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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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.

THE BEAST

For Christmas, I asked for and received an adult-size, three-wheeled bike. I figured I had passed the age of being able to ride safely on a two-wheeled bike and was sure this oversized tricycle would be a cinch to handle.

I pictured myself pedaling confidently around the neighborhood, waving at the neighbors, my hair ruffling slightly in the wind, and pounds melting off my midsection at a record rate.

But. . .

I no longer believe those people who tell you if you have ever ridden a bike, you’ll always be able to ride one.

I cannot ride this bike. It is heavier, harder to steer, and much wider than a two-wheeled bike.

We live in a neighborhood with paved, flat streets and little traffic. If I can learn to get on, steer, stop, and get off, I should be good to go. I more than likely won’t need to change gears.

For some reason, once I plant myself on that bike seat, I freeze in fear. I am told that though it isn’t impossible to turn the bike over, it won’t tip over easily, and I don’t need to worry that it will.

I was on the bike at least half a dozen times before I pedaled it any distance at all. I was stiff, and terrified of not being able to stop the bike when I needed to.

Dan says I don’t sit straight in the saddle. I hunch my shoulders and lean markedly to the left and that’s why I always run off the driveway on the left side.

He suggested I practice riding in the cul-de-sac, but I wasn’t ready for neighbors to watch me.

Plus, I could imagine someone driving innocently by in a car and suddenly, like a bat out of a cul-de-sac, a big yellow machine maneuvered by a hunched over, left-leaning, crazy woman careens smack into their passenger side door.

I asked my adult daughter Lara to help me with it. She straddled the bike and was all the way down the driveway and headed toward the house next door before I could even ask her if she thought the seat was too high.

She watched me attempt to ride the bike from the center of the garage to the garage entrance.

Then she said, “Get off, Mom. I think you may have some neurological deficits.” (She is an occupational therapist.)

She set me in a chair and tested me by having me mimic some arm and leg movements she demonstrated. I was able to do each exercise easily.

We went back to the bike, I got on it in the driveway, and positioned a foot on each pedal. I sat.

I told the grandkids to go stand on the front porch.

“Go on, Mom,” she said. “You won’t tip over.”

Before I had ridden three feet she said, “Stop, Mom. Why are you hunching your shoulders and leaning to the left? You’re going to ride off the left edge of the driveway.”

I stopped, and she straightened me upright on the bike. She pushed my shoulders into the right position and told me to go.

I pedaled one or two rounds of the wheels. The peony bush on the left side of the driveway trembled.

Lara said, “Stop, Mom. You’re still hunching your shoulders and sitting on the left edge of your seat. And why are you looking down at the front wheel?”

I stopped. She readjusted my posture and lifted my chin, so I looked straight ahead.

“Try again,” she said.

“No,” I said. “I’ve had enough for one day. I’m going inside to take a nerve pill and lie down.”

This getting old business is the pits. I’ll bet I couldn’t even manage to fall off a log backwards.

THE BEAST

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.

 

 

GERANIUM SPEAK

I went out early this morning to water the plants in my yard and the potted ones in front of the house and on our patio.

The hose I use for this task isn’t optimal. It kinks sometimes and snags on every shrub and decorative rock in the yard. That is one reason I resist watering outdoor plants. That stubborn hose, and this awful heat.

I watered the rose bushes, the lilies, the spyreas, the hostas, and the newly placed slabs of grass Dan had put around the mailbox.

I unsnagged the hose at least 12 times and dragged it to water the petunias, coleus, and geraniums growing in big pots across the front of the house.

The clean, earthy scent of the geraniums always catches me off-guard and makes me stop and inhale deeply. They looked a bit bedraggled this morning because I had neglected watering them as I should have because of, you know, my kinky garden hose and the awful heat.

As I plucked off a spent blossom and stem, I thought I heard the plant clear its throat.

“What?” I asked, stooping down to its level.

“I’ve missed seeing you,” the fragile, white-flowered plant rasped.

“I know,” I said. “I’m sorry. I’ve neglected you a bit lately.”

“It’s okay.”

“It’s been awfully hot. Even now, the sun is burning the back of my neck.”

“Tell me about it,” the plant said.

