Rockin’ Religion

“John said to Him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in Your Name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.’ Jesus replied, ‘Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in My Name who can at the same time speak ill of Me. For whoever is not against us, is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea’.” (Mark 9:38-42)

You know, I totally “get” why some people steer clear of organized religion. As a 50-something-year-old woman, I have certainly seen my fair share of hypocrisy and over-zealousness. And in more than one church. In my case, it seems to be centered on my choices of music:

The minister and his wife who visited our apartment in St. Louis when I was 14 or 15 years old, saw the posters of Kiss and REO Speedwagon on the walls of my bedroom…and came back a few days’ later with holy water to sprinkle around my room??!!? It’s a wonder I wasn’t traumatized away from any church right then and there (although I do remember refusing to go to that church again after they left…)

The Iron Maiden/Twisted Sister concert my Uncle Brian and I attended when I was 17 or 18 years old. Young Christians approached us, as we waited for my stepfather to pick us up, with pamphlets and warnings of fire and brimstone. They even questioned the hoop earrings I wore because one had a star and the other a half moon on them; they thought there was some “hidden” meaning to them. Nope. I spotted them in a booth at the local flea market one Sunday afternoon and thought they were pretty. End of story.

The uncle who had a conniption fit seeing “DOKKN” (shortened variation of DOKKEN) on my license plate because they were a metal band. He asked me what they sang and I made the mistake of listing one of their latest singles at the time, Kiss of Death. He immediately jumped to the conclusion that that was devil worship…until I calmly explained that they were terming HIV/AIDS as a “kiss of death,” a warning against promiscuity and what it could lead to (Brown, 1987; Hunt, 1988).

In later years, the minister who stated emphatically in a sermon that there was “no such thing as Christian rock”. I beg to differ. If the devil can quote Scripture to suit his needs, then surely God in His infinite wisdom and mercy can use even rock and roll to further His Kingdom.

I also “get” the excitement one feels being a Christian, especially when one first accepts Jesus as their Savior. You want to share your faith with the world, which is what we are called to do, but I am reminded of the words of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:2: “I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were unable to take it. Indeed, you are still not able, even now.” Too often over-zealous Christians push and poke and prod because they don’t really understand that it is just that pushing, poking and prodding that often turns people away…not just from that particular congregation but from God altogether. It’s standard Psychology 101: the more you protest, the more they want it (whatever you’re deeming their vice); if you push too hard, or hold on too tightly, people sense a trap and run away. No, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t correct our brethren if we see them going astray; certainly the Bible tells us that is our responsibility. However, when we hammer incessantly, especially on a “new” or “young” Christian who is still finding their feet in the church about their lifestyle choices, we often close the very door we are trying to open. They’re still drinking that milk St. Paul tells us about.

And, yes, many in the rock and roll genre do glorify things like promiscuity, infidelity, drug use and alcoholism. There are many, especially in the metal arena, who flirt a little too much with the adversary when indulging in their theatrics, looking to shock and garner a bit of free publicity for themselves. I am certainly not defending their actions. And, yes, a young person, especially one with no religious background whatsoever, might be lured by the “coolness” of that theater aspect. It’s the same mindset that compels people to read thriller novels or watch horror movies. For the young, and often impressionable, that might not be a good combination. However, let’s also give kids…from 1 to 92 as the old Christmas carol says…a bit of the benefit of the doubt. For many, they’re just looking to relax, unwind and enjoy a bit of music.

I mentioned earlier about an uncle who initially freaked over a song title but calmed down and apologized when I explained what it really meant. I think that’s the key. If we’re going to pick apart every word, every movement, every nuance of entertainment, searching for the negative, we will find it. But, for the average person listening/viewing, is that what they’re getting out of it?

For me, though I’m pretty all over the place with music today (i.e. I listen to most styles of music, not just one genre), when I was a teenager, it was strictly metal (REO Speedwagon being the one exception; I was in love with Kevin Cronin…both as an artist and as a teenage girl with her first attack of hormones). I was growing up in a household with alcoholism and a stepfather who often became violent after imbibing and who wanted a bit too much to do with me, if you take my meaning. The loud, blistering guitars and earth-shaking drum sequences reflected the anger and confusion and the feelings of injustice churning inside of me. Banging my head to the music in the privacy of my own room; in the car; at a concert with friends seemed a healthier way to express that anger and confusion than acting out in some way…like hurting others, or hurting myself.

As for the lyrics, I really listened to them. I can honestly say, there were very few that I found “questionable”…even with a Christian background. And those that I did find questionable, I stopped listening to.

