Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Candle on the Porch

I went for a long walk today, down some of my favorite jogging trails. Walkin' prayin' workin' up a sweat. This song played on the way home.

Burn your fire on the altar
Leave a candle on the porch
I'm still too far away to see it
but I'm aching for it's warmth
and I'm so tired and cold and lonesome
still I hear your song inside
So sing it louder
if you want me home tonight

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Far as the curse is found

There's an obscure line in one of the verses of Joy to the World that makes me weep for the profound gorgeous joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make his blessings flow
far as the curse is found

Anyone who has struggled with addiction—dangit there's that word again—anyone who has experienced sin or sorrow—everybody raise your hand—anyone who has experienced sin or sorrow might understand the way I have been experiencing sin and sorrow: the pervasiveness of it.

Pervasive. Kind of a weird word for, "Dammit that sumbitch is everwhere!!!"
Okay. I lost half of you right now. I just cussed twice and quoted a hymn in the same article. (shake my head while smiling)
Welcome to my world, people welcome to my world.
If any of you are still listening (giggle) I have often used gardening as a metaphor for life because I think a garden is such a perfect metaphor for the human heart. And healing, recovery, growth, maturity is all about pulling thorns, pulling weeds, and planting flowers. (and vegetables, fruits and other sundry positive plant life. (giggle) I'm a girl so let's just stick with the flowers okay! Thorns bad flowers good. Nice and simple. Okay?

So back to my word 'pervasive'. I can just visualize myself trying to pull a plant out of one of my flowerbeds. The ol' boy had died and I had to pull it out in order to make room for something alive and beautiful. Well lemme tell you, that plant was pervasive! Those roots were EVERYWHERE. I'd think I'd have them all, then I'd run my cultivator through the dirt and (gameshow buzzer noise) I'd hit another root. After a while, I my face started to get hot and sweaty and instinctively I wiped my face. With my hand. Which was wearing a very dirty glove. Whammo. Insta mud right there on my face. And I'm a girl. and we don't LIKE mud on our face. Instamud or any other kind of mud, thank you.

This went on for over an hour when this lovely southern lady (that would be me) blurted out in a huff: "Dammit that sumbitch is everwhere!!!"

Now you know God already forgave me for cussing or I wouldn't be telling you people. After all, the only one who heard me cuss the first time was God and my flowerbed and my flowerbed ain't talkin'. So I've gone and tattled on myself. Which I did for a reason. To illustrate my next keyword: frustration.

When someone encounters an addiction, and they see how pervasive it is, they invetably feel frustration which is often only a buck shy of despair. I didn't go quite to despair that time in my garden by crying. I threw down my gloves and went inside to take a shower, having resolved to tell my husband about that pervasive plant and ask him sweetly to strongarm it out of the ground for me. That would be the surrender keyword. Surrender.

So I want to go back to the hymn (it's about time I rerail this conversation back to the hymn what with the cussing and all)

No more let sins and sorrows grow
nor thorns infest the ground
he comes to make his blessings flow
far as the curse is found

Oh you guys! This is such good news!
Q: Where does God want to heal us?
A: Everywhere we hurt.

This is why Jesus came. This is why the Angels sang on the night Jesus was born.
Imagine every cold and lonely aching spot in your heart. Imagine inviting Him into those broken places, giving Himself some time and elbow room, and see what He will do.

This is Joy. There are places in my life that are works in progress. Places that I very much desire to see positive change. And yet, I know that I am His and I belong to Him and with Him and that God is 100% delighted in me right now. He has done so much, and He shows no signs of stopping. So I take stock of 2008 and look toward 2009 with joy. Because I know if I keep giving God permission, He will do beautiful, gorgeous, fun, enriching things in my heart, in my body, in my relationships, in my vocation, in my ins and outs of life, good things are coming.

