Arisen

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“You’re safe with me,” you say
As I gaze at fault lines
Mapped upon your heart
Desperate to believe you
I pretend not to see
And look away

“I love you,” you whisper
And I unpack worn bags
And make you my home
Not yet wise enough to know
Your love would always come
At a cost

I tiptoe around the cracks
Of our distorted foundations
And try not to notice the
Tremors that rattle my bones
As you kiss weak excuses
Upon my lips

The walls close in around us
I suffocate under the weight
Of their intimidating stare
They watch, and follow
And scorn their judgement
Except, the walls are you
Held by mistrust

The air seeps with tension
As cold as your touch
Even though hot anger
Simmers fire in your veins
Tectonic plates shift, and rage
Pours onto me

“Who is he?” you ask
You never did understand me
For there is no other
But you erupt, violent,
The unredeemable earthquake
That destroys us

But I arise the tsunami
Carried on the force
Of my own glorious strength
And all that remains of you
Is the memory I once held
Washed away evermore.

~ © Kathy Parker \\ Paul Kohn ~

Image courtesy www.ransomedheart.com

Dear Man Who Loves The Woman Who Has Been To Hell And Back

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Dear Man Who Loves The Woman Who Has Been To Hell and Back,

Last year I published the article, How To Love A Woman Who Has Been To Hell and Back. This article has since been republished on more websites than I could even tell you. It has been shared hundreds of thousands of times all around the world, and has received millions of views. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of messages I’ve received from women who have thanked me for giving them the words they could never say.

But in the last while, my inbox has also been filled with messages from men such as you. Men who are trying to love the woman who has been to hell and back, but are struggling. Men who are doing the best they can, but are hurting. Men who are trying to understand more, do better, love harder, but aren’t sure if it’s worth the pain and exhaustion. Men who are confused, unsure, lost, and in need of answers.

Dear man, the fact that you love your woman so much that you are willing to read an article to understand her more is a truly wonderful thing. That you would message me in the hope of knowing how to love her better is admirable. Men like you are rare, precious, and so appreciated. The world needs more men like you. Men who are strong, brave, resilient, determined, loyal, and willing to love at a high cost because you understand the worth of the woman you hold in your arms. You are a testament to the masculine heart that encompasses both strength and gentleness, fierceness and kindness. Hearts like yours are worthy of respect, and I give thanks that you have chosen to love the woman in your life with such determination, commitment and resolve.

I understand how hard it is to love a woman who has been to hell and back.

Because the thing is, this woman carries in her heart a lifetime of pain that you didn’t cause. You didn’t inflict this pain on her. You didn’t hurt her. You didn’t damage her heart. You aren’t the reason she cannot fully love or trust.

But you are the one she pushes away. You are the one who tries to get close to her, to love her, but fails. You are the one she won’t turn to when she’s in pain, the one she won’t talk to when she feels alone, the one she won’t draw near to when she needs someone the most.

You are the one she hurts, because she is hurting.

And you don’t deserve that.

I know what that does to your heart. I know of the times you are so damn frustrated at not knowing what to do. I know you feel like no matter how much you love her, it will never be enough. I know you are exhausted at times, and are not sure how much more you can take of this storm. I know you feel confused and sometimes none of it makes sense and you lay awake at night and wonder if it’s worth it.

But the thing is, you’re still there.

You’re still there because something tells you this is worth it.

It’s difficult for me to tell you how to best love the woman who has been to hell and back. No situation is ever the same, and I have not the mind and heart of a man in your shoes.

But this is what I can tell you.

My original article was not written to condone abuse of any kind. Our society is vocal when it comes to domestic violence where women are the victims, but far less vocal to speak of men who are abused by women. It’s real, and it happens, and I understand how my article may have been interpreted in this respect and how that may have confused and upset you. But abuse is never okay, no matter from a man to a woman, or a woman to a man.

There is a difference between a woman who is hurting and inadvertently hurts others as she works through her pain, and a woman who justifies hurting others because she has been hurt, so that makes it okay. There is a difference between a woman who is willing to acknowledge that she has hurt others, who seeks forgiveness and redemption, and who strives to do better, and a woman who plays the victim card, blames others, and does not seek to change her ways but expects others to be her punching bag. There is a difference between a woman who struggles to love but does her best to give all she can to the relationship, and one who merely expects, takes, and gives nothing in return.

I know sometimes the lines can seem blurred, and because of this you struggle to know whether to stay or leave. But you are not obligated or responsible to stay there in the face of abuse. You must still, always, protect your heart. The woman who has been to hell and back needs to be responsible for her own healing. It’s not an easy journey, nor a fast one. There are many hard days, many times she will get stuck and not know the way forward. But the important thing to consider is that she is trying – for herself, for you, for your relationship.

No-one can tell you whether to stay or leave, only you can determine what you see in her heart, whether you see growth and change and promise, or whether you merely feel like her doormat. To love a woman who has been to hell and back is not easy. But it should never mean abuse, lack of respect, lack of boundaries, or that you become a scapegoat for someone who is unwilling to heal. This is something you must be able to understand the difference between in order to answer the question of whether you should stay or leave.

