IT IS WHAT IT IS

Two tough days for me each year are the days I go to the dentist for cleanings.

I’ve gone to the dentist since I was a child. I know the dentist and her staff are my friends. I like them. I just don’t like what they do.

At the dentist’s office last Monday, I said with confidence to the hygienist, “You should find less plaque buildup on this exam. I have a new toothbrush with a built-in timer. I now brush for two full minutes twice a day.”

I waited for a bit of praise, but I didn’t get it.

I got this instead.

“Four minutes,” said the hygienist.

“What?” I asked.

“Brush for four minutes at bedtime, two minutes on top and two minutes on bottom. Two minutes in the morning is good, though.”

Just when I think I’ve adhered to the rules, the rules get tougher.

I realize that I pay my dental professionals to care about and care for my teeth.

If I am unhappy, I can stop visiting them any time I choose. But I won’t  do that.

My teeth are important to me.

But today, so many experts (paid and unpaid) tell me how to take care of myself that I am overwhelmed with “good” advice.

From computer, television, and smartphone screens, from billboards, and from literally tons of unsolicited mail I pull from my mailbox, professionals offer me their advice.

Medical doctors say I should spend several hours each week exercising.

Opticians urge me to wear sunglasses when I am outside and safety glasses when I mow.

Dermatologists tell me to wear SPF 30 sunscreen.

Naturalists tout the benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar.

Audiologists say I should wear ear protection.

Personal trainers insist that I wear weights on my wrists and ankles.

Therapists whisper, “Go to your happy place.”

Psychiatrists tell me to take antidepressants and practice cognitive behavioral therapy.

Herbalists tell me to drink green tea.

Nutritionists tell me to stop eating salt, sugar, fat, wheat, gluten, dairy products, eggs, soy, artificial colors or flavors; meats from animals treated with antibiotics, steroids, or hormones; fish bred and grown in dirty water; and plants that have been exposed to herbicides or pesticides.

Apparently, Mark Twain got it right when he wrote, “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.”

I am all for being as healthy, comfortable, attractive, and active as I can be. But this overload of “healthful advice” is oppressive.

As a good friend said to me this week, “Facts are facts. It is what it is. I am getting older.”

We all are. No one has yet developed a product, activity, or mindset that will stop the aging process.

In 2 Corinthians 4:16, the Apostle Paul acknowledged that our outer selves are wasting away. He encouraged us to be focused upon being renewed inwardly day by day.

Inspired advice.

I throw away 99% of the advertisements I find in my mailbox.

I did recently, however, save a brochure urging me to make my final arrangements now so when I die, my grieving family will be spared that task.

That, I deemed to be advice worth heeding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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KIDS, CAMERAS, AND COATED ASPIRIN

Occasionally, I drop an allergy pill or a low-dose aspirin while filling my weekly medicine boxes.

Like any responsible grandparent of young grandchildren, I assiduously search for the renegade pill.  I sweep the area, use a flashlight to look under furniture and appliances, and vacuum the whole room, even going so far as to dig through the disgusting crud inside the sweeper bag in search of that tiny, round object. No pill.

But, let my adorable, angelic, toddling granddaughter enter the house, and before I can even pick her up and cover her face with kisses,  she spots that lost pill and makes a beeline for it, her mouth already open to eat it.

The same is true of a missing sewing needle, earring, or dried up green pea hiding behind a kitchen table leg.

How does this happen? Do kids have an as-yet undiscovered magnetic aptitude that pulls them to things they aren’t supposed to have?

In 1986 Dan and I were given a “free” (ha) trip to Hawaii. Lara was 7 at the time and Ryan was 4.

Shortly before we were to leave, Dan and I had strewn our house with suitcases, camera equipment, shoes, and clothes we would take on our trip.

Which of those things attracted our kids?

Dan’s brand new, $400 Canon AE-1 camera, of course.

In a feat requiring mechanical ability neither of them should have had, they unattached (broke off) the little metal doohickey (a technical term) on top of the camera that the flash apparatus was supposed to slide into.

On another occasion, Lara opened a bottle of Wite-Out (remember that stuff?) and painted her doll’s face with it. I don’t know where that doll is today, but I guarantee you those white stripes are still on her face.

She also got into my jewelry box, selected, and thoroughly chewed up (yes, with her teeth) the only nice gold necklace I owned.

Her brother opened a bottle of red nail polish and painted our bedroom wallpaper with it. He also broke the windshield in his dad’s truck as he sat inside it one particularly boring, sunny day, and popped open a spring-loaded umbrella he found under the seat.

Dan and I had bought the most popular toys of the day for those kids.