I love you all. Thanks for sharing the journey of 2008 with me.
Mwah! -Sensuous Wife

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Spirit in the Senses

I experienced the loving presence of Spirit tonight, talking to me in the things I know, talking to me through my senses, in the visual serenity of our beautiful room, in the warm glow of candles, in the soothing heat of the Jacuzzi tub, in the scent of bubble bath, in the beautiful music playing on my earphones. I was alone, but I wasn’t. Loving and living the Sacred Romance. Delighted Husband walked in and smiled when he saw me so blissed out. DH wasn’t the main attraction, but he doesn’t mind being pre-empted by Himself.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Esther is My Girl!

My friend Shawna put out a call on Twitter asking folks to nominate cool women from the Bible that they'd like to read more about. I nominated three and Shawna and I ended up having a great conversation about my girl Esther. Love her! Shawna and Esther. Here's how it went down:

Shawna: Is trying to decide which woman of the Bible I should write about next. Any biblical women you would like to read about?

Shula: How about Rahab? The first hooker documented as doing God's work.

Shula: Or perhaps Abigail who proved that even if you're married to a complete asshole, that God will honor your faith & action

Shula: Or Esther who proved that being a brave warrior queen and a hottie are not mutually exclusive.

Shawna: Those are all great women. I love your take on Esther.

Shula: grin thanks. I love Esther. She's my girl. She reminds me that self care and preparation are valid tools of bravery. Shawna: I like that take on her. Self care is something I am slowly learning, and I like looking good and feeling beautiful

Shula: Interesting Esther didn't run into the throneroom in a ratty bathrobe hair in curlers screaming "we're all going to die!"

Shula: Nope. Miss Girl prayed and dolled up and walked in calm collected wearing Lancome and a great corset. Betcha boots she did!

I love twitter! I love how twitter makes conversations like this happen.

Love y'all. Good night!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Feeling the Strain and Getting Back on Track

I'm a real glass is half full kinda gal. It's my nature. I know that gratitude and focusing on the good is a good habit to be in. However, Delighted Husband had an interesting point the other night when he told me he thought perhaps I created a false sense of expectation for you dear readers and us by thinking that DH and I are smokin' the sheets every single time. I was very impressed by Delighted Husband's insight-he's a smart guy and a deep thinker. I've always been very candid about my own story, my own feelings but I've always been very private when it comes to Delighted Husband. I want to respect his privacy. So it's beautiful and interesting and new when he says he wants to give me more freedom to speak more openly about some of our intimate times together that don't quite feel like the 4th of July. Every good beautiful moment that I've blogged about is true and really happened. (boy oh boy did they ever!) but we have our off nights and our misfires and our mixed signals like everyone else. And Delighted Husband tells me he will be wanting me to share about that from time to time. We're shooting for the sweet spot that's good and not perfect, accessible not unattainable.

I'll never blog like Debbie Downer. I don't think I could if I tried. Sex is too beautiful. But there's something to be said for balance, and grace and flexibility. We are human after all. Like all humans, stress affects us. We can learn good coping skills for stress, frankly I think lovemaking is a wonderful coping skill for stress. Whether it's tender or aggressive, lovemaking the bonding the connecting, the endorphins the pleasure the release can all add up to TREMENDOUS stress relief.

But what if the lovemaking doesn't work? What if you're "us" doesn't work? Oh My God the stress that can cause. Somewhere in month two of our house being in dissarray and in various stages of repair and construction, the stress of Delighted Husband's demanding job and long commute, the stress of my long working hours building the store, wanting to offer my best for the team, talking to vendors for the store, managing the reconstruction project for our home, giving good effort to self-care at the gym, continuing to eat sober and not use food to stuff my feelings which means there are these emotions to deal with and mannnn are they damned inconvenient! and next thing you know, I'm a grouchypants and everything Delighted Husband does in the simple foibles of life gets on my last nerve, and everything I do in my simple human foibles gets on his last nerve and there are kids who need us and their life is topsy turvy too with the house all under construction and next thing you know, we've got two people who love each other and desperately need to get laid and who unfortunately are very pissed off with each other in the present moment. Lord have mercy Jesus!

So what did we do? We hauled our angry asses off to counseling and we duked it out with kleenex and talking. And we made love every chance we got. And it did not always go so well. When the emotional climate between Delighted Husband and me is good, it is very easy for me to get aroused. When the emotional climate between us is "off", he can touch me in the usual favorite ways and I don't feel the same feelings..the same emotions or sensations. If I feel awkward in my heart, I feel awkward in my body. And I think he does too.