I can tell you that you are not responsible for fixing her, nor does she want you to. Men are fixers, and I understand it’s in your nature to want to make this better; make her better. But this is her journey. This is her pain. Her healing will not be pretty. At times she will be the hurricane and you will need to be the storm shelter – let her rage, let her anger and her fury and her pain unleash from her heart, let the weight of the trauma she has stored in her body for so many years come undone. Don’t fight it, don’t stop it, don’t fix it. Just be that safe place for her to come home to when the storm ends and the tears begin. You cannot fix her, you can only love her.

I can tell you the woman who has been to hell and back has a story written on her heart. A story which says everyone who should have protected her, didn’t. Everyone she trusted, hurt her. Everyone she loved, left her. She waits for you to continue the story, to be the next person to reject her, abandon her, hurt her. She expects it. She thinks it’s only a matter of time. And this is why she pushes you away, hurts you, leaves you, when you have only ever loved her. She doesn’t believe she is worthy of a love like yours, and believes it’s only a matter of time until you realise this too.

You asked me what it means to love harder.

It means you will need to be better than anyone else at love. It means you will need to love with more strength, more patience, more grace, more determination, more understanding, more perseverance. It means you will need to love her more than anyone else has before or will again. It means you will need to love her until she understands what love is, and believes in a love she’s never known.

It means you will need to love her hard enough to be the one to re-write the story on her heart.

But dear man, you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t everything she needs, and didn’t have everything it takes, to love the woman who has been to hell and back.

Image via mustbethistalltoride.com

The Loneliest Thing (and it’s not being alone)

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I used to think the loneliest thing was to be alone.

But that’s not it.

The loneliest thing is to be misunderstood.

Because this is what we crave the most. To be seen – really seen. To be heard. To be understood. For the intention of our heart to be known.

To feel we can rest safe alongside the heart of another, without question, without confusion, without misinterpretation.

For we can be content within our own company. Here, we can find rest when we understand self-love.

Likewise, we can find contentment in the company of another when we feel understood, known. It matters not whether friend, family, lover – when we feel understood, we feel loved, we feel we belong, we feel safe.

But to be misunderstood by those we long would see the true intention of our heart leaves us homesick, lost, disconnected. It leaves us a foreigner in a strange land, desperate to find the place that feels like home, even though that’s where we’re supposed to be.

And maybe the only way to find our way home again is to release the expectation we place on others to understand us.

Maybe the only person who will ever truly understand us, is ourselves.

Maybe the best we can do is walk in our truth, live in a way that aligns with our authentic heart, follow our path of honesty, integrity and goodness.

To understand our own intentions so completely that it matters not if we are misunderstood by others. Even those closest to us, the ones we desire most to see us, and know us.

We reap what we sow.

Let us seek to understand others. Even more than we love them. For we cannot truly love another if we don’t see them, know them, understand them. We will only ever love our version of them, and in doing so, we fail them.

And so maybe in seeking to understand others, we will help to heal the lonely hearts of the world, and all the while heal our own hearts too x

In Response To The Whole Love-Heart-Sheep Thing

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So, thanks to 800 sheep and the thoughtfulness of my husband, it seems this week my marriage has gone viral. For those that haven’t seen, we were featured on page 3 of The Advertiser, the Daily Mail Australia and the Herald Sun. And it’s wonderful to celebrate these moments and put a positive light on marriage in a society that undervalues the importance of commitment and longevity.

But I feel there are some things that need to be cleared up.

We’ve had an overwhelming response from people across the world. And I’d like to say firstly say that no, my husband doesn’t have a brother and secondly, he’s actually not gay. But I write this mostly in response to the comments that implicated our marriage as perfect, ideal, and something to be envious of, based on this one gesture.

Let me tell you a secret. Like all of you out there, our marriage has often hung by a mere thread. In fact, there are times the thread has worn through, and all we have been left with is a choice. To stay and repair something that has seemed so impossibly broken, or to stop grasping for ways to reconnect the thread when in all honesty, it would have been a relief at times to walk away and sever the tie?

See, it was nearly seventeen years ago when we got married. We were young, hopeful, and impossibly naïve. We knew marriages weren’t always easy. But ours… ours would be different. We were married in a church, before God, with the words of 1 Corinthians 13 spoken before us; a whisper of promises for the ways we would always love each other. And somehow we believed those words would safeguard us; that because of these promises we’d never find ourselves in a position where we would have to fight for a reason to stay together.

We were so, so wrong.

Love is patient... As a married couple, at times we have been anything but patient with each other. We have struggled to give the other grace to make mistakes and to be human. We’ve been impatient with each other’s faults and demanded perfection from each other instead of gently allowing the other one to learn, change and grow in their own time and way.

