"But I say to you... Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." ~ Luke 6:27-28 (NRSV)
For a while now, I have made it a habit to pray for those who have hurt me. Every time a memory assaults me, I lift it up to the Lord and pray for His love, light, grace, peace, mercy, and blessings in abundance upon the individual for whom that memory calls to mind. This brings about a sense of peace, a true love for that person. I want to believe that I am healing. I know that I am far removed from those times in my life, and that the scars are slowly fading away.
Recently a Google search of my "abuser"-- the one who took my virginity and who used my naiveté, insecurities, and submissive desires for his purposes-- revealed that his actions have finally caught up with him. The man is now in jail. Not for the damage he has done to me or any other woman, but for the long laundry list of legal troubles he has wrought against others.
Seeing his "mug shot" was more than I was prepared to deal with.
A part of me is relieved by what has happened. Even now, years later and from the other side of the world, I have been afraid of this person. Nightmares, PTSD reactions to words he used or the things he liked (colors, foods, cars), and silly little things like my fear of the dark and struggles to sleep when the sun sets have have had deleterious affects upon my growth and everyday aspect of living. Would he find me? Does he keep "tabs" on me? Will he try to contact me again, asking for money as he has several times in the past? Am I safe? Now, at long last, can I rest at ease?
One part of me hurts anew. Another fraction, too, feels tremendous guilt. How could I have fallen under this man's influence? How could I allow myself to trust him? To be abused? To do nothing--but what could I do?-- about my suspicions of some of his illegal activities? Could I have done more to prevent him from hurting other people? Even now, is my tendency towards submission merely a catalyst for abuse? Sometimes the doubts assail me.
At these times, I pull away from those I love. I exist, as it were, outside of myself. Trying to make sense of it all.
Ten years ago, I was a girl with little life experience... A young soul who wanted to follow Christ where He was leading me... Against the wishes of my parents and without their blessing. I left their home and protection and became trapped inside of the cage of this cruel individual who, at times, helped me while still using me for his twisted pleasure. Am I now, on the other end of all of this, a stronger woman? Have I been freed of the chains that bind me? Or are shattered pieces of me still left behind? Am I outside of that terrifying cage or am I still inside of it?
Why did this person have to choose me to hurt? How could I have been so blind and so stupid as to have fallen into his snare? Why did I fear him--and still fear him-- so much that I remained in his grasp when I noticed that the "key" was in the lock and all I had to do was turn it? Was it really that simple? Did I choose to remain there? Or was I right to fear? After all, how could I have left the entrapment? Where could I have run to? Freedom from a cafe locked in side of a dark dungeon isn't really freedom, is it? My e-mail, my phone records, my bank records were all known to him and controlled by him. My family had cast me aside for wanting to become Catholic. Could I have relied on their protection? When they had, in some way, participated in this fall from grace? If I allowed myself to be abused, did I not deserve it? Do I not deserve it now?
How is one supposed to react to the news that one's former abuser is now in prison? How does one love when it still hurts? Sometimes I hurt so much inside. I also long for justice for this individual-- but more than for his illegal activities, how I wish that he could face justice for all of the women that he has scarred so deeply. I know that I am just one in a long string of souls who have been shattered by him. He has never acknowledged his guilt. Never asked for forgiveness. Had never made restitution. Could anything I know be used for that end?-- For myself and all of those who still suffer?
And yet, is he not also worthy of love and forgiveness? Is he in less need of the love of God? Are any of us better than him in the eyes of God? At every Eastern Divine Liturgy (Mass), the faithful cry out sincerely that we are the chiefest of sinners. How can any of us claim the moral high ground when we all fall short, in thought, in word, and in deed, in ways knowingly and in those long forgotten before the holiness of of Almighty God?
These are all questions I ask myself... Am asking myself right now as I face my past and struggle to make sense of the pain that makes me feel as shattered as broken glass fragmented into a million shards. Sometimes there are no answers in this life, only a clarity that will be seen in the world to come. So I hope and I pray for this person who haunts my deepest fears and darkest nightmares. I pray for him and his holiness... I pray that he will have the strength to put back his life back together.
Just as I have--and must continue to-- take the million pieces and, though the great grace from God, reassemble them into something beautiful, I pray that this person too will choose take his broken shards and make out of them something beautiful for Him.
~ Traditional Wife ~
P.S. Yes, the photo above is of me... Just covered with a snowflake for purposes of identity. Please keep me, and all those souls who have been victims of abuse, in your prayers.
"Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house... Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting."
~Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Tonight my Husband and I walked through the cold, rainy streets of Helsinki. My floor-length jean skirt was soaked at the hem and its rough texture whipped the tops of my chapped feet with every step. The masochist in me enjoyed that. ;-)
Over the past week, we have enjoyed a "working holiday" in Scandinavia. The Eid holiday back home in the Middle East gave my Husband a great opportunity to attend a "nerd conference" in Finland and me the opportunity to enjoy the Autumn season in all of its splendour! How I have loved taking walks around the city's famous esplanade, enjoying the cool, crisp air. The colours, too-- how magnificent! Historical architecture, cobblestone streets, the adorable green trams, music from the various street performers, the apple harvest... How I have loved it all!
