Martha, Martha.

Productivity really matters to me.  A lot.  Maybe too much.

This was my prayer the other night:

I love You, God.  I really do.  Why don’t I spend more time with You?  I have this idea about productivity meaning that I churn out a product.  But it is productive to spend time with You.  I think of the Mary/Martha story– Martha was cleaning and serving and being productive, but You said that Mary made the better choice– to sit at Your feet and listen, adore.  Calm me down.  Help me to not feel like I always need to produce.  I know that part of it is just the creative spirit that You gave me that drives me to create– and in so doing, I believe I am mimicking You, hopefully to Your glory– but I never want my creative tendencies to get into the way of my relationship with You.  Holy Spirit, I need You to change this in me.  Help me to be satisfied just to be with You.  I do feel like we are together while I write– and I am writing for You– all I do is for You.  I want to be like Mary, to sit at Your feet and adore.  But it is not in my nature, Lord, so I will need You to engender that in me.  Martha, Martha, you are worried about so many things.  Jackie, Jackie.

Pure-O Compulsions

Media usually presents obsessive-compulsives with very obvious compulsions: hand-washing is a favorite but also extreme organization and hoarding, as well as checking and counting.  But not all compulsions are so easy to see.

In fact, some compulsions are so difficult to recognize that it lead to a misnomer– Pure Obsessional OCD.  The name Pure-O leads some to believe that this type of OCD can essentially drop the “C” from its acronym.  But that would be a mistake.

Pure-O’s still have compulsions– they are just harder for the public to notice.  They include mental rituations like repetition, avoidance, and seeking reassurance.

For example:
I would have an intrusive, blasphemous thought– which would cause me to question my salvation.  I would repeat a particular prayer over and over in my head to ward off this thought, and I would ask everyone if they thought I was going to go to hell (sometimes this would be active– “Do you think I’m going to hell?”– and sometimes passive, as in “I’m scared I’m going to go to hell” and waiting for that person to reassure me … “Why would you think that?!  No way!”).  I would also avoid certain things (Matthew 12 and Mark 3, for example, or movies with profanity, which would trigger my blasphemous thoughts).

Sometimes it was hard to really focus on a conversation I was having because there was another entire conversation happening in my head at the same time.  It’s like listening to two tracks at once.

I wrote a poem to demonstrate it:

So … yeah.  There are compulsions you would never know are there, except for the strange look in my eyes, the odd shake of my head as if I were erasing something dark and secret.

brokenness

After we watched the Blue Like Jazz screening, my former writing professor Judy and I went to the St. Clair Broiler for some late-night breakfast and conversation.

A few things you should know about Judy: she is brilliant, a gifted writer and teacher, and she loves Jesus very much and connects with him in lovely and unique ways like Taizé and lectio divina.

One thing she said to me over pancakes and French toast was this: “Some people hold their brokenness at arm’s length.  Some people embrace their brokenness.  And some people celebrate their brokenness.”

That’s what I want to do– celebrate my brokenness.  I am not ashamed of my obsessive-compulsive disorder.  The Lord’s power is perfected in my weakness.  His grace is sufficient.

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9b).

How about you?

Christmas isn’t fun for everyone

My roommate is a Christmas fanatic– every year, she chooses one day after Thanksgiving where we pause everything else to put on some Christmas music, drink hot cocoa, and decorate our apartment.  Every Christmas decoration in the entire apartment belongs to her.  Well, time out, I guess we each paid half for our little four-foot tree.

Desiree has this entire Willow Tree nativity set, as seen below.

Can you picture her as a senior in high school, eagerly opening up each element of the scene?  It makes me laugh– but in a good way!  Des is the sweetest girl ever, and this is a great metaphor of each of us.  Des is “steady eddie”– not that she doesn’t have her own issues to deal with– but she is strong and caring and clean and a good cook.  And then there’s me, a tornado who is still learning how to take care of herself.

Christmas is an interesting time for me– to be honest, I am learning to enjoy it.  Growing up, it was a very difficult time of the year for me.  Picture Minnesota in the winter: it gets dark so early, there’s usually piles of snow, and the temperature is below freezing– sometimes dangerously below.  It’s like a dream location for seasonal depression.

And then, with OCD stacked on top of it, pretty much everything about Christmas was a trigger: my mind would race with thoughts of whether I believed in God, and if He was real, if He had saved me.

There is an image of me that we still have somewhere at my parents’ house– me, hovering somewhere around 17-20 years old, with this look at the camera.  I can remember exactly what I was thinking in it.  I was looking at the camera and asking my future self, Are you okay yet?  I hope you don’t feel this way still.

These days, I can answer my past self, I am better.  I am healthier.  And no, most days I do not feel that way.

Praise GOD!  Thank You, Jesus, for cognitive-behavioral therapy.

So tonight I’m thinking about different kinds of folks– I know there are some– actually, MANY– who are like Des, yearly filled with holiday cheer, basking in the glow of the Christmas lights, huddled comfortably around the tree and the nativity scene.  But there are others who spend their holidays the way I did– filled with doubt (laced with the tiniest bit of hope), depression, confusion, and sickness– and all while feeling that instead, they really ought to be happy.

If you are in the second camp, I hear you.  I’ve been there.  This prayer is for you:

Jesus, I celebrate You– I celebrate Your marvelous incarnation, the Word becoming flesh.  Tonight, Lord, I lift up to You all those who are burdened with heavy, laboring hearts this season– whether from depression, anxiety, mental illness, or internal crisis.  YOU ARE STRONG ENOUGH TO HOLD US ALL.  Just as that first Christmas was the initiation of Your inexplicably great rescue plan, I pray that this Christmas will be the start of Your new rescue mission in the lives of these sufferers.  You are Love.  You are Truth.  You are the mighty redeemer.  I entrust my heart to You and ask that You would hold those for whom I’m praying– in a way that is felt.  Amen.