Category Archives: From Me Personally

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.

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45 YEARS

Last night I was in the kitchen, cleaning up from dinner, when I heard Dan calling for me.

“Deb,” he yelled. “I need your help!”

I dried my hands and headed toward the sound of his voice.

I found Dan standing in the hallway. His arms were outstretched, his legs were planted firmly on the floor, and his body was locked in an awkward position as if he were playing freeze tag.

“Watch your step!” he said. “My glasses have fallen off my face and I need you to help me find them before one of us steps on them.”

Last month Dan and I observed our 45th wedding anniversary.

What does being married for 45 years mean?

It means whatever one of us has experienced over the years, the other one has too. This includes significant events like becoming parents and insignificant events like eating tens of thousands of meals together.

Side by side we have traveled over a million miles, and we have slept together every night, with only a handful of exceptions. We have shared all our money and held down numerous jobs. We have faithfully paid our bills.

We have endured a miscarriage, Dan’s various health problems, Debbie’s ongoing struggle against depression, and a heartbreaking church split.

Between us we have said goodbye to seven grandparents, four parents, and numerous other family members and friends.

We have been blessed with two wonderful children and four super-spectacular grandchildren. We have enjoyed mostly good health, warm friendships, trips to faraway places, and (except for a short period at the beginning of our marriage) enough money to buy everything we needed.

We tended our kids through countless ear infections, a couple of broken bones, numerous trips to emergency rooms, troubles at school, chicken pox, multiplication tables, baseball leagues, summer camp programs, heartbreaks, and class projects too numerous to count.

We have read aloud all 700 Berenstain Bears Books 700 times each.

We have had both wonderful and undesirable neighbors.

We have contended with broken lawn mowers, dishwashers, ovens, water heaters, clothes dryers, refrigerators, garage doors, and furnaces and air conditioners.

We have grieved together as we watched friends’ marriages crumble and friends’ kids be destroyed by drugs.

We have loved and lost four cats and two dogs.

We have had lawns that wouldn’t grow, cars that wouldn’t run, and babies that wouldn’t sleep.

We have lived through months of remodeling a house. We have been so broke we couldn’t scrape together enough money to buy a new tire for our car.

We have fought nests of wasps and hornets, an infiltration of our home by ants, tomato worms that stripped the leaves off our plants overnight, chipmunks that ate the flowers out of our outdoor pots, mites that made holes in the leaves of our rose bushes, and those hideous, slimy leaches that ate our hostas.

We have also fought invisible enemies: the temptation to become discontent, to hold on to grudges,  to become bored with each other, to keep score of how many times each partner caused us to be late, and to become unbearably crotchety.

We’ve attended thousands of church services and Bible classes together.

We’ve lived through silly fads like leisure suits, pet rocks, men’s perms, disco music, bell bottoms, and streakers.

We have seen nine presidents come or go or come and go. We have watched our nation weather wars, riots, assassinations, sit-ins, hurricanes, scandals, college unrest, school shootings, and ongoing political wrangling.

We have learned to have comfortable repartees (a fancy word for conversations) like the one below.

When Dan observed me reading The Catcher in the Rye, he glanced at the cover, and asked, “Is that a western?”

(As if I EVER read westerns.)

I laughed and said, “Dan, if I were you, I wouldn’t ask that question of any other educated person.”

“Why?” he asked. “Do you mean everyone else except me has read or is at least familiar with the storyline of The Catcher in the Rye and knows it is not a western?”

“That’s exactly what I mean,” I said.

Later that day, we watched our nine-year-old granddaughter practice her various swimming techniques: the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, etc

As she demonstrated the freestyle swimming technique, I asked Dan, “Does freestyle mean the swimmer is free to swim in any style he or she chooses?”

“No, Deb,” he said. “And, you might not want to ask that question of any other educated person.”

“Got it,” I said.

Together Dan and I have experienced umpteen thousand little incidents that mean nothing and yet mean everything in a marriage, like laughing at funny stories, watching the hummingbirds feed off our back porch, and looking for lost eyeglasses together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am inserting this final photo as a special tribute to Dan, who allows me to share openly conversations and other parts of the life we share. He also tolerates the little violas that crop up every year amid his neatly laid landscape stones. If it were up to him, they would be gone, but he leaves them because he knows I love them.

 

 

ON WRITING

Thank you, dear readers, for faithfully following my blog or even for looking occasionally to see what I’ve posted. Many thanks go to those of you who comment.

One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is expose my writing efforts to other people. All writers are terrified of rejection.

Essentially, the writer says to the reader, “After hours of writing, rewriting, cutting and pasting, using the dictionary and thesaurus, checking and rechecking facts, doing endless proofreading, sweating bullets, and chewing my nails, I present this writing effort for your evaluation. Please be kind.”

But, regardless of the reception the piece receives, the writer continues to write. She must. She knows within each new piece lies the germ of an idea waiting to be discovered and developed. Often, the writer doesn’t know what she is looking for until she finds it. But when she does, writing becomes pure joy.

My good husband Dan very kindly allows me to share our conversations and experiences within my blog posts. Even though he and I wrangle over incidentals, he remains the best man I know. I never want to show him in a bad light. Usually, when I write about Dan and me, I am illustrating how difficult it is to communicate well, even in good marriages like ours.

I am honored that The Upper Room (www.upperroom.org) has chosen to publish one of my devotional pieces in its March/April 2018 issue. My article will also be featured on its website on March 2, 2018. I invite you to log on to the website on that date, read my article, and consider signing up to receive daily devotionals online from The Upper Room. I find them to be encouraging and insightful.

If you enjoy reading my blog, the highest compliment you can give me is to share it with a friend.