Each day, near the end of my Husband's conference talks, I would venture across the city and hole up in the little coffee house next door. What a pleasure it was to curl up with a cappuccino, some gluten-free treat, and a good book! The best part of all? My Husband strolling through the front door with that tender, loving smile of his on his face.
Tomorrow morning, my Husband and I venture back to our home in the Middle East. How strange it seems, going from the now winter-ish weather of Scandinavia to the summer climate of Arabia! How different the land, the history, the culture, and the cuisine. Yet we have managed to carve out a little niche for ourselves, and we look forward to be going home.
I regret that it has been a long time since my last blog post. Since my Husband and I moved in July, we have been busy with a myriad of legalization paperwork, household projects, and growing acclimated to our new environment. Slowly, it has all come together. What a blessing!
When we first arrived, the weather was excruciatingly hot and humid. We were given temporary housing by the university. The morning after my Husband and I arrived-- exhausted and jet-lagged from our 13-hour flight, we attended an orientation. Since we had been told that there would be no more available faculty housing, we spent the next several hours with an agent trying to find a flat within our housing allowance budget. All of this was in vain, however. My Husband received word shortly thereafter that we--unbeknownst to us-- had been given a spacious, three-bedroom house in the university-acquired building after all!
One look at our new home and our jaws dropped. My mind was whirling! How would we fill up such large, cavernous rooms on our furnishing allowance? How was I going to manage to keep up a 250 sq. meter / 2,500 square ft. home? Especially one in a dusty, desert climate that lacked carpeting? Why was the washing machine in the kitchen, but the dryer in the "Maid's Room?" Did we really even need a maid's room? Last, were the bedets in every bathroom truly necessary?
My Husband and I had not yet purchased a car. The majority of our furniture shopping was spent walking from store to store, hauling back odds and ends via taxi. Thankfully, the big furniture purchases would be delivered within a week or two. While we waited--and it seemed that our first month or two was spent with the maxim, "hurrying up to wait"-- my Husband finished his residency requirements, set up his faculty office, and began planning for his upcoming courses.
In August, we spent a few weeks in the mountains of Lebanon. My Husband's cousin was getting married, and it was a big to-do! For the first time in forty years, my father-in-law and all of his siblings were together in their ancestral home. It was a blessing, but also a painful one. My Husband and I stepped into the tiny kitchen where, a couple of years before, Sitto and I would fight each other (good naturally!) about who would wash dishes after a meal. I remembered my cooking lessons from her. Sitto didn't speak more than a handful of words in English. I didn't speak more than that, myself, in Arabic. Yet somehow she taught me how to make Lebanese dishes and I diligently wrote down her recipes in a journal. Remembering all of this, I held my Husband and we cried together. Our trip to Lebanon was precious, if not a little bittersweet.
Life in the Middle East continues to be an adventure! We live in a country where every day is sunny and beautiful. It almost never rains. Only recently has it become "beach weather" and I very much look forward to spending time at a segregated "women's beach!" My Husband and I live on nearly the 40th floor of the university-affiliated skyscraper building with floor-to-ceiling windows, in a corner unit that has amazing views of the expansive city, aquamarine waters, and neighboring islands. In the daytime it is stunning and, at night, the lights are breathtaking!
Our furniture is a mix of modern, traditional, and as least "gaudy" as we could manage. The trend here really is more towards the gaudy-- anything that sparkles, glitters, or incorporates every colour of the rainbow. Admittedly, our bedroom furniture looks like something out of Disney's Aladdin or the inside of Jeannie's bottle in the bygone sitcom, "I Dream of Jeannie."
One of the happiest days of all was the evening our beloved cat, Pepper, finally arrived at our doorstep. It had taken weeks beyond schedule to get him half-way across the world, for the required medical tests and paperwork were changing or geting delayed. At long last, however, the pet relocation company picked Pepper up from his vacation at my in-laws' home and, two days later, delivered him to our flat in a pet "cargo crate." Pepper blinked, meowed, and then stepped out of his carrier to explore the palace in which he, at least in his mind, is the King of Persia. I held my furry baby and sobbed my heart out for joy. Our house was finally a home!
Pepper, however, soon learned that he was not alone. He was curious about the new cat in the home. To this day, he isn't quite sure what to make of his new sister!
Our new cat, Will--short for Wilhelmina, it turns out-- actually found us. My Husband and I walked out of church one evening to where our rental car was parked. From some distance away, we stopped short in our tracks. There was a black and white cat lounging on top of our vehicle, happily licking away! My beloved and I looked at one another, then tried to figure out how to proceed from there. Our city's animal control department had long since closed for the evening.
The stray cat was not afraid of us, although she was clearly not anyone's pet. She had no collar, she was frightfully thin (as most of the wild or feral cats in the region are), she had deep scars on her little back that had long since been put there, she had a part of one of her ears torn, and she proudly sported a rather painfully crooked tail. Otherwise, the feline appeared to be healthy. Slowly, we approached her. She came to us happily, wanting to be petted and loved. When my Husband opened the back door of the car to put something away, the little black and white "Oreo" cat hopped right in!
To make a long story short, we brought Will home for the night. One night became forever. No one called to claim Will or to report her missing. My Husband and I took her to the veterinary clinic for shots and to be "fixed." Will, our little girl, as it turned out (we initially thought she was a boy), is a tomboy, through and though, but she is one happy cat! An endless supply of food, cold water, toys, and loving hands to hold and pet her has turned another needy little stray into a cherished part of our family. Will is far less "vocal" than Pepper... She is still a little skittish, but she loves to come and curl up next to us as she falls asleep and snores. She snores like a human! But her little head often rests on our arms or legs. What precious, lovable cats we have been blessed with!