Despite everything that was going on in my home, I had a great-grandmother place a tiny Bible in my hand when I was born. Years later, I used to sneak into my aunt’s CCD classes to listen…because I wanted to know Him better. I remember receiving this pink rectangle of wood in CCD that had a pewter bust of Jesus mounted on it. It hung on the wall in my bedroom for years. Whenever things got really bad in our house, my 8, 9, 10 year-old self could be found kneeling before it…praying for the scariness to end, praying the only way I knew how; it’s the only thing that gave me strength to keep on keeping on. In short, I had a foundation of faith from a very young age. And I have always maintained that if my faith is so small and weak that a mere song lyric can tear it away, it wasn’t much of a faith to begin with.

Granted, there are many who do not have that foundation of faith. However, again, what are they hearing? What are they getting out of the music? Sometimes it’s not the lyrics but simply the music itself that lifts a blue mood or helps us to relax and focus on a task. And it means nothing more than that to the listener. In other words, maybe sometimes in our quest for saving souls, we take things a little too seriously. And that’s what pushes people away…instead of bringing them into the church, whatever the denomination. In short, whatever our religious beliefs, we cannot substitute our version of holiness and worship for someone else’s. Your time or method of prayer; the passages of Scripture that speak most to your heart; the religion you practice (Catholic, Baptist, Congregationalist), etc., are what work for you. They are a part of your personal relationship with Jesus. These are the paths God has led you down to worship Him. If there were any one perfect religion, then we would only ever have a Catholic church, or a Baptist church, or a Lutheran church. Not a Catholic church AND a Baptist church AND a Lutheran. We fight amongst ourselves about whose version of dogma and/or doctrine is correct and wonder, yet again, why so many turn away.

And now that I’ve had my little rant, let me get back on subject…

Music and ministry…or a rockin’ religion. Why is that a bad thing? Why would I not be able to maintain a close relationship with Jesus Christ just because Within Temptation CD’s sometimes spin in my CD player? We can substitute WT with Megadeth (Dave Mustaine’s born-again, btw!) or Ozzy Osbourne or Doro. And, these days, I’m listening more and more to some of those “no such thing” Christian rock bands: Casting Crowns, For King and Country, Francesca Battistelli, Lauren Daigle, Barlow Girl, MercyMe and Big Daddy Weave, for starters. Regardless, music lifts my soul. If the lyrics sung to it are messages of love, and especially God’s love, then I say, “Hallelujah!” If some of these artists are hitting mainstream audiences, crossing over into rock, pop and/or hip-hop genres, sharing messages of the gospel to those young ears–young ears who may never hear about Jesus from their parents, grandparents or any other traditional role model, then I say, “Amen!” They are not against Him, they are for Him. And we need the seed of hope they are planting for tomorrow.

A seed.


But what a seed! By singing about Jesus, and reaching millions through the medium of rock and roll, maybe, just maybe, it’ll bring some of those young ears into the church. And guess what? Once they are there, those vices–if, indeed, rock music could really be considered one–will fall away all on their own as Jesus touches their heart and they open themselves to the Holy Spirit.

My love for rock music, even metal, has never fallen away…no matter how great my faith grows. In my youth, we really didn’t have a contemporary Christian, or Christian rock, genre. I do remember being in my early-20’s when I first heard Chritian metal artists, Stryper. I remember them being extremely talented artists but, to combine Christianity and heavy metal was unheard of before them. Instead, in those moments of scariness, when I knelt before that make-shift altar at home, and prayed, He often sent those answers to my heart in the form of a song lyric…because music always brought me joy.

I plan on having this one sung at my funeral someday. It is REO Speedwagon’s “Blazin’ Your Own Trail Again.” They do not mention God or Jesus at all but these lyrics helped to bolster a young, impressionable girl…who believed she might be going to hell for the fornication that was never her choice at all:

Sooner or later you will find a way
To feel like sunshine, even on a cloudy day
To feel like morning in the dead of night
Sooner or later it’s gonna be all right
Now don’t go thinking your life’s a mess
Rather start thinkin’ in terms of happiness
And it’s gonna happen
Just decide were you’re goin’
Get out in the open
And start blazin’ your own trail again
It takes time sometimes to figure out
That there’s nothing to worry about
And that there’s plenty to be thankful for
It takes time sometimes to know the score
See, everybody’s got a smile inside
So put it upon your face and wear it with pride
And it’s gonna happen
Just decide were you’re goin’
Get out in the open
And start blazin’ your own trail again

Songwriters: Kevin Patrick Cronin
Blazin’ Your Own Trail Again lyrics © Hori Pro Entertainment Group

Sometimes that loud, blistering guitar and earth-shaking drum sequence is the only thing loud enough to shut out the pain and loneliness and confusion long enough that one can get “quiet” and listen to Him speak.

May God bless you & keep you!


Brown, C. (1987). “Kiss of Death.” Back for the Attack. Sony/ATV Music Publishing, LLC.