But what kid wants to play with toys when there are expensive cameras, bottles of Wite-Out, and spring-loaded umbrellas to play with?

Perhaps parents should hide toys inside jewelry boxes and camera cases, underneath the seats of their automobiles, and behind refrigerators and couches.

Those parents could then showcase forbidden things like cameras, nail polish, and gold necklaces, inviting kids to investigate them.

Maybe the kids would push past those oh-so-obvious non-kid items to search out the toys secreted away in unlikely places.

But, probably not.

Reverse psychology rarely works with kids.

I tried it more than once.

“One of these days,” I said to my seven-year-old, “you’ll be big enough to help Mommy pick green beans, but you’re still too little for such an important job. I guess I’ll have to pick the beans by myself.”

The named seven-year-old, of course, ignored me and continued fashioning a laser sword out of a hot dog roasting skewer and a full roll of aluminum foil.

Kid experiences like these are what cause old parents to sit in rocking chairs on their front porches, drooling, and picking fuzz balls off old, holey sweaters.

FENCES

My grandchildren and I take many walks around my neighborhood.

Sometimes we encounter a sign that reads: Warning: This yard is protected by an invisible fence.

The homeowner has placed this fence around his yard to restrict his dog from roaming the streets. Often a compliant dog sits or runs within that yard, but it never approaches us.

Those are not the only invisible fences I encounter.

The most restrictive invisible fences are erected by your enemy and mine, Satan.

Satan often erects invisible fences inside our minds. Here are some of his fences I have encountered.

  1. Warning: You are not good enough to have a relationship with God. Stop expecting one.
  2. Warning: You have nothing of value to contribute to the world. Stop trying to be a giver.
  3. Warning: You are a woefully flawed wife, mother, grandmother, and friend. Stop sharing your life with others.
  4. Warning: God lets bad things happen to good people. Stop trusting His plan for your life.

More than once those fences and others like it have stopped me in my spiritual tracks. Sometimes I remain stuck there much too long.

I remain stuck until I recall some of the things Scripture tells me about Satan. These include:

  1. When he [Satan] lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).
  2. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
  3. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
  4. The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest (John 10:10).

Why would I allow such a one to dictate to me what I should and should not do?

But sometimes I do listen to Satan’s lies because there is usually an element of truth in what he whispers to me.

  1. I am not good enough to have a relationship with God, but God, out of His infinite grace and great love, offers it anyway.
  2. Through my own efforts, I cannot offer anything of value to the world, but God graciously works through me to accomplish His good purposes.
  3. I am a flawed wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, but God has put me in those relationships. He will bless me with the ability to function well in them.
  4. God does allow seemingly bad things to happen to good people. But God’s wisdom is higher than our wisdom. He is always working to bring about what is ultimately good for us. He asks us to trust Him, even when situations don’t make sense to us.

If we allow him, Satan will steal all the joy Christians are meant to experience. He will kill our hope of attaining eternal life. He will destroy any witness we can offer the world.

Satan relentlessly attempts to “fence us in.” God, on the other hand, offers us lives of freedom in Christ.

The Great Brush Off

Many nights I delay going to bed because I don’t want to brush my teeth.

I have my pajamas on, the house is locked up, I’m finished reading or watching television or playing Letter Garden on my tablet, and Dan has been snoring for half an hour. But I look around for something else to do so I can put off brushing my teeth.

I’ve never grown out of a childlike hatred of teeth brushing. I am a diligent brusher and flosser. Twice a day, every day. But I don’t like it.

I even bought a new electric toothbrush. It is a Quip brush, and I love it. Well, I love it as much as I can love a toothbrush. It’s kind of like loving a certain kind of scouring pad. I wish I had no need for one, but since I do, this is the one I want.

The minute I turn this toothbrush on, it starts tracking my brushing time. It beeps at 30-second intervals. After the fourth beep, I have brushed for a full two minutes, the brush turns itself off, and I am finished.

My teeth feel cleaner since I’ve been using this brush. The company sends me a new toothbrush head every three months, so I don’t need to remember to buy one. Everything about this brush is good.

Still, when the only thing left for me to do before going to bed is brush my teeth, I dawdle.

Going to bed without brushing is not an option.

Sometimes I persuade myself to brush BEFORE I put on my pajamas, lock the doors, finish watching TV, and tell Dan goodnight. When I follow this plan, going to bed is easy. I press the off button on the remote or the tablet, or close the book, and I’m done.

But when I follow that plan, I delay putting on my pajamas, locking the doors, finishing my TV watching, and telling Dan goodnight because, again, that toothbrushing step stands in my way.