Love is kind… No, we haven’t always been kind. Not so much in the things we have actively said or done, although I still recall our first fight on our honeymoon where I was having trouble reading the map and my darling husband came out with, “Are you stupid or something?!”(and yes, he’s never really lived that one down!) But more so we show unkindness passively in the things we withhold when we are hurt, angry or believe the other person isn’t deserving of our love on any given day. Our love at times has become based on the conditions we place on one another – “I’ll love you if…” or “I’ll love you when…” – and we forget we once promised “I’ll love you no matter what…”

Love does not envy... Many people associate this verse with jealousy. But jealousy and envy are different. Jealousy is a reaction to the threat of losing something. Envy is a reaction to lacking something, or wanting something that someone else has. And if we can’t have what they have, then we seek to destroy it so they may not have it either. There was a time when I struggled to be a good parent. I felt like a failure at the most important job I had to do. And in my weakness, my husband stepped up and became a stronger parent. I should have been grateful and thankful for his support at a time when I needed it most. But I wasn’t. I was angry and resentful at him for doing my job better than I could. I was envious of his ability to parent, and parent well, when I was so wrought with the guilt and failure of letting my children down.

And instead of celebrating my husband’s ability to show such fortitude, I chose to become resentful over his capabilities, which only magnified my lack of. My envy and resentment grew so much that one day I left, because I wanted to destroy him by destroying us. Clearly, I came back. But that is what envy can do to a relationship if we allow it.

It does not boast, it is not proud… Pride. Ego. Vanity. Self-importance. All these things have impacted our marriage. The times one of us has believed we are more deserving than the other. The times we have believed our needs should come first. The times when we have wondered if we are better than the other and should find a partner who is more worthy of our greatness. Oh yes. It’s all there. Every bit of ugliness. As CS Lewis says, “For pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.”

It does not dishonour others… If dishonour means to bring shame onto another, believe me, we are guilty of this. We have both at times tried to shame each other into feeling that the other isn’t good enough, they don’t meet our expectations, they need to work harder to be who we think they should be. And usually who we think they should be is who we think they need to be in order to best meet our needs. Instead of just choosing to love each other exactly as the other one is. And then …”watch[ing] how quickly they transform into the greatest, truest version of themselves…” ~ Wes Angelozzi.

It is not self-seeking… See the verse on boasting and pride – I think the same could be said for self-seeking.

It is not easily angered… I don’t think I’ve ever thrown anything more than a tissue box at my husband, but it’d be fair to say I have a fiery temper. Meanwhile, my husband is the calmest guy you’ll meet. So you can imagine. We’ve had our share of fights. We’ve yelled, slammed doors, walked out, driven away. But thankfully in seventeen years we’ve grown and matured and we fight with much more fairness and respect than we used to. I think it’s healthy to argue occasionally. Far healthier than harbouring anger inside where it becomes toxic and we become bitter people no one likes to be around. Get angry. Fight. Say what you need to say. But in your anger, do not hurt one another. Because your tongue is your strongest weapon and it can cause irreversible damage. Once words have been spoken, they can never be taken back.

It keeps no record of wrongs… My husband and I have both hurt each other in ways that have left us wondering if we would make it through the pain. And it’s tempting to hold onto that pain, so damn tempting. It becomes our trump card. When we are wronged by each other, we can pull that card out and use it to better the other one. “I might have hurt you this time, but remember the time when you…” And oh, the satisfaction to win that round. My husband and I have played the game like that. And created so many problems in doing so. Because the truth is, there is no winner when you choose to hold onto past wrongs. Forgiveness is a time to offer the love and grace we hope one day will be returned to us. It’s saying that even though you hurt me, I choose to no longer hurt you because of that. It’s choosing to let go of the ways we have been wronged and move forward with a clean slate.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveresMy marriage is so damn far from perfect. I can honestly say I don’t know how we’re still together. And to read so many comments from men that didn’t feel they could live up to my husband’s gesture, and women who longed to have the marriage that I had… in all honesty, it made me feel like a fraud. Because like everyone, we struggle to make it work. We argue. We wonder if we’d be better off on our own. We have days where we feel alone and lonely. Days we don’t like each other, get annoyed by the sound of each other’s voice, and bring out the worst in each other. If we relied on the feeling of being in love to keep us together, we’d have never made it this far. Love changes.

And maybe the reason we have stayed together despite the odds is because we choose to rejoice in the truth of one another. We believe the best in each other even on days we can only see the worst. We protect each other from the storms of life, even when they are storms we have knowingly walked into or brought upon ourselves – even then we still offer each other a place of refuge when the rest of the world seeks to bring us down. We choose to trust, and when trust has been broken we work damn hard to repair trust, and repeat if necessary. When things get rough, we anchor down and wait it out. We believe for better days. And when they come, we embrace them with thanksgiving and joy.

But most of all, we persevere. Even when it’s hard. Even when we don’t want to. Even when we’ve had enough. Even when there are no guarantees this will work out how we want. We persevere because this is our dream, and neither of us is ready to let that go.

And sometimes it just takes 800 sheep in the shape of a love heart to remind each other of that.