in the light of his confessions.

In situations like these, forgiveness is not a one off thing. You have to learn to forgive each time you find out you’ve been lied to, each time a new ‘wave’ comes.

When they first started coming I feared they would never end. It would have been easier in those moments to give up and stop forgiving then face that giant each time. At times anger took over and I wanted to give in, leave and maybe start anew with someone else but there were two things I couldn’t face losing: our children and faith. Separation would most likely rock both my relationship with the kids and with God. Plus I believed deep in my heart that despite everything that had happened our marriage was worth fighting for.

The ‘waves’ were not only about what, where and when but about the little things like: did you take selfies together, did you write love notes for her like you do for me, how often did you tell her you loved her and did you mean it? Was she sitting on my chair when you brought her to our house and did you drink from the wine glasses we got for our wedding? Sometimes those small things, almost meaningless when you look at the bigger picture, were hardest to deal with. They broke my heart each time I realised they had happened and I needed wisdom in how much I wanted to know.

The first one came on Saturday night, 3 days after our D-day. It brought anger, rage and deep grief. I slapped him on the cheek for the first time in my life. It brought some relief but didn’t feel good. His was the face I loved and wanted to cherish, not hit. I did it a few more times the next morning when some of the confessions literally horrified me. I called him names too and he took it all on, didn’t even try to defend himself. I could see his deep regret and pain. He expressed it perfectly when he said “If I was to commit a suicide now I would drown myself in a slurry pit.” Seeing his pain helped me deal with mine – we were in it together.

We devised a strategy to face the ‘waves’. Each time one came our way it felt as if it was going to drown us but we stood together. I asked him a question, he answered it truthfully, then we would put that sin on the cross in prayer, together with my pain and leave it there. It worked wonders for me. I literally felt no need to go back to those hurtful thoughts. It was dealt with, maybe not forgotten but forgiven and it didn’t hurt anymore. God’s power was at work and I couldn’t deny it.

In those early days we spent hours talking, particularly in the evenings and mornings. I couldn’t sleep anyway, if I fell asleep at all I would wake up early, exhausted but unable to find sleep again. Sometimes we woke up together, before the dawn and talked, cried and prayed. Words of comfort seemed to flow from heaven, conversations changed into prayers and God’s presence was almost tangible in the room. We invited Him into everything we were doing and He was just who He had promised He would be: King of Peace, Comforter, Wonderful Counsellor. He was there where no other, human counsellor could be – 24/7, He was teaching us how to walk on those ‘waves’ and what decisions we should take. I knew that as long as our eyes were fixed on Jesus, we were going to keep walking.

In the middle of the time of the ‘waves’, when they were at their highest, He promised it would one day be a scar but not a wound and the difference is a wound hurts but a scar doesn’t.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

I heard this song for the first time in church, about two weeks after WW. It was like someone had written it for me. I couldn’t believe how much the words spoke to me, every line described the place I found myself in then. I cried every time I heard it for many months after that and it brought a lot of healing.

Oceans

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand


And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine


Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now


So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine


Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
Oh, Jesus, you’re my God!
I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

The aftermath

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“If there were a Richter scale for emotional earthquakes, the discovery of an affair would register at the outermost end of the dial.” 

Shirley P. Glass “Not Just Friends”

Morning came at last, as it always does, and surprisingly the world was still turning.

Charlie sent Ana a message saying he told me everything and she should not come to work anymore. He asked me to read the message before he sent it and from then on we would always send them together. It was one of his ways of showing me he was fully committed to change.

I was making lunches automatically, glad it was another school day and someone else would be looking after the children. Before Charlie left he asked if I would like to go with him to a site of one of our projects, about 2 hours away. I said I would think about it. I could hardly look at him, I wasn’t sure if being in the car, one on one, for such a long time was a good idea. I would have jumped at an opportunity like this in the past but now it was different.

What I really needed quickly was to get some pills, anything that would help me cope with the emotional pain and exhaustion. I went straight to our friends J&D. We had known them for many years, they had been to our wedding and they were Christians too, plus D was a doctor and could prescribe something for me.

“I need help” were my first words to them that morning. I explained briefly what had happened and D burst into tears. They surrounded me with their arms and prayed for help, wisdom, peace and protection from the lies that the enemy would try to make me believe in this time. I understand now how important this last thing was – when you learn of your partner’s betrayal you tend to blame yourself, your self-worth and self-esteem go down to zero. It’s easy to make the wrong choices then and put a negative spin on an already difficult situation. They advised me to go with Charlie and I got a mild tranquilliser that helped me to survive the coming days.

