Why "71º & Sunny?"

I consider 71º to be the perfect temperature. Not too cold and not too hot. I also love perfect sunny days. The vast majority of days are not 71º & Sunny and yet, all days were created by God's hand and they are still gifts, even if they don't fit my ridiculous definition of perfection. My struggle with OCD has at times imprisoned me in an impossible attempt to achieve perfection. I'm now learning to love all kinds of days that don't even come close to 71º & Sunny.

Please leave me a comment below. I really want to know what you are thinking!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fear = Lies

Recently, Jon Acuff, a witty and often funny, Christian writer and blogger, posted this on his Facebook page:

The number of people who have their lives perfectly figured out = "The entire population of the planet minus me." A lie fear tells me often.

I love this, because if you read a lot of Jon's stuff, it's easy to think he has it all together. Yet, very often, he will whip up little gems like this about fear. Looks can be quite deceiving, can't they?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pictures From The Walk

On your marks . . .
The 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk that took place on June 7th was great fun! What freedom to be able to walk around openly with my family and talk about OCD without any feeling of embarrassment or stigma. I wish that for everyone suffering from mental illness.

The walk took place around the
beautiful Jamaica Pond in Boston.
It was a picture perfect day.
A sea of neon green.

Me, Jim, and Mom & Dad. My son was there
too - he took the pic. I have an
AWESOME supportive family!
My biggest supporter.
Mon amour.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Goodbye Sweet Anna

Oh that face!
Two days ago, we said goodbye to our precious fur baby, Anna. She has been a part of our lives for almost exactly 16 years.

She had such a spunky personality. The vet always knew she was really sick if she didn't fight them. Ha! That's my girl! She absolutely hated when I sang. She would often mew this really weird sound, and literally attack me if I didn't stop. But she had no problem when Jim played electric guitar. Guess that doesn't say much for my singing.

She could also be a little cuddle bug. If you stayed really still, she would sleep on you for hours. Jim moves around too much, so I was usually the lap of choice. Oh and did she purr! She was a purr machine. Jim and I always joked that she was like a living, breathing, teddy bear. Her fur was as soft as silk. It felt just like rabbit fur and smelled so sweet. She was especially beautiful and I can't tell you how many advertisements we saw through the years with pictures of cats that looked exactly like our girl. Many a burly workman would step in to our house and simply melt at the sight of her. It was quite comical at times.

We had to get a king sized bed
because she was such a bed hog!
Now she's gone, and we are so incredibly sad. The house feels really empty without her. We built this house 16 years ago, and she joined our family two months after we moved in. So this is her house. It's always been her house. I keep thinking I hear her, or feel her jumping onto the bed. Her food bowls are gone and the spot where she used to sit on her little, fluffy, white mat in the dining room is empty. Honestly, my heart is broken. It feels a little over dramatic to be this upset about a pet, but there you have it.

Pain stinks. Plain and simple. Those of us with OCD and anxiety disorders tend to specialize in running away from pain. All my compulsions and avoidance were just attempts to escape pain. I don't think you can escape pain, though. I think you can maybe delay it, but eventually it catches up to you. You can even try and cut yourself off from feeling, in order to avoid pain, but then you can't feel joy either.

It is incredibly tempting to shut down emotionally, and make the decision to not get another pet. A friend (who also lost a fur baby not so long ago) recently joked, "they don't tell you that it never ends well." It made me laugh, but it made me think too. My friend was right. Odds are, I will outlive any next pet that I get. And I will be here in this sadness all over again. But then, I would miss out on a decade or more of unconditional furry love and licks. I would miss out on the opportunity to care for one of God's creatures, and even the opportunity to fight contamination OCD, as pets certainly bring all kinds of dirt/germ challenges with them. Essentially, I would miss an opportunity to feel some happiness and more fullness to my life.

You know that Tennyson quote, "'Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all?" I think there is a lot of truth to it. In the long run, the pain is worth it.

Goodnight my precious girl. It's been 16 years of joy.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Where Is God?

The world of mental illness is filled with so much pain. Loneliness, fear, isolation. It can be overwhelming. I have heard from so many, "Where is God in this??!!??" I've asked that question myself many, many times. I often (usually) don't have ready answers, but I am convinced, deep in my heart, that God has not forsaken us. I read a story on Facebook today that reminded me to keep going back to the One who has my life and my heart in the palm of His hand, regardless of how bad my circumstances are. I don't understand. I've come to the conclusion that maybe I don't need to. He does. And that will have to be enough for me. I guess that's why it's called faith?

From the Facebook page of Long Island Youth Mentoring:

His name is Judah.

Can a broken heart coexist with extreme beauty?

This week I found it can.

Christine, my eldest daughter, went in for a sonogram one week earlier than she was supposed to. Something was wrong. She was 7 months pregnant, but looked 9 - her body so swollen with fluid she could barely walk. A doctor walked in. "Hi, Christine. I am your surgeon." Christine was taken aback. Surgeon? She had never seen this man before, and was not there for surgery. "We have to operate on the baby. When we do, he may have difficulty. If he does, do you want us to do an emergency C-section or just let him die naturally?" It took Christine a few seconds to allow the meaning of the question to settle in. "What do you mean? He has a name. His name is Judah." From that moment on, this doctor insisted his staff refer to the baby by his name. After four procedures, Judah had to be delivered. All looked like it was going well until the morning of his third day. Kay and I got the call at 5 a.m. Christine's voice: "Please pray. The next couple of hours are critical for Judah." Kay and I dropped to our knees beside the bed and begged for Judah's life. When we got to the hospital, we found that Judah was soon to be with the Lord.