One more day; then my Husband and I shall return to them-- and to life as we know it! Our holiday to Finland was a blessing, but I look forward to being once again be the obedient, happy homemaker of the household ruled by my Husband, the supportive professor's wife at public functions, and the ever-diligent online university student wherever there is coffee and free wifi!
As for Domestic Discipline in our marriage, it is nearly back in "full swing"-- if you will pardon the pun. Life circumstances had necessitated a period of its absence. Nevertheless, my Husband and I have now settled into our new lives abroad and are closer with one another than ever before. Slowly, the items we brought over in our suitcases-- implements, restraints, and other helpful tools-- are coming once more to see the light of day. ;-)
In the future, I hope to write fairly often. There are so many beautiful things to share-- both the experiences of everyday life and little insights. Please remember those of us who are in the Middle East in your prayers, and know that you shall remain in mine.
With much love,
P.S. Yes, the photograph included in this post is of our two darling cats. On the left is Will. On the right, trying to figure her out, is Pepper. :-)
"It is no virtue to be silent by nature, but it is a virtue to bridle one's tongue by reason."
~ St. Francis de Sales
It has been a long time since I last wrote a post on my blog. In part, my silence has been the natural product of a busy life in an even busier city. The other part is that I had been unsure of what to write. The "muse," so to speak, had taken a bit of a hiatus.
In two and a half weeks, my Husband and I will be leaving all behind and moving to the Middle East. We have had more than a year with which to prepare ourselves for this great adventure, yet only recently has the reality truly hit.
Our one-way business class tickets have been booked via the university's travel agency. My Husband and I are scheduled to look at more permanent housing the day after our arrival. A professional moving company recently packed up the few belongings-- books, artwork, and my Husband's office items-- that will find itself on a longboat to China... well, almost... and back again in our possession on the other side of the world. Last, our beloved Pepper will soon become the honored house guest of our family for a few weeks, until such a time as his little fuzzy self can be transported abroad.
A few days ago, I sat on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral and watched the world continue on through a mist of rain. Later, I took a long walk through the ever beautiful Central Park, enjoying its scenery and breathing in the earthy scent of late spring blossoms. Throughout the day, I reflected upon this past year and all of the ways life has shifted, changed, and has come full-circle.
When my Husband and I moved last summer for our transitional year in New York City, it became my goal to take this time to work on myself. I hoped to overcome my abuse-related fears and phobias as well as to focus on deepening my spiritual life. Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the various ways in which God has worked to fulfill these noble goals. It has been a beautiful journey. Now, on the other side of it all, I stand in awe and give praise to the One who works all things for good (Rom 8:28).
I have overcome a great deal in a short amount of time. My germaphobia has all but ceased, I have faced my great fear of being home alone while my husband was away on work-related trips several times, and my relationship with God has deepened as never before.
One of the things that has shaped my life the most has been an embracing of Eastern Catholic spirituality. I had first been exposed to the Eastern Rites of the Catholic faith around the time of my conversion to Catholicism, via a friend who was also converting, but to a byzantine rite. Then came my Husband and our wedding that took place in the traditional Maronite Rite of Crowning. I became fond of the Maronites but, at the same time, that particular rite never felt like "home."
My Eastern Catholic journey truly began last year, when I made a short, silent spiritual retreat with an order of hermit nuns whose way of life is very much an "East meets West" sort of outlook. The literature they provided, along with their byzantine style Liturgy of the Hours, prayers, and use of iconography spoke to my heart in a most profound way. When I returned home, I began to work with an Eastern-rite novice friend of ours who lived at a local monastery. He taught me the "Jesus Prayer" and the beauty of praying with my whole being: complete with icons, prostrations mental prayer as well as vocal prayer, and communicating with God with the very breath of my soul. I soon fell in love with icons and the byzantine Divine Liturgy.
Over the past year, God has been faithful in continuing to nurture the seed He had sown in my soul. Although my Husband and I registered at a Latin Mass parish upon relocation to the city, we soon found ourselves parishioners in a small, precious Eastern parish community. Through our monk friend mentioned above, we were acquainted with an Eastern-rite deacon and I began to work with him as my temporary Spiritual Director. The past months have been filled with an abundance of wealth: Eastern prayers, Liturgies, writings of the Eastern Saints, the Eastern way of life, and so much more!
It has been interesting to see the Hand of God at work. He has been preparing my Husband and me for a holy future since well before our marriage, the details of which I must be silent about for now, but suffice it to say that the longings of our hearts for a life spent dedicated to the Lord's holy service shall be fulfilled in His perfect way and in His perfect timing. Our moving to the Middle East is certainly no coincidence. It is simply one more step in His master plan. :-)
Life has never been more beautiful... and the best is yet to be!
I pray that you all have been similarly blessed in my absence. It my most fervent hope that you may continue to grow in grace and in holiness, fulfilling day by day the holy work for which God has purposed your life.
Today, I end this post as a "Traditional Wife" living as an anomaly in Western Culture, but very soon I shall write to you once again, at home and at peace, and as just one of many traditional wives in the Middle East.