“Plus, I planted more flowers than usual this year, and watering them is time consuming. The roses are blooming right now, and they require lots of water.”

Nothing.

“You and the other geraniums are still my favorites though,” I said. “I even named my blog after you.”

“I know.”

“How do you know that?”

“I heard it through the grapevine,” it said, and laughed.

“Ha, ha.”

“Maybe you should plant fewer flowers. Then you would have more time for us geraniums, you know, your favorites.”

“Well, yes. But I love the other plants, too. Not as much I love you, of course.”

“Uh huh,” it said.

I stood, unwound the garden hose from the base of the rose of Sharon bush, righted the birdbath the hose had overturned, and cranked the cantankerous, green hose back around the metal wheel where it lives.

I went inside the house, cleaned up, drank about a gallon of water, and sat down with my Mornings with Jesus book, My Utmost for His Highest book, and my notebook for writing down new spiritual thoughts every day. I realized I was a couple of days behind in my study, but I dutifully read the May 30 passages, took a few notes, and began to pray.

“I’m sorry, God, that I’ve neglected my study a bit lately.”

“It’s okay,” I think He said.

“I’ve been really busy. We had the Memorial Day party on Monday. Plus, I’ve been working to get my family photos into albums, organizing things for the grandkids’ scrapbooks, taking care of my flowers and plants, doing some writing, and rereading A Separate Peace. It’s one of my favorite classic books.”

“I know all that,” He said.

“Oh, I forgot. Of course.”

Nothing.

“I have a lot of irons in the fire, so to speak,” I said.

I felt Him smile at me.

“But you are my number one priority.”

He hugged me.

“Uh huh,” He said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RING! RING!

When I was a kid, I didn’t spend much time looking for lost things. When I couldn’t find something, I just asked Mom where it was. She always knew.

Today I would have to include looking for lost items if I composed a list of how I spend most of my time: cleaning the house, running errands, preparing and cleaning up meals, and looking for lost things.

Top among the things I look for is my phone. Despite having had a cell phone for years, I still have not established an assigned resting place for it. Sometimes I want to attach a cord to the thing and fasten it to the wall.

Surely, a universal method for finding lost phones exists. If it doesn’t, here are some ideas that might work.

Remember those lamps that were turned on and off with a clap of the hands? What a waste of energy. No one forgets where the on/off button on a lamp is located. It never moves. Now having a phone that rings when I clap my hands? That would be useful.

When my hairdresser was cutting my hair last week, she asked whose music I like to listen to. I told her I love to listen to Neil Diamond. She turned her face away from me and toward a table and said, “Alexa, play Neil Diamond.” Instantly, the soft tones of Sweet Caroline filled the room.

That was handy, but how much more helpful it would be if I could ask, “Alexa, where is my phone?” and hear her respond with, “You left it in the car when you drove to the post office.” I would pay big money for a machine that could do that.

Or, why couldn’t the phone come with a “finder” programmed to locate the phone. I could walk through the house waving the finder in the air. Sooner or later, it would sense the presence of the phone and beep, kind of like using a remote-control device to find your car in a parking lot.

Oh, wait. Using this method, I would need a finder for the finder.

Or, why couldn’t a phone be programmed to beep every 15 minutes, like a grandfather clock that announces 9:00 o’clock, 9:15, 9:30, 9:45, 10:00 o’clock? Or it could flash a bright light at 15-minute intervals.

Or, it could be like one of those round, flat vacuum cleaners that randomly moves through the house all day. Upon entering the front door, I could simply drop the phone, which would then scoot from room to room. Sooner or later, our paths would cross, and I could snag it then.

I have considered tying some brightly colored object, like a beach towel, to my phone. Surely even on a quick survey of the house my eyes would spot that. But it would be unhandy to carry in my purse.

I’ve even thought about getting a second phone, so I could use it to call the number of the lost phone and make it ring. But then, I would be looking for two phones.

I never thought I would say this, but why can’t a phone be like a cranky baby? Every time I set it down, it would scream until I picked it up again.

I’m sure if I got online I could buy some fancy mechanism that would keep track of my phone for me. But I can’t do that today. I’ve lost my credit card.

I must have laid it down with my phone somewhere.

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