Some nights Dan gets up to go to the bathroom or to get a drink and sees me wearing my pajamas and sitting idly in my recliner at midnight.

“What are you doing?” he asks.

“Nothing,” I say.

“Then why don’t you go to bed?” he asks.

“I’m not ready yet,” I say.

He shrugs his shoulders, the same way he does when I tell him all the bills in my wallet must be turned the same way, in ascending value order, with all the Presidents’ heads facing up.

I see commercials claiming that chewing Orbit gum strengthens the teeth, chewing Trident gum helps prevent cavities, and chewing Mentos Pure White Sweet Mint gum whitens the teeth. Maybe I could just pop a threesome of these chewing gums into my mouth twice a day and make toothbrushing redundant.

But, I cringe at the thought of answering my dentist’s question: “Have you been brushing twice a day?” with “No, but I’ve been chewing lots of gum.”

It is getting late. Now that I’ve finished writing this blog post for the week, there really is nothing else for me to do.

I will give up, brush my teeth, and head for bed.

I won’t go to sleep though. I’ll lie awake, looking at the ceiling and dreading the coming of morning when, once again, I must brush my teeth.

EXTEND GRACE

As many of my readers know, I have obsessive compulsive disorder.

Wikipedia defines the condition this way: mental disorder where people feel the need to check things repeatedly, perform certain routines repeatedly (called “rituals”), or have certain thoughts repeatedly (called “obsessions”). People are unable to control either the thoughts or the activities for more than a short period of time. Common activities include hand washing, counting of things, and checking to see if a door is locked. Some may have difficulty throwing things out. These activities occur to such a degree that the person’s daily life is negatively affected. This often takes up more than an hour a day. Most adults realize that the behaviors do not make sense. The condition is associated with ticsanxiety disorder, and an increased risk of suicide.

Some parts of this definition describe me. Others do not. I am not a compulsive hand-washer, and instead of “having difficulty throwing things out,” I feel compelled to purge.

I detest owning extra anything. When I begin obsessing over the fact that I have too many shirts, spatulas, Band-Aids, bath towels, etc., I go into full-fledged panic attacks, and some of these things must go.

My husband teases that he is afraid to leave me alone when we are having a garage sale. He fears I may sell our house for $10.

So, you ask, “Why are you telling me this?”

I am telling you this to educate you on this condition. You may know other people who are diagnosed with the disorder or display symptoms of it.

The OCD sufferer probably looks completely normal. She may seem a bit odd at times, but who doesn’t? But inside, she is often a raging mess.

She may be frantically counting the letters in the words she hears you speak. She may be panicking about having unintentionally harmed someone. At one time I feared (illogically, yes) that I may have been the force that prompted a man I didn’t even know and who lived in another state to kill his children.

The level of my fear of causing harm to people is off the chart. I have felt guilty for causing divorces, car accidents, illnesses, and violent crimes that I could not possibly have caused.

And, I am preoccupied with these fears. If you notice I am not listening to you when you speak, or I snap at you for no apparent reason, or I insist upon doing something that seems irrational (repeatedly checking the news feed on my phone), know this: I am acting on emotional impulses I haven’t yet managed to control.

Someone, and people disagree about who it was, said this: Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

You know this is true. You, being one part of the people included in the phrase “everyone you meet,” almost certainly fight battles. I don’t know what they are; therefore, I may not make allowances for them. I am sorry.

Don’t make quick judgments about people. Realize that you don’t know everything about anyone. And some of the things you don’t know are significant, life-altering, and painful. Make being kind your natural, default way of interacting with everyone.

And always, always extend grace.

GRACED

Living in a harmonious relationship with God is the greatest goal to which we can aspire.

And here is the good news.

God offers us that relationship, and He offers it as a gift.

We do not earn gifts, nor do we offer to pay for them.

In fact, the relationship God and I share will be skewed if I am determined to earn His gift of grace.

When I became a Christian, God ascribed to me the merit Jesus earned by living a perfect life and dying a perfect death in my place.

At that point, the transaction was done.

I love to sing the song that declares: I owed a debt I could not pay. He paid a debt He did not owe.

Sadly, some Christians, especially those who grew up in critical and judgmental environments, live in fear that God will withdraw that gift the instant they sin.

My friend Jan calls this “windshield wiper salvation.” You’re in. You’re out. You’re in. You’re out.

As a child, even I, raised in a loving, nurturing home, virtually trembled in the pew when we sang the old hymn: There’s an All-Seeing Eye Watching You.

 But today, I put my trust in the words of 1 John 1:7: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

My relationship with God is a walk, not a performance.