God bless you,
Why have you left Me, O man?
Why have you turned away from One Who loves you?
Remember, it is because of you I came down from heaven.
Remember, it is because of you I was made flesh.
Remember, because of you I became poor,
Remember, because of you I suffered persecution.
Remember, because of you I was numbered among the transgressors.
I came from Heaven so as to lift you up.
I endured dishonor so as to honor you.
I was wounded that you might be healed.
I died in order to give you life.
You sinned, but I took your sin upon Myself.
You are the debtor, but I paid the debt.
You were sentenced to death, but I died for you.
I was drawn to this by my love and compassion;
I could not bear to see you suffer such misfortune.
Are you ignoring such a love as Mine?
Instead of Me, you love sin.
Instead of Me, you serve your passions.
But what have you found in Me worthy of revulsion?
Why do you not want to come to Me?
Is it good that you wish for yourself?
I have all that is good.
Do you want beauty? What is more beautiful than I?
Do you want wealth? I possess all riches.
Do you want wisdom? I am God's wisdom.
Are you looking for help? Who will help, if not I?
Looking for joy? Who will make you happy, if not I?
Looking for peace? I am peace of soul.
Looking for life? I am the source of life.
Looking for light? "I am the light of the world."
Looking for Truth? I am the Truth.
Looking for a guide to heaven? I am the true Guide.
You dare not approach? Who is easier to approach?
Your sins prevent you? I died for sinners.
You hesitate because of your many sins?
My mercy is greater.
"Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28)
As I sit here, post-surgery, introspection takes my fingertips to task... :-)
Last Thursday, I had an ovarian wedge resection, laparoscopy, hysteroscopy, and selective HSG. I ended up staying in the hospital up overnight due to severe pain and illness, but my Husband stayed by my side throughout it all. Now, I am home and am recovering. How very blessed I am by my Husband who loves me, cherishes me, and nurtures me as his little treasure! Not only does he cherish me, but he has also shown me much about his dominance and leadership through his service.
In the past few days and, I suspect this will be true of the next several to come, I haven't been able to hardly lift a finger. If I am cold, my Husband will wrap me up in a blanket. If I am feeling ill, he holds me. If I need a cry, he will pet my head as I like him to do until the tears come and all of the anxiety, fear, and pain from the surgery bubbles out and is released. He checks my wounds and re-bandages them. He makes sure that I rest and, when I become too stir-crazy, he helps me take small outings.
"A Master is often a servant in disguise." This line comes from a favourite DD novel series of mine, the Dragonmaster "Land of Khys" series by Nettie Jones, but it strikes me as true in a whole new way today. Each party, regardless of role, is called to give wholly of themselves for the service of the other. I think that this is perhaps the "mutual submission" that St. Paul refers to in his epistles to the Church-- not a dumbing down of relationship roles within marriage, but a call to serving the needs of the other through our particular gifts, talents, and calling.
Christ Himself spoke of the greatest being the least and He not only humbled himself to wash his disciples feet, but He submitted to the will of the Father and died a cruel and vile death on the cross in our place. "Greater love than this no man hath," says Our Lord, "that a man lay down his life for his friends." If this is true of mere friendship, how much greater are we called to lay down ourselves for our spouse? How much more noble our dying to our passions of anger, impatience, bitterness, stubbornness, shrewish language, disregard, and disobedience?
What would happen in a world where we women were cherished beyond belief and served with love? Would this not foster a spirit of tender affection and thanksgiving? What if we loved back with our whole selves, as unto the Lord, and served our husbands with support, affirmation, thoughtfulness, submission, and obedience? What if we did these things anyway? As the proverbial phrase goes, what comes first: the chicken or the egg? The truth is, regardless of what we gain in return, we are called to give of ourselves without reserve. This is love.
This Christmas season, as we reflect on the love surrounding the Christ child-- the love of his parents, his adoring worshipers, and the love He held for us-- may we be inspired to become more like Christ Himself.
Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year to all!
"While I am busy with little things, I am not required to do greater things." -- St. Francis de Sales
The past couple of months have been an absolute whirlwind! There is so much to explain-- a new career for my Husband, a new home, and a death in the family, etc.--where do I even begin?
Several posts ago, I mentioned having traveled to the Middle East with my spouse. It was the final stage in the process whereby my Husband interviewed for a professorship position at a fairly prestigious university. The search committee liked my Husband very much. After flying us both to their new campus in the Middle East and "wining and dining" us, they did extend an offer to him. A little negotiating was accomplished. In the end, my Husband accepted the offer and officially became what I believe he was meant to be in his career-- a professor.
Up until this point, my Husband had been working as a statistician at another institution. The twelve-hour days and two-hour each way commutes were not conducive to his health or our marriage. When this new university opportunity opened up, it was a God-send!
As I write this, I am sitting at a coffee house in one of the largest cities in the world-- my new hometown! At least, for a year. As per the conditions of my Husband's faculty position, we will spend a year at the university's home campus before gallivanting off to the Middle East. This will allow my Husband to network and work on research, etc. It will also give us time to prepare all of the necessary documentation to become guest residents of a foreign country.
One year ago, my Husband and I visited this great city for the first time. The occasion was to celebrate my birthday. We had loved it so much, we had joked about possibly being able to live here someday. Who knew that it would happen? We are truly blessed!