The neonatal intensive care unit was buzzing. Five to six doctors and nurses were working to save our precious little Judah. Christine made it clear that if there was truly nothing they could do, she wanted to hold the baby and let him feel her warmth as he slipped into the Lord's arms. When they could do no more, they disconnected what they could and placed Judah in his mother's arms. Jason, my son-in-law held Christine as she whispered to their baby above the hum and beep of life-sustaining machines. Then Jason's tenor voice opened in that sterile room, and through strong, fatherly tears he sang:

And when I think that God, his son not sparing,
Sent him to die - I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou Art, how great Thou art!

I cannot describe the emotions, the power, and the beauty of that moment. I stood with my hands on my children, praying, while I witnessed them, with chests heaving sobs of excruciating pain worshipping and praising their King and their Lord.

His name is Judah, which means, "This time I will praise Him." I do not share this to boast about the faith of my children. I stood even in that moment knowing I was witnessing the impossible. I share this because I saw the power of the Spirit of God within two believers as they handed the little boy they loved to the Lord they trusted.

Only by the power of God . . .

"Call it. It is 9:47am." I knew that was the number that was to go on the certificate of death. The doctor who had been with them and performed all the surgeries walked in. His eyes were full of fear. He looked in the face of the lifeless baby and then into the eyes of the parents. "I am so sorry." Christine said, "Thank you for all you did to allow us to meet our son." The doctor took off his glasses and wept. All protocol was gone.

The next day Kay and I brought their other two children, our grandchildren, to the hospital. Christine and Jason wanted to tell them about their brother themselves. Little Jason is 5 and Abby is 3. Jason Sr. said, "Do you remember the recording of 'Jesus Loves Me' that you made for your bother?" They said they did.

"Well, when I heard Jesus was going to take Judah up to live with him in Heaven, I played it for Judah. No one on earth can imagine just how much Jesus loves them. But right after Judah heard you sing, he found out." Little Jason then asked two questions: Did Judah just disappear or did he float up to heaven? After his father answered that, he asked: Can I play with the buttons on the bed? I wish we adults could move on with the reality of eternity like children can. We instead ride a question-filled roller coaster of emotions. I am keeping a list of questions to ask the Lord. However, I am convinced that when we are in His presence, it will all make sense.

I once heard Pastor Gary Zarlengo say: "When the hand of God does not make sense, hold onto His heart." We cannot search the mind of God, nor understand how He may choose to move in the mystery of his sovereignty.
Jason, Christine & Judah
Photo from Long Island Youth
Mentoring Facebook Page

We do know the character of God, though. He is good. He loves each of us dearly. We are His children and he wants only the best for each of us. These are truths. But when our circumstances seem to contradict these truths, we can either doubt our perception or we can doubt God. We also know that we live in a fallen world. The place where the fallen world and the character of God meet is the place Jason took us in the depth of his pain - to the foot of the cross. It is only there that we can weep and still declare, "How great Thou art, how great Thou art!"
John Cragg
Executive Director

In spite of my own personal experience of living with the horror that is OCD, I can still say unequivocally that God IS good. It's just that sometimes our intense pain and suffering tries to convince us that He is not.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Preparing For Pain

Wait for it . . . wait for it . . .
It can't be done. At least I can't prepare for pain, not in a way that works effectively for me. My friend, Anna, seems to have figured this out for herself as well, and she really gave me some food for thought on the subject.

For the majority of my life, I always tried to get the upper hand on any pain that I thought might be headed my way. "What if this happens, or what if that happens?" I would try to plan out every possible scenario that I feared might happen, and I would spend hours upon hours coming up with elaborate plans that I could set in motion if this or that happened. No unexpected painful event was going to get the best of me! I was ready and waiting. That other shoe was certain to drop and it was not going to catch me off guard. Or so I thought. The problem was that a lot of those prepared for scenarios never occurred. Or if they did, they didn't happen the way I thought they would, or with the level of severity I expected. Or even worse, sometimes something truly horrific would happen, and I would be completely blindsided by it because it was never even on my radar. I could just never properly prepare myself for pain, no matter how hard I tried.

Of course the irony of all this preparation was that it extended my pain (or created it out of thin air). All that time I wasted in preparation was agony. Because, you see, while I was trying to head off the pain, I was actually giving myself the pain. I find that it is hard to think about and plan for painful events without actually feeling the pain of those events, even if they are only in my mind. I am learning that life is a LOT less painful when I let it follow its natural course. Of course, that means I willingly accept and acknowledge the uncertainty of life when I do that. Will I be unexpectedly smacked by pain? Absolutely 100% guaranteed. However, the interesting thing is that because I don't live in my own personally created "Pain Land" all day, every day, anymore, I am now much more readily equipped to deal with life's surprise twists and turns. This is in large part due to the fact that I am no longer always emotionally wrung out from the constantly imagined terrible things that previously dogged my every waking moment. I sure wish I had figured this out a long time ago. I guess you are never too old to learn something new.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Scrupulosity And My Friend

I'm so excited for my fellow blogging friend, Tina! She was interviewed for an article on CNN.com about Scrupulosity. You can imagine my shock when reading the article and seeing her name and picture along with it!

Aside from being happy for my friend, I'm also pleased that more awareness and education is being spread about this very painful form of OCD.