Here's the thing that I often remember and when I do not I wish to JesusGodAlmighty that I had:
When that fine line is crossed and discussing and disagreeing becomes heated arguments and two heartsore people trying to make their point, the beautiful erotic climate is gone. Heated arguments hurl words and angst like throwing rocks. It's like a greenhouse whose glass pane is broken by a rock and all the lovely warm moist air rushes out and it's cold and dry inside and the delicate breathtakingly gorgeous blossoms and the tender green shoots inside start to wither. I love that symbolic image of orgasms and sex being blooming plants inside a greenhouse being the intimate climate of a marriage, because orchids grow in a greenhouse and we all know what orchids look like, don't we? (grin) Seriously y'all, the erotic intimate climate of your marriage must be protected, or you'll lose some delicate gorgeous glorious pleasure and oneness and joy and it will take a while to get it back. How long it takes is up to the two of you, but it will take a while.

Luckily, there's grace.

Grace came for me in the form of my dear dear friends who let me come unraveled in front of them and gave me a soft place to land. I called my friend that lives overseas on skype, buried my face in my hands and just sobbed. Every few seconds, they would reassure me "Oh love, everything will turn out all right."

Grace came for me with a handful of girlfriends that I could share honestly with and tell them the prolonged stress we'd been under had affected Delighted Husband's and my sex life. Not that I shared TMI, but golly moses, some friends would consider just the last few sentences TMI. But not these girls. These dear women. They told me, "So you're human, so what?" and hugged me and prayed for us.

Grace came for me when I was picking up clutter and tidying our bedroom, I was literally on my knees making the bed when a book on the book shelf in my nightstand literally fell off the shelf, to the floor and fell in front of my knees. It was my 9 year old dog-eared copy of The Power of a Praying Wife. I may not be a rocket scientist, but I knew this was God talking to me, so I stayed on my knees, grabbed hold of the book, and knelt at my bed in prayer. Being me, and considering what was bothering us, I flipped to the chapter on His Sexuality, and I prayed this prayer:
"Lord, bless my husband's sexuality and make it an area of great fulfillment for him. Restore what needs to be restored, balance what needs to be balanced. Protect us from apathy, dissapointment, criticism, busyness, unforgiveness, deadness, or disinterest. I pray we make time for one another, communicate our true feelings openly, and remain sensitive to what each other needs. Keep us sexually pure in mind and body, and close the door to anything lustful or illicit that seeks to encroach upon us. Deliver us from the bondage of past mistakes. Remove from our midst the effect of any sexual experience—in thought or deed—that happened outside our relationship. Take away anyone or anything from our lives that would inspire temptation to infidelity. Help us to "abstain from sexual immorality" so that each of us will know "how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor" (1Thessalonians 4:3-5) I pray we will desire each other and no one else. Show me how to make myself attractive and desirable to him and to be the kind of partner he needs. I pray that neither of us will ever be tempted to think about seeking fulfillment elsewhere. I realize an important part of my ministry to my husband is sexual. Help me to never use it as a weapon or a means of manipulation by giving and withholding it for selfish reasons. I commit this area of our lives to you, Lord. May it continually be new and alive. Make it all you created it to be."