Up until this point I have been feeling very much like the St. Francis quote. I apologise for having neglected my little blog; life has been surprisingly busy!
In the last two months, my Husband and I have sold the majority of what we had owned (our new flat was completely furnished; nor are we planning on bringing much with us to the Middle East!). We then lived with his family for several weeks-- his large, loud Lebanese family-- and said goodbye to our friends.
There was one last person to whom we had to say our "goodbyes"-- for good on this side of eternity. I entitle this particular section my "Ode to a Traditional Wife."
"Sitto" is the proper Arabic word for "grandmother." It is what we all called the small Lebanese woman who served her home with love, sacrifice, and entirely too much delicious ethnic cuisine! She was a beautiful woman of God. She was also old and sick and she desperately missed her husband who had predeceased her by more than twenty years. Hers was a well-prepared death, for which we are thankful. Sitto's memory will always live on in our hearts, our lives forever changed because of this little loving spitfire.
I remember her first words to me. "I love you," she had said and clasped my arm with her hands. Her words were spoken in very broken English, but their warmth filled me and welcomed me to the family. In my final goodbye to her, I was able to sit by her bedside and take her hand in mine. I thanked her for her example of wifely grace. I assured her that I deeply revered my Husband and that I would take good care of him. My last words to her were hers in return: "I love you."
Somehow, none of this feels quite real-- a new life, a new home, a beautiful new Russian Byzantine Catholic parish, and new friends-- but a new chapter in our lives has begun!
Nevertheless, I am sure my readers will be comforted to know that, tucked away in an alcove inside our wardrobe closet, our trusty old implement "friends" also await the myriad of new adventures and misadventures! ;-)
"Many a man curses the rain that falls upon his head, and knows not that it brings abundance to drive away the hunger."
~ St. Basil
I knelt in the back pew, my favourite little corner of our parish, as Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form began. My heart beat a million beats per minute and my thoughts raced even faster. What was I going to do? How could I tell my Husband? Why had I been so foolish with my words?
A thud sounded behind me as the doors opened and a tall, familiar figure knelt in the pew in front of me. I felt as if I were going to faint.
"Where are we?" my friend turned around to ask. His tone gave nothing away. Silently, I showed him the correct page in the missal. I was ever so grateful for the large white mantilla, which shadowed my flushed face.
I spent the rest of the Mass storming Heaven with prayers for understanding, help, and perseverance as my mind recalled the events of the past several hours...
Several months ago, I had attended Mass at the stone church near where my Husband and I were living. It was during a time in which I had needed a friend and God's grace. I happened to see a good friend of ours. It was a wonderful surprise! We ended up having coffee and catching up afterward. This was done, of course, with the permission of my spouse. Ever since then, we would meet up once a week or so for Mass and coffee. Often, this also included the company of a precious nun friend of ours. These weekly coffee chats were a spiritual highlight of my week.
On this particular day, however, something had come up about our pasts and who they made us today. The dear Sister had mentioned how physical abuse had affected her and how, as a nun, it impacted her apostolate. I had opened up a little and had mentioned the positive impact of my own past in helping women to overcome their own struggles. I briefly touched on having a blog as a creative outlet and aid in this endeavour. It was an amazing conversation!
In reference to what we had discussed, I sent a heavily edited version of my "Submission After Abuse" story to this friend. Granted, I had not done this with the permission of my Husband. I felt a twinge of guilt over this, but I did not think that it would be a big deal. Oh, how blissfully unaware I was of its deeper impact!
A little while later, I happened to check the tracker I keep on my blog. It is always interesting to see the various countries from which this little blog is hit and the keyword searches from which it was found. I am even more amused when someone from a nearby village or town happens to "find" me. After all, you and I could pass by each other in a given day at a bookstore, grocery story, or even at Holy Mass. Would we even know one another?
I noticed such a nearby website hit. Curiosity piqued, I clicked on a link which showed me the Google keyword search. My heart skipped a beat when I saw part of the text from my "story." Oh, no!
My secret was out! There was nothing I could do to retract it. Would this friend understand? Or would I be seen as a freak? Was the friendship over? My heart sank at the thought of my Husband and me losing a friend over my foolishness.
After Holy Mass, I gave a final heart-felt prayer and genuflected out of my pew. My Husband was in the sacristy, de-vesting from his acolyte cassock and surplus. We would meet up, as we always did, in the usual "coffee hour" spot with the other dear souls who had been present at Mass.
Removing my veil once outside of the doors, I noticed our friend close behind. He gave me a knowing grin. It was an odd sensation to have just come from a holy experience and, yet, to want to smack someone upside their head!
"You did NOT have to Google me!" I said with my hands on my hips. My anger was a front... I was close to tears.
"You have nothing to worry about," he replied.
As we made our way across the car park to the little building on the church property, this friend explained that he completely agreed with my traditional marriage. He confirmed, as I had always suspected, that he also had "old school" tendencies. Perhaps these had been instilled by traditional values in his family. It was simply life. I was dumbfounded!
My Husband joined us in the refreshment area. I had yet to explain any of this to him. It was quite the interesting verbal juggling act to explain the situation as quietly as possible, in as few words as possible, in a room full of people!