The journey was tough, we were both on an emotional roller coaster veering between crying, shouting and sometimes cursing on my part. It was good nevertheless, nothing distracted us and we had a lot of time to talk. He repeated again and again how sorry he was, how much he regretted what had happened. I tried to gauge if it was genuine or if he was just sorry to be caught.

When we got to the place I couldn’t believe how quickly Charlie changed his behaviour – from being distraught to smiling and joking with other people. I saw then how he was able to put masks on, each one to suit an occasion. It pointed me to an answer of one of the questions that bothered me most: how was he able to lie for so long? How was it possible that I hadn’t noticed? He compared it to wearing different ‘hats’, having parallel lives and switching back and forth between them. It required master skills in lying and I couldn’t comprehend how I had not realised what he was doing.

My view of him, which was always high, had been destroyed, as if he died. I was presented with this new version of my husband and I didn’t know what to do with it – it wasn’t the man I married. That brought me to the next question – if we decide to stay together, will I be able to love him like I used to? It was far too early to answer it at that stage and there were many other questions that needed answers first.

On Friday evening I arranged with our pastors F&C that we would visit them to talk and pray. They were wonderful, I could feel walking into their house they had prayed to get ready, there was a lovely meal waiting for us and although I could hardly eat anything the smell of it was enough. It was an amazing evening in many ways.

I left it up to Charlie to explain our situation. He had envisioned how he was going to break down and cry while telling the story but instead he was overcome by something that he called “a spirit of defiance”. As he told the story he didn’t seem to feel any remorse. It was so strange and he seemed bewildered by it too: he looked around and said “I don’t know what is happening to me”. It’s hard to say what it really was, possibly just an emotional reaction but it showed an ugly side to him that he didn’t know existed and he was confronted by it. I believe he was under the influence of it for the duration of the affair and before.

At one stage he said he didn’t know how he really felt about Ana. It made me so mad I took my rings off and handed them to him.
“When you figure it out and you know what you want you can give them back to me, this is not a divorce. And there is something else I need to say – you said I was weak but I’m not, I’m strong in the Lord and I DO NOT want to hear it ever again.”
Saying it I felt as if it wasn’t only to Charlie but to something that was stealing my energy and strength for many years. Since then I am free from it and although I still need to break bad, old habits, the voice in my head telling me I can’t do it, is gone.
We prayed together, read some bible verses and F&C offered that if we decided we needed space from each other, Charlie could stay with them for a few nights. It was great having that support.

We were taking every day easy, no plans, just being together and talking as much as we could. Even work had to be put aside for a while. Our children were not happy about the times when we would close the door to our bedroom, talk and cry but we had no choice. We only told them we were going through a difficult time and we needed this time alone. They were very patient but sensed something was wrong and our eldest daughter often cried with us. What broke Charlie’s heart was our younger daughter’s question when he was tucking her in at bed time: how would we decide who is taking who if we split up…

Those first few days were like walking in a haze. As if something hit me hard on the head and I knew what it was but couldn’t look straight at it. I knew it happened but going into any details was too painful so I didn’t ask too many questions. Then we talked on Saturday evening and he confessed he had bought her a ring. He did it that day when I was singing ‘my song’ all day. I needed about 2 seconds to be covered in tears. Did he not know the symbolism that a ring carries? Did he really want to tie himself to this girl for all his life? How ignorant do you have to be to do it when you are married to someone else? I felt this person became part of our life, our marriage and no one had asked me for my consent! I told him he had to get it back and we would think and pray what to do with it next. Without it we couldn’t move on.

I slowly started to realise there was such a depth of those affronts to our marriage that needed to be uncovered if we ever wanted to heal. That evening ‘the waves’ started coming.

I will trust in You

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Psalm 55 (Good News Translation)

I am gripped by fear and trembling,
I am overcome with horror.
I wish I had wings, like a dove.
I would fly away and find rest.
I would fly away and make my home in the desert.
I would quickly find myself a shelter from the raging wind and the storm. (…)
If it were an enemy that mocked me,
I could endure it;
If it were an opponent boasting over me,
I could hide myself from him.
But it is you, my companion, my colleague and close friend.
We had intimate talks with each other and worshipped together in the temple. (…)
But I can call to the Lord God for help and he will save me.
Morning, noon and night my complaints and groans go up to him and he will hear my voice.
He will bring me safely back from the battles that I fight (…)
As for me I will trust in you.

Wicked Wednesday

 

I stayed home all that week. We were temporarily short of workstations and I had to wait until Ana finished her work and returned home. I was using this time to do housework and pray for our situation. I managed at last to tune my home stereo to catch Spirit Radio and it was a blessing, I could tidy and listen.

