Tuesday, November 15, 2022

A Tale of Two Houses

In 2003, Kris and I bought our first home in Hazelwood, MO.  We had two toddlers and a brand new baby, and were desperately in need of a bigger place.  It was move-in ready and was purchased in a rush by two kids barely out of their teens, who didn't know the first thing about owning a home.  It looked nice, and that mattered to me.  We didn't have to do any work to get it ready and we wasted no time settling in.  Perhaps had life been different, that home would have held different memories for me.  But within a year of moving into that home, I was knee deep in a 7.5 year on again/off again affair--all the while, my husband was battling a relentless addiction to pornography.  We had three babies, essentially, and I don't even remember much about those early years in that house.  I just know that when I look at a calendar, we moved into that house just over a year before my affair began.  So essentially, my entire affair occurred under that roof and my memories in the home became entangled.

It should make sense then that I have a lot of negative memories associated with the old house.  There isn't a single room in that home that wasn't touched in some way by the choices that Kris and I made in those early years of our marriage.  It became increasingly more painful to stay there after the affair ended, because we carry such deep connections to our memories.

I am just now learning about memories we make as babies and trauma that our bodies experience in infancy and how that impacts us as adults.  We don't carry memories in our brains as babies--our infant memories are stored in our physical body, and if my therapist (and other researchers) are right, then part of my issue with chronic pain may be tied to memories I made in my body as a baby, and trauma that I experienced, before my brain could make mental memories.  

So in light of that, it stands to reason that my memories of things I said and did in that home that spit in the face of my marriage and the vow I took would be a factor in my views of the old house.  It always felt dark to me.  There wasn't a lot of natural light at all, and it was difficult to even light up the living room, as there wasn't a way to have any kind of overhead lighting. We relied on floor lamps, which never quite give you the same light quality, and I never could make it look as bright as I wanted it to be.

As a baby, I wasn't safe physically or emotionally, and I learned how to hold pain in my body. I mistakenly taught myself a long, long time ago that NOTHING is safe.  Any kind of pain, mental or physical, mild or severe, will be treated the same way by my body--it will lock it in, fortify it, and make the breakthrough that much more elusive.  The more you dig into something, the deeper the groove becomes, until you respond the same way without even having to think about it.  It can be incredibly difficult to dig a new groove in the opposite direction.  Not impossible, but difficult.

While we are discussing it in therpay, I am not simply unlearning how I processed the affair (both in and out of my body)--I have to go back further, dig into painful memories from my childhood and deal with those first. And THEN maybe I can find my way to peace that isn't easily swayed by what my body THINKS is happening.  Many times, my brain and body are already trying to dig their way out of flight mode before I can even think rationally about a situation - big or small.  I have learned the wrong way to deal with any potential threat, and it has led to a lifetime of responding to danger (or a lack thereof) with the same panicked response, regardless of whether the danger is real or simply perceived.

It does seem highly suspect to me that my issues with chronic pain didn't begin until AFTER the affair did.  We haven't talked about it too much in therapy yet, but I know we will address it at some point, as I can pinpoint WHEN the pain began in earnest, and it lines up exactly with when I began to separate myself from my heart.  While I had bouts of depression prior to 2004, my fear and anxiety skyrocketed and over the next nearly 8 years, I reinforced the need to hold pain inside my body.  I already knew how to do it, because I had been doing it naturally since I was a baby.  But in 2004, I began in earnest to hide all of it.  And it all stayed hidden inside my body, and inside my mind.  

One therapist told me early on that if I didn't end the affair it would kill me emotionally.  That has stayed with me and as I look back at the deterioration of my soul and mental health, she was right.  That was the only thing she was right in, as she also gave me very unwise, ungodly counsel at the time.  The affair and how it affected me emotionally literally was my undoing, in so many ways.

But sometimes, we have to come completely unraveled before God can pick up the pieces and redesign them to be everything he wanted.  A lot of times we make our own messes.  Sometimes life gives us things we can't control that we would never wish for.  And there are other times where we sit in graves we have dug, and we need someone else to come in and breathe life back in where we let sin or fear or confusion choke it out.

God was already bringing light and life back to my heart while we lived in our old home and I am forever grateful for that.  The old house is where God tore down the walls Kris and I had put up to keep each other out, and the old house is where God restored our marriage.  God certainly shone brightly into the darkness there and sustained me until he was ready for me to move out of the old house.

When He knew we were ready, God brought us to a home that is quite literally full of light.  There is an addition in the home called the sunroom if the alarm system they left is to be believed.  We just call it the family room.  But it isn't just that room.  There are windows EVERYWHERE.  There is so much light in this home, and more than that, the prior owner was an electrician and so there are a billion lights and switches, and we still haven't figured out what all of them do yet!  There are a ridiculous amount of lights here, and it just makes me smile thinking about how ridiculously full of light God is!

For years after the affair ended, I hated being in that old house.  Once I understood that it was all the painful memories that I created there, God gave me just enough peace and contentment to keep me patient while we waited for this home to be ready for us.  It was still hard to walk in certain rooms and know what I had done and to know how much a part of my home this other person was, but God did a miracle in my heart that allowed me to live with my memories without them taking up too much room in my heart and mind.  It was put on the back burner, and it was something only God could have done.

And now that I am out of there and in this new home filled with so much beauty inside and out, and I look back at the other house, I see where God has brought me.  Truly from darkness to light.  First, he worked in my heart and soul and poured light in until I was bursting with it.  And now, literally in my home itself, God has redeemed and restored what the locusts had eaten.  Our home was never a safe place for us or for our marriage.  But we have another home and a second chance for this home to be what God intends it to be.

He has given me a house of light, in exchange for the one I clothed in darkness.

He has given me bright, open windows (and peace in my soul) where there used to be gloom and clouds and regret.

He has put me in a place that LOOKS like the country, feels like the county, smells like the country, IN THE CITY, only minutes from the old house.

He has given our oldest two daughters and our son-in-law a place to call home (in the old house) and given us a place for our adult kids and eventually grandkids, a respite from the craziness and busy-ness of their lives.

He has taken a home that was used for evil and given us space to invite people in for a meal or fellowship or prayer.

He has taken two weary hearts who fought hard to stay together and keep fighting to make their home a safe place from a house of darkness and placed them in a house of light, and every day reminds them how loved they are.

There isn't a day that I don't walk through this house or see a room from a different angle and think, THANK YOU GOD!  Every day in this home is an absolute joy,  And it isn't because bad things suddenly stopped happening.  I am still wrestling with knowing that my husband's addiction reared its ugly head again two months ago.  I am in therapy trying to deal with traumas I didn't know I even had, from being adopted as a baby.  Life is hard and my kids are going through things.  There are marriages crumbling all around me, that I thought would never fall, and there are so many situations where I can't see the way through.  But God sees.  God knows how to bring peace to those going through the worst or hardest fights of their lives.  But he always gives us a choice, doesn't he?  It's up to us - he just asks us to believe that what he said is true.  The same God who carved a pathway through the Red Sea so his people could flee to safety is still true today and still longs to make a pathway where there seems to be no way for whatever you are going through.

Life isn't beautiful because bad things stopped happening in this amazing blessing of a home.  Life is beautiful because I know where my hope is.  Life is beautiful because God who gives good gifts to those who love him.  This world is not my home, and as much as I love this new oasis, this house is not my home.  But if this house and the joys we have already experienced here in the last two months are ANY indication of the home to come...well, it's hard not to get excited about that!

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