It's one thing to become acquainted with individuals though a lifestyle-friendly medium and to have that develop into an IRL friendship. My Husband and I are blessed with several of those. It is something entirely different when everyday friends discover the secret of your happy, successful marriage!
As terrifying as my initial fears were, this perilous situation ended up being for the best. Things could have turned out very badly but, by God's grace, they did not. It has been several weeks since this "Grand Revelation." Since that time, my Husband and I have gained an even deeper friendship and we are able to talk more freely about that which is such an integral part of our lives.
While this situation has taught me to be much more careful in the future, my heart is glad! Instead of "cursing the rain," I am profoundly grateful for the "harvest" it has produced. :-)
"For he hath hidden me in his tabernacle... he hath protected me in the secret place of his tabernacle" (Psalm 26:5; Douay Rheims).
Hiding places have always been my secret love. When I was a little girl, I used to build forts at home and off in the woods or at the park. I would happily stay there in my little shelter, munch on plain bread, and either read or contemplate life.
I am not so very different all of these years later. The spirit of a little girl is still very much alive and well in my soul! I have traded woodland cottages for other favourite spots and hangouts, but the contemplative hideaway is essentially the same. A few hours curled up in a sunny spot (I must be part cat!) is at once soothing and re-charging.
Several weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to visit an order of hermit nuns. These beautiful souls are hidden away entirely from the world, deep in the woods and in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Their spirituality is very much based on silence, solitude, and contemplation.
I was given my own little hermitage. Amazingly, this wood cottage held two levels. On the ground floor, there was the sleeping area, the kitchen, a small dining area, and a washroom. An intricately carved staircase led upward, into a private prayer room. All of this was hugged by a warm, inviting front porch and a one large chair. The view-- a large lake below steep rocks-- was breath-taking!
As lovely as this was, I began a love-hate relationship with my spiritual retreat. In the morning there was Matins, Holy Mass, and silent adoration afterward. Each evening I would make my harrowing hike back up the stone path for Vespers. In between those two "community" events, I did a lot of reading and praying. It was a beautiful experience but, surprisingly, also very lonely. Some days, I relished being the only guest hermit there during my stay. At other times, I longed for at least some form of communication with others. The friendly, furry animals outside my porch began to look like potential friends. I think I did break down and talk to one. :-)
The retreat was beautiful. God's presence was very much felt in the silence. At one point, His Spirit was so overwhelming and overpowering, I began to weep for joy.
I also enjoyed several funny "misadventures." I once found myself to be incredibly lost in the woods during a heavy rain shower. At another time, I had just finished cleaning my little hermitage and was in a long summer dress and apron. I had planned on resting for a few moments out on my front porch but, when I shut the door behind me, I had a sudden "Uh oh" moment. The door was locked. My keys were inside. When my little nun friend saw that I had walked barefoot uphill and on small stones after having locked myself out, she laughed. I laughed along her, but it was still not an experience I wished to repeat. Eventually, I kept a window unlocked so that I could simply "break in" to my cottage.
In the end, I was very glad to return home to my Husband, to my cat, and to technology! Silence and contemplation are an important part of my spirituality, but I was not called to be a hermit nun. :-)
These days, I have been on another sort of "retreat." This time it is within my own home. The image that comes to mind to express this beautiful reality is of a cocoon. I am finding it beneficial to work very closely with my Husband-- often over his knee-- to get out some of the deep roots of past abuse. (Ladies, as pretty as "Purpleheart" wood paddles may look, pray that your husband never is given one!) May God be pleased for this little larva to come forth, in time, as His butterfly.
I pray that your soul too may be undergoing a sort of "cocoon" transformation. May we all rest in Him... This rest of vital change that is so necessary to emerge as the souls He wishes for us to be.
"Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life. Therefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits."
~ St. Phillip Neri
The life of a traditional wife is certainly not a boring one! I think, too, that one must possess a unique sense of humour in order to endure being counter-revolutionary in today's day-in-age. ;-)
Perhaps it will seem strange that a post, written during the solemn season of Lent, should be lighthearted. Nevertheless, that is my aim. This post is being written under the direction of Holy Obedience to God through my Husband's will, as I have been quite at a loss lately over what to write next! Aside from this, however, there is a lot to be said for merry thoughts. Gladness lightens the heart and moves it to give thanks to God. So, it is with a happy heart that I recount some of the more "interesting" aspects of my life.
I have found that I have become more sensitive to lifestyle-related "inside jokes." Have you ever noticed how often the letter combinations of "DD," "D/s," and "BDSM" show up in day-to-day life? I must admit that I get a kick out of DD-related acronyms, initials, vanity plates, businesses, and oddly named cities, etc. A trip through an antique market is often rewarded with old-fashioned rulers, hairbrush sets, straps, and so forth. Even craft stores carry fun "traditional treasures:" birch bundles and lengths of cording with which to bind and restrain. Equestrian shops make me drool.
