on the shadow and a confession: a love story

The following is a segment from our love story. Want the back-story first? Click My Love Songs tab at the top, and before Valentine’s Day, I’ll tell the most beautiful part of this story.

On the Shadow and a Confession

My focus is deep in sick baby boy, my only experience with RSV, and it scares me. He stops breathing, turns blue, then grunts, and re-pinks. I feel the rise and fall of his chest, and in the unrest, awake all night, my mind returns again to my secret, the affair with the one I didn’t love. Now it is my hiding place, where I go by instinct in guilt and discomfort, and now I’m overshadowed, the light in my eyes dim.

Seth has been away in Africa. I pick him up, and he spills the most beautiful and the most despairing and contradictory set of details. He cries and I love him and guilt rides with us all to the hospital. Ian suffocates – we all suffocate – for days before the sleep comes.

Soon after, my own heart surgery distracts for a while. The electricity in my heart fires a little less. I expect more sleep. I expect less chest pain. I expect anxiety to mind my Christian bidding.

All the names of Jesus I know in the world aren’t moving the shadow. There is no obedient “get thee behind me.”

Fear so often jolts my sleep.  I wake and go, to that throne room, mad, and I say, “I know you can change this. Why aren’t you healing me?” Quickly thrown from there deeply into rare sleep, I delve into dream world

where my living room is crisp clean, so I go to the backyard to pick up the toys. Under every toy is a giant coiled snake. Under everything is a snake.

I wake from there, terrified. “What is it, God? Snakes are so cliché. Please don’t make me tell Seth. Please. Please.” And then away again to sleep, I dream.

My living room is perfectly clean, so I go to the backdoor to straighten the toys there. As I open the door, snakes pour in my house. Waist high, they hiss, and I have the hardest time shutting the door. They slither and hide under my baby’s toys.

Awake again, “Okay. I’ll tell him, but you’ll have to help me.”

Third dream, just to make sure I get it: the snakes writhe on every toy in the house to where the toys can’t be seen. They’ve taken over.

It’s day now but early enough for pitch dark. Seth is not in the bed. I walk un-rested to the living room where he sits with such a sad face. “What’s wrong?” I say. And he’s had a dream, too, so he says, “I hate to do this, but I need to know if there’s something you need to tell me.”

I sit down.

“Yes. I kissed him.”

He weeps, and the sun pours in, with my shame splayed there, exposed, under a name of Jesus I hadn’t remembered in a long time, Merciful Judge –  around whom stands no shadow.

About me


Soul Practices: Part 2
January 25, 2017
What a Concussion Taught Me
March 25, 2016
When You’re Not a Precious Thing
February 03, 2016
Dear Seth: A Marriage Letter on Your Sobriety and What it Looks Like to Come Clean
October 27, 2015
On a Regular Day: the Terrible and the Fantastic
June 23, 2015
You Have Not Come to Darkness
April 30, 2014
A Haines Home Companion: On Joy and How We Love
April 11, 2014
A Haines Home Companion: On Limbo
February 27, 2014
Watch Me.
October 31, 2013


Lora Lynn
Reply February 3, 2010

Mercy. Crying.

Reply February 3, 2010

Of course your writing is amazing and beautiful (it always is), but your story, the life not on page but in heart, inspires and plants hope under the deepest of dirt. I think of Prov 28..."He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy."
Mercy found you.

Reply February 3, 2010

And I cry. Again.

Reply February 3, 2010

Erin: me too.

Kelly @ Love Well
Reply February 3, 2010

I have many friends who have said to me, "I know I shouldn't have done that, but it's over now. I have no reason to tell my spouse."

You so poetically reveal the lie in that excuse, Amber.

Until you open the doors on the secret -- and no one is so deserving of open doors as your beloved -- God's cleansing mercy will not flow.

Reply February 3, 2010

Well written, Love.

We are all such a beatifully contradicting set of details.

Kara Laney
Reply February 3, 2010

sometimes your words speak so to my heart. it aches. and yet it's healing.

Reply February 4, 2010

It was hard for me to bring this same truth to light in my marriage. Scary, nausea-inducing, tears, shaking. But there was so much freedom out of the dark. I am thankful that you write about this because it is part of the story of our lives from the last 2 years. I need to see another family walk through it and be stronger. And I need to own my sin regardless of what my spouse did to me that I still think is worse. We've been in counseling with an amazing Christian counselor for a year and a half, but I still need to be humbled. Thank you for encouraging me.

Reply February 4, 2010

My heart hurts with yours.

Reply February 5, 2010

Such a beautiful story of brokenness.

the scooper
Reply February 6, 2010

Your raw honesty moves me to breathlessness every single time and it gives me courage. Thank you.

Ann Kroeker
Reply February 6, 2010

You're letting us read your heart...and your husband's.

Living your life out loud. With words that sing and weep.

To Think Is To Create
Reply February 7, 2010

Is it weird that I got to the end of this and felt complete hope? I finished with a lovely "ahhh" and then read the comments and realized how strange I am...

I am so grateful for His mercy and justice. That he was too Just and loved us too much to do things any other way...yet that Way was so, so heartbreaking. It's just completely humbling and perfect, and there are definitely no shadows there.

Danielle K
Reply February 8, 2010

Wow. What a beautiful expression of mercy. Thank you for your grace-filled words. They have blessed me today.

Reply February 10, 2010

Broken and spilled out before our Lord and our husbands...there is so much joy in that! Thank you for sharing!

Reply February 10, 2010

I am covered in goose bumps and my eyes are filled... May God's grace continue to hold you both...and I thank you for your willingness to be so real.

Brooke McGlothlin
Reply February 12, 2010

Girl...I just can't get over the beautiful God story that pours out of you and spills all over His glory. Sometimes I'm like "huh?" And sometimes I weep over the way your heart bleeds on the paper in such unique splendor.

Christy B.
Reply February 14, 2010

You are a beautiful writer. You have moved me to tears with your honesty. I'm going to hopping around your blog now.

Reply April 18, 2010

I came through your blog via so many other blogs and I have been captured by the pure, raw honesty in your writing...your story. It's beautiful in so many ways and I appreciate that you have chosen to share it. Keep writing:)

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