And I started to feel a tiny spark of hope in my heart. I remembered the condition of my heart nine years ago when I first prayed that prayer and I took inventory in my mind of all the good things that had come from that since then. I thought, "heck I should just pray all the prayers in this book", so I flipped to the beginning chapter "His Wife". That's when I got a real shellacking because wow was I convicted of my sulky attitude! Get a load of this excerpt from the Chapter His Wife:
"I Don't Even Like Him How Can I Pray for Him? If you are angry at your husband, tell God. Don't let it become a cancer that grows with each passing day. Instead say, "Lord, nothing in me wants to pray for this man. I confess my anger, hurt, unforgiveness, disappointment, resentment and hardness of heart toward him. Forgive me and create in me a clean heart and right spirit before You. Give me a new positive joyful loving forgiving attitude toward him. Where he has erred, reveal that to him and convict his heart about it. Lead him through the paths of repentance and deliverance. Help me not to hold myself apart from him emotionally, mentally or physically because of unforgiveness. Where either of us needs to ask forgiveness of the other, help us to do so. If there is something I'm not seeing that is adding to this problem, reveal it to me and help me to understand it. Remove any wedge of confusion that has created misunderstanding or miscommunication. Where there is behavior that needs to change in either of us, I pray you would enable that change to happen. As much as I want to hang onto my anger toward him and as much as I feel it is justified, I want to do what You want. I release all those feelings to You. Give me a renewed sense of love for him and words to heal this situation."
Whoa Nelly. I have to tell you, folks, I felt peace after I prayed that prayer. I felt drained of the poison inside me. I felt hope. I felt like it could and would get better between us. I love him so much, always have, but for a few days there we were like two porcupines trying to get warm. We wanted cuddles and we kept getting and giving ouchies instead. It was awful.

So, once I got the toxic sludge out of my heart, all kindsa good things happened. My girls kept on praying and lemme tell you what happened next.

My office is in an alcove of the living room, so I get to work close to the fireplace. And as I've told y'all before, every year when it's cold enough to switch on the furnace, I move the Zepplin pillow downstairs in front of the fireplace. So Delighted Husband was lounging on the Zepplin pillow enjoying the fireplace while I was working at my desk. He looked so sweet and relaxed and handsome, and my heart just lurched in my chest and I felt tenderness towards him. I stood up from my desk, and walked over to him and knelt down and straddled him, lay my arms on either side of his body reaching up to hug him and I lay my head on his stomach and just let myself be. We felt so peaceful and calm. The atmosphere of safety and good connection perfumed the air around us. The warm humid healing air was filling up our greenhouse. The warmth of the sun was shining on our wintry cold greenhouse. It felt so good. Nothing erotic at this point. Just love and healing connection. Delighted Husband started murmuring and petting my hair with his hands. The feeling his of his palm wrapped around my head cradling me with his palm like a baby just melted my heart like buttah. I felt so truly safe for the first time in days. ohmyGod.

After a few minutes, Delighted Husband got up from the Zepplin and went upstairs to tuck the DC in bed. I laid there relaxing and feeling safe. I was feeling safe and good and normal but zero horny at this point. Zee-roh. I know this might sound spooky, but sometimes I feel God talking to me in my heart. And I felt this tug on my heart to take off my jogbra. I figured listening to that still small voice has given me only good so far, so I stripped off my bra and just lay there relaxing. I began to anticipate and wait for the sounds of Delighted Husband's footsteps coming down the stairs. I felt eager. I felt eager to surprise him. I felt eager to see his delight on his face. I did not at this point feel horny or overt sexual desire. I was just eager to see what good thing would come from following that still small voice in my heart. Sure enough, Delighted Husband came down the stairs, walked into our bedroom, and not finding me there, he walked into the living room. He took one look at me sprawled on the Zepplin pillow wearing nothing but running tights and a sneaky smile spread over his face. "What are you doing?" he asked. "Waiting for you." I replied.

In 2 seconds, Delighted Husband shucked off his clothes. I lost the running tights.

Grace came for us in the form of a shagfest that relieved us body and soul. I experienced firsthand that Dr. David Schnarch is right when he says that once the initial conflict is resolved properly, sex can be a verry healthy way to rid yourself of aggression. Oh my God, is he right. I came to my belief that night.
In the midst of our glorious rowdyness, I distinctly remember thinking:


I won't tell you what I said after that~I'll let Neil have the last word.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Me, Myself and Sally, Rhonda and Wanda

I just read the most funny and relevant article on how to keep your Wonderland well cared for. Seriously, girls, you're gonna love this. It's not like we never heard of it before, but what a fabulous funny reminder. (walks out of home office toward bedroom looking for Myself)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Keep the Home Fires Burnin'

I'm really glad we have our Zepplin pillow in front of the fireplace. I'm just sayin'. (smile)