My Husband and I are also something of coffee addicts. This would come as no great surprise to anyone who knows us well. The irony is that our favourite coffee chain just happens to have the initials "D.D." We have great fun with this! After finding the chain in our recent trip abroad, I could not help but take a photo and post it for family and friends to see. Below it, the caption: "It's good to know that DD enjoys a prominent place here in the Middle East!" ;-)
At home, the mirth continues! One of the major selling points of our flat was that it came complete with "built in" whipping posts. I am not kidding. My Husband and I currently live in a converted textile mill that, upon redesign, kept much of its original infrastructure. In the old black and white photographs of what the mill used to look like in a bygone era, one can see the myriad of support beams that rise from floor to ceiling. Several hundred years later, some of those lovely posts now enjoy a prominent place in our home. There are three total in our flat-- one in the family room, one in the kitchen, and one in the utility room. My Husband and I have made very good use of these charming "old world" fixtures. ;-)
In a CDD family, why not have a pet that is just as "special" as the Head of Household and his wife? We are indeed blessed. It turns out that our cat has quite the unique personality! A few days after his adoption, I dubbed Pepper my "submissive" pet. It amused me that he would rub his little orange head lovingly on my feet, follow me at my heels around the house, and even sleep at my feet during the night.
Pepper is also intrigued with discipline. When I write lines, he will jump up next to me and look on with grave interest. Once, I caught him sitting in my seat, reaching for the pen lying on my notebook page. I jokingly told him that he was more than welcome to finish on my behalf. I guess he was not so interested, after all. His response was a rather indignant meow!
What is more, our little pet seems to have a penchant for observing discipline sessions. Truly, a curious cat! Pepper has the oddest knack for sensing when I am about to be punished. He will saunter into the bedroom and jump up on the windowsill in order to have an up-close-and-personal view as my Husband spanks, belts, lashes, or flogs his errant wife. With every stroke, our cat lets out a high-pitched cry that closely mirrors my own agony. It's all my Husband and I can do to keep from laughing! What a strange, lovable cat!
My Husband and I have never shared with our family members the specifics of our traditional marriage. Yet, I often wonder how much they know-- or can guess!
Christmastide was spent this year with my side of the family. This always proves to be an interesting challenge! On Christmas day itself, my parents hosted the family get-together. At some point, I made the mistake of criticiseing myself. A word to the wise: do not call yourself a "cow" in your Husband's presence. When given a quiet warning, do not roll your eyes. Whatever you do, do not look at him squarely in the eyes and say "Moo!" Otherwise you, too, may end up in position in which I soon found myself-- dragged upstairs to my old bedroom and leaning bare-bottomed over the edge of the bed!
My Husband began to attack my behind, the backs of my thighs, and my calves with his vicious leather belt. The door was locked, but that was of little consequence or consolation. One could hear a pin drop in the house I grew up in. The only saving grace was that conversation carried on, rather loudly, downstairs. However, my mother just "happened" to choose this precise moment in time to come upstairs and rummage through her closet. My old bedroom and my parents' bedroom share a wall via that closet. It is quite likely that she overheard every smack of that severe strapping. How humiliating!
At another point during the visit, I was made to write out a very long prayer several times over by hand. There was really no help for privacy in completing the task. I did not even try to hide it. This was, however, quite the experience having to explain (without actually explaining) what I was doing to my nosy mother. "What is this? Is it homework?" Yes, in a way, I suppose it was. It was grace-filled "homework" that kept me from strangling her alive!
My Husband's side of the family is likewise in the dark. Yet sometimes it is not for a lack of trying!
During our summer holiday to Lebanon two years ago, my Husband bought a thin rattan cane. We had gone with a few of his cousins to Zahle, the most Christian city in the Middle East, for the evening. Street vendors were selling everything under the sun-- everything from candy confections to backgammon boards, narghile (water pipe) sets and bootleg DVDs that had not yet been released in the West. There were also the typical, cheap souvenirs. One booth in particular happened to catch my Husband's eye. He walked over and selected a single cane from a bucket of others. One of his male cousins saw this and joked in faltering English, "These used to be used in the schools a long time ago. You know?" Oh, indeed! My Husband smiled and asked the price.
Much to my chagrin, my Husband proudly hung up that cane in our bedroom for the rest of the trip. It was in plain sight to any who entered the room-- something his aunt and little old grandmother did from time to time! Somehow, at the end of our visit, that cane survived the trip home in one piece. It was further amusing to find printed notices in our luggage stating that our bags had been "randomly selected" for a special security check. I would have paid to be a fly on the wall when the airport officials happened to open and go through our belongings! ;-)
The last story I wish to share happened more recently. My Husband and I revisited the Middle East several weeks ago for the final stage of a job interview. While we were there, we were blessed to do a little sight-seeing. One of the places we toured was a large shopping centre. It was a fun excursion! Before we left, though, I happened to spot the women's washrooms. This area was segregated behind what seemed to me to be a thick hockey-like wall barrier. The first door I opened-- apparently I had misread the sign-- led to the women's prayer room. As that was not intended to be my destination, I turned around and spotted the "special needs" washroom. It was unoccupied. I took this as a gift from Providence!
Riddle me this: why do typical lavatory stalls-- which are no larger than the average telephone booth-- insist on having doors that swing inward? I have never understood this phenomenon. It is a bane to the existence of us more germaphobic personages!
In any case, I locked the washroom door and went about my business. A minute or two later, I returned to the door handle in order to flick the lock and go on my way. The lock turned. The door, however, would not budge! My brows furrowed. I tried again. No luck. Again, I moved the lock back and forth. I tried different combinations. The door remained as stone. This is when I really looked around. The room was of medium size,. There were no windows. The doors and walls were solid and thick and made of material reminiscent of solitary confinement prison scenes. I began to panic!