On Wednesday morning there was a talk about a vaccination for HPV virus and how it’s not 100% effective and the only way to be sure to not get it is premarital abstinence and fidelity afterwards. I was so excited they were talking about it out loud! I started to thank God for his ways which are always best for us, on so many levels and I suddenly saw a vision. I saw an arm with a big wound or a boil on it. It was full of puss and it couldn’t heal. I knew that to heal, it had to be open and the puss had to come out and only then God could start washing it off and cleansing it. I didn’t know what it meant but I prayed: “Lord, let it all come out.”

I came up with a few questions that I had to ask Charlie. He came home not too late and we went upstairs to our bedroom to talk.

The evening was quiet and peaceful, there was a lovely light outside and my favourite, autumnal colours on the trees.
We were holding each other and I said:
“Charlie, I need to ask you a few questions. The first one is: was there ever, anything inappropriate between you and another woman since we met?”
He looked at me with a pained expression on his face for a few moments and then suddenly leapt off the bed.
“Yes, yes, yes! Ana! All this time, since the first summer. I’m so sorry, what have I done?! I can’t hold it in anymore, I was so afraid recently that I was bringing something bad on our family, that something bad would happen to one of our children! Oh God, I deserve to be punished for all I have done!”
He was standing beside the window which was open. There was so much desperation in his voice and tension in all his body I was afraid he was going to do something silly, like jumping out of the window. My first words were:
“Don’t do anything stupid.”
He thanked me for saying that and knelt down on the bed before me, sobbing. He was in bits, repenting wholeheartedly, saying how he had betrayed everything that was dear to him. I heard the words but their meaning was not yet getting through to me.

Initially it was all about him. I held his hands in mine and realised that this was his moment of finally seeing himself for what he really was, seeing his actions without excuses and knowing there were consequences for what he had done and I couldn’t let this opportunity pass. For a moment he wasn’t my husband, he was just another human being whom I wanted to know Jesus. I said:
“Charlie, there is someone who took this punishment on himself and had paid it all for you. You need to bring it all to the cross, repent and accept what He has done for you. Now you know you are a sinner like everyone else and you know why you need Him”.

The gospel suddenly made sense to him. He saw he could not cope with his weak, human nature anymore, there was no way he could ever pay for what he had done. It was his rock bottom. He came to the cross, crucified his sin desperately asking for salvation and help. He did it a few more times in the days that followed but this was a defining moment.

For me, the news didn’t really sink in for a while. I was there, sitting on my bed, feeling like that cat on the road: waiting to be hit. I expected it would happen at any moment but in fact it came in stages. It was by the grace of God that He had prepared me for it during the previous two weeks.

After a while of crying he came round and said: “Do you mind if I ring my parents? We need their support now.” I knew he was right. He didn’t say on the phone what it was about, instead asking them to come over.

They came an hour later, enough for us to get the children into pyjamas. I felt terribly cold from the emotions and had a blanket wrapped around me. They must have sensed something bad had happened so I reassured them saying: “Don’t worry, nobody is sick, and no one has died.”

We sat at the table and Charlie told them what happened. He said he had been having an affair for 15 months and also struggling with pornography addiction. We talked for some time, they assured me how sorry they were for what happened, it was decided Ana would not work in the office one more day and that all his contact with her would be supervised. We prayed together at the end. I think they went home in a similar state of shock to mine.

After they left I had to decide what to do about sleeping arrangements. Did I want to sleep beside this man whom I did not recognise anymore? Did I even want him in my house? But what would I tell our children in the morning? And where would he go? He wanted to stay and sleep in our bed, he was broken, in bits. I let him stay but told him to not even try to touch me. I got out an old pyjama and put away my nice nightdresses thinking: I believed I was the only one, how silly and naive was I?

We talked and prayed in bed, swallowing tears but then he fell asleep quickly. It seemed he had shed a heavy load off his heart and now he could sleep peacefully. I knew I wouldn’t sleep at all, again.

I was just lying there in the darkness and prayed: “Holy Spirit, I need you so much now. I want to see you, please come now.” Nothing happened in that moment but I knew he heard me and his presence was very tangible over the next days, weeks and months.

After a few hours of tossing and turning I decided to go downstairs and try to sleep on the couch but it didn’t work. My heart was pounding so loud I could hear it, if I fell asleep it was only for a few minutes and then I woke up again with a feeling of panic. It was the longest night of my life. I felt scared, lonely and lost. Like a little boat on a raging see.

I will forever be grateful to our cat who came to me, snuggled in and kept me company until the morning, purring as if everything was right in the world.