During this walk, I will stumble sometimes and even fall. But, if I am walking in the light, God will never desert me.

God calls us to enjoy a rich, full life, free from guilt and confident of our salvation.

I hang on to the words of Romans 8:1: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

To new Christians and to unnecessarily guilt-ridden, long-time Christians, I offer the following words.

Live as if you have been forgiven, pardoned, redeemed, and saved because you have been.

When you pray, do not re-confess sins that were forgiven years ago. God is convinced of your sorrow over the lie you told or the sexual indiscretion you indulged in or the disrespectful attitude you showed toward your parents.

When God forgives you, forgive yourself. In doing this, you honor Him by showing you trust His grace to be enough.

Instead of spending your time in prayer bringing up past, forgiven sins, thank God for the wonderful new life He has given you in Christ.

Tell Him specifically what is going on inside your head and your heart. Talk to Him about everything.

If your heart is filled with sorrow, pour out that sadness to God.

If you are mad at someone, tell God the details.

Do you think He doesn’t already know about these things?

Acknowledge your agreement that His ways are right, His laws are for your protection, and it is your intention to stay on the path He laid out for you.

As you walk with God, speak every secret of your life into His listening ear with confidence that He will understand, forgive, and bless.

Make your life a celebration of the unity you enjoy with God through Christ.

 

 

 

YES, DEAR

Many people believe that in prehistoric times, men were hunters and women were gatherers.

Even today, in my wifely role, I consider myself to be the gatherer.

More than anything else, I gather information.

And it’s a good thing.

Were it not for me, Dan would be clueless about some very important facts about our grandchildren: their shoe sizes, for example; how many teeth the older ones have lost and how many new teeth the baby one has cut. He probably wouldn’t even know their birthstones.

Fortunately for him, he has me to keep him informed. Of course, being the gatherer I am, I also share information about our neighbors and friends.

But information doesn’t seem to be as important to Dan as it is to me. In fact, sometimes I suspect he isn’t even listening when I try to update him.

I can imagine Dan and me in the hunter/gatherer community of the Stone Age. He would be returning from a two-day hunt with the men after I had stayed in our cave community with the other women.

Upon his return, I would be eager to talk, and we would have a conversation something like the one below.

DAN = OOG; DEBBIE = AWK

AWK:    Hey, Oog, welcome home! Nice-looking deer you’ve got slung over your shoulders.

OOG:    Hey.

AWK:    Say, did you and the guys talk much on your trip?

OOG:    No, Awk. We were hunting.

AWK:   I know you were hunting, but I was hoping Cermook told you about the fight he and his wife had last week.

OOG:    They had a fight?

AWK:    You know they did. I told you about it. I heard them screaming at each other that night I was outside throwing rocks at the moon with the grandkids.

OOG:    You threw rocks at the moon with the grandkids?

AWK:   Of course! We always throw rocks at the moon when one of them makes the honor roll, and Kzu made the honor roll last semester.

OOG:    Kzu made the honor roll?

AWK:    You know he did. Snok made the honor roll, too.

OOG:    Who’s Snok?

AWK:    My niece.

OOG:    You have a niece?!

AWK:    So, what else did you guys do on your trip besides hunt?

OOG:    Nothing.

AWK:    Well, I kept busy here. I finally finished the necklace I’ve been working on. Remember? The one I made by stringing pine cones on grape vines?

OOG:    You’ve been working on a necklace?

AWK:   I would love to know what they were fighting about.

OOG:    Who?

AWK:   Cermook and his wife.

OOG:    They had a fight?

AWK:    I heard they fought because Cermook didn’t get a very warm welcome from his wife the last time he came home from a hunting trip.

OOG:    Hmmm.

AWK:    Don’t you want to know why Cermook didn’t get a very warm welcome from his wife the last time he came home from a hunting trip?

OOG:    Who didn’t give Cermook a warm welcome?

AWK:    His wife!

OOG:    Cermook’s married?!

AWK:   By the way, I helped Sontaag deliver her baby while you men were away.

OOG:    Sontaag was pregnant?

AWK:   Didn’t her husband talk about that on your hunting trip?

OOG:    No.

AWK:   Men! He probably hadn’t even noticed she was pregnant.

OOG:    Who hadn’t noticed who was pregnant?

AWK:   Forget it. Get cleaned up and take me down to Rocky’s Rhino Roadhouse for supper. That’ll give me a chance to show off my new necklace.

OOG:    You have a new necklace?

AWK:    Haven’t you been listening to me?

OOG:    Yes, dear.

For friends who share common interests with me and enjoy reading lighthearted, inspirational, and entertaining articles, many with spiritual applications.