I knocked on the door. It was to no avail. I swung the door handle down as hard as I could and slammed myself against the door, hoping against hope that it would spring forward and I would be released. I began to yell. It suddenly dawned on me that I did not know the Arabic world for "help!" Instead, I began to yell in English. Still, no one came to my rescue. It seemed that I would end up dying in a public washroom in a foreign country located half-way around the world! I was not sure, at that exact moment, whether God had an ironic sense of humour or if this was merely divine justice for trying to circumvent OCD.
Just as I was beginning to give in to hyperventilation, I heard my Husband's distant voice say, "I think someone is locked in there." Oh, I could have kissed him! Nevertheless, it took still several more minutes before a worker unlocked my door from the other side.
A rather half-crazed Traditional Wife emerged! Tears were streaming shamelessly down my face and my make-up was in utter shambles! What is worse, I could not run to my Husband and cling to him as I wished to do. The country we visited frowns upon public displays of affection. After cleaning up-- this time in the regular washroom!-- I rejoined my Husband in the common area. We looked at each other. Although the situation hadn't been particularly funny moments before, the corners of our mouths began to turn upwards. In the end, we could not help but burst out laughing!
Thus are a few of the crazy musings of an even crazier "Traditional wife." ;-)
Sacred Scripture reminds us: "A time to weep, and a time to laugh. A time to mourn, and a time to dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:4; Douay-Rheims). All of life is truly a beautiful gift. Each "season" ought to be appreciated for its own sake and treasured for what it can teach us. Just as sorrow may temper our self-will and make us entirely dependent upon our Creator so, too, may joy and mirth cultivate a heart that is thankful for each unique God-given moment.
With a glad heart, may we choose to go forth to love and serve the Lord!
"True progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice." -- St. Francis of Assisi
This is something I know to be true. We grow in grace the same way we mature from childhood to adulthood: patiently and day-by-day.
Yet, mile-stones play an essential part of our lives. In childhood, we may recall loosing our "baby teeth" and growing in adult ones. In later years, there were significant birthdays and our first leaps of independence. Adulthood consisted of searching out, and embracing, one's vocation. I believe the same is likewise true of spiritual "growing up."
Today is "Ash Monday," the beginning of Lent for Eastern-rite Catholics. My Husband and I celebrate this in our household, as he is a Maronite. The Latin-rite Church will celebrate this in two more days, on what has been called "Ash Wednesday." Holy Lent is a 40-day period of repentance, self-denial, and penance in preparation for the joyous season of Easter. I believe it is also an opportunity to be a spiritual "mile-stone" in our lives.
Two years ago, I wrote a letter entitled "Lenten Vows." The text of this can be found by clicking on the "February 2009" link at the bottom right-hand corner of this page. It bears the distinction of being this blog's first entry. I wrote this letter as a promise to God, to my Husband, and to myself to become a holy woman of God. The actual hand-written letter sat on our home-altar for well over a year, at the foot of our small statue of Our Lady of Lebanon, in plain sight (although it was folded) of all who entered our home. It was a visual reminder to follow Christ, and I caught myself glancing over at it frequently. The letter is now tucked away elsewhere and, similarly, its contents are tucked away in my heart.
When I think of who I was two years ago, I was a struggling soul who had a good heart and right intentions. My actions, however, let much to be desired. Although I was still a good wife by modern standards, there were many times throughout any given week in which I would raise my voice privately to my Husband in anger or employ excessive sarcasm. There were times I fought him physically. I struggled constantly with submission and I wanted to give up more times than I could count. Obedience was good in theory and it was something I wished to accomplish; in reality, it was a bit akin to pulling teeth. It has taken much to arrive at where I am today. Even still, I am by no means perfect. I remain grateful for a just and merciful God, a consistent Husband, a wise spiritual director, and for the myriad of loved ones in my life who have helped to mold and shape me.
I am also profoundly grateful for the challenges in my life. Just as it may be difficult, in the moment, to be thankful for the corrective lash of an implement, it is likewise difficult to see the grace of God working through painful circumstances. And yet, the two are the same, if we but bear them with love.
Who are you and what challenges lie on your way to following God perfectly? I invite you to take a good, hard look at yourself. Do you love Him with all of your heart? Are you obedient to His will or do you still trust in your own understanding? Are you angry and bitter over circumstances in your life? Or do you praise God even in the midst of the storm? Do you fall often into snares of the Devil? Do you love your neighbour as yourself? Or do you lack patience toward others? If you cannot see your own faults, consider asking your spouse or a trusted friend for their advice. Do not be angry with them if they say something you do not particularly like to hear; be thankful for the reproofs in all meekness and begin to change.
Let us be reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Only what is done for God in this life shall last. When we become holy vessels of our Creator, we can be used of Him to change the lives of others and our hurting world. Nevertheless, we must first be shaped and molded in order to be a useful vessel. Sin has left us weak and crumbling. What good is a water jug if it is cracked? Or if it has no spout from which to pour its contents? We must seek to root out our faults and failings as we ask the Master Potter to re-shape us, patiently bearing His work in us and in our lives. It can be difficult; yet it is precisely at these moments, when His Hands are molding us, that we enjoy a deep and close relationship with Him.
This Holy Lent, may we humbly submit to God as He continues to complete His work in us for His glory.