Cronin, K. P. (1978). “Blazin’ Your Own Trail Again.” You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can’t Tuna Fish. Hori Pro Entertainment Group.

Hunt, D. (1988). “Dokken & Co. Is Back for the Attack.” Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 6, 2018 from:


Embracing the Imperfect

“Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish, for I would be telling the truth. But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me than what he sees in me or hears in me because of the abundance of the revelations. Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” (2 Corinthians 12:6-9)

We all have things that we could boast about without looking foolish. Maybe you’re one of the most brilliant surgeons in the country and have helped heal countless other people…or animals, if a veterinary surgeon. Maybe you’re an awesome cook. Or have a beautiful singing voice. Our gifts are countless. And, yes, since He gave you these gifts in the first place, He also uses them to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and bring joy to many.

But, guess what?

That surgeon is also late to every appointment. The cook is nipping the cooking sherry while whipping up the filet mignon. And the singer is dyslexic. Sort of makes all of their accomplishments that much more awe-inspiring, doesn’t it?

And that’s the point.

God doesn’t just use our gifts. He uses our imperfections, too. If everything ran smoothly all of the time, would we notice His miracles? Would we understand that it’s all about Him and not about us? If we were all perfect in every way, would we even think to worship God? So He uses our imperfections. He uses them to further His Kingdom. When we, who are broken, are made whole through Christ, it forces the unbeliever to take notice. Sure, they may scoff and sneer, especially if we give the credit where it’s due for our success. But they notice the accomplishment. And are amazed at the adversities overcome to achieve that success. They may not suddenly become believers. But there’s a seed planted. And God will cause it to bloom in His own time.

Do you notice something though? Despite whatever He helps us to accomplish in our lives, those thorns never really go away. I may be a minister, a writer, an artist and a homesteader. But I am also a survivor of child molestation, an eternal procrastinator and I’m perpetually running late, running behind. I’m terrified of flying. I deal with depression and anxiety, low self-esteem and confidence issues, acid reflux, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Psychological Disorder, and Chronic Epstein-Barr. I’m showing you my brokenness…and thanking Him for all of it: the gifts and the thorns. But especially the thorns. Because that’s what people need to see. Those thorns are blessings in disguise. And there are others with those same thorns in their sides who need to hear that they are not alone. So, whatever adversities you are working with, thank Him.

Because there’s a silver lining behind that cloud. There always is.

May God bless you & keep you!

Christian Confidence

“Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that of ourselves we are qualified to take credit for anything as coming from us; rather, our qualification comes from God, who has indeed qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of Spirit; for the letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)

As someone who grew up with alcoholism and abuse in the home, confidence is a fleeting thing. You’re blowing your own horn one minute; the next, you’re plummeting into the abyss. As a Christian, I should neither be boasting of “my” works nor lamenting any perceived mediocrity; both are an insult to the Lord. Any talents or gifts that I currently possess were given to me by the Holy Spirit. They are gifts from God, not self. Indeed, these gifts are meant to be shared with others, to further His kingdom…not hidden away in some corner while I serve small, thinking I’m not good enough.

And yet, for those of us who perpetually battle confidence and self-esteem issues, that’s exactly what we do. We allow the enemy of our souls to keep telling us we’re not good enough, we’re not strong enough, smart enough, talented enough…

Enough already!

That little red guy with the pitch fork talks too much.

If God is nudging us to do something, He’s telling us we are good enough, strong enough, smart enough and/or talented enough. Because He is giving us the strength, intellect and/or talent. And He will never fail. He doesn’t need us to do whatever the task; He wants us to do it. And it is through our obedience to Him that we are blessed. It’s that simple.

When that ol’ Devil starts whispering his insidious lies, call upon the Lord. Pray for that strength, courage, or whatever else you may need to succeed. Ask the good Lord to show you where your heart is, what He wants for you. And then really listen to the answers He places on your heart.

For someone like myself–and there are plenty out there who have had similar upbringings–trusting someone–even Someone–is often the equivalent of trying to climb Mount Everest with naught but a toothpick for support. It is overwhelming to even consider because we base our trust on our human relationships…instead of the One relationship that should matter most of all…and will never let us down.

I always discount my dreams as too lofty, too impossible. It’s a pipe dream, never happen. There’s someone prettier, more talented, etc. than I am. I blame my present financial situation: I don’t have the money. And that other commodity: I don’t have enough time. And I allow myself to be defeated.




Worse, I’m telling God “no”…by believing the lies.

I’m praying for a set of spiritual headphones this year to drown out the Adversary’s “talk”. Jesus says, “I am enough!” And so is everyone else reading this blog post. What dream has He put on your heart? What does He keep nudging you to do? Where does He keep nudging you to go? Saying “Yes, Lord!” is the biggest hurdle to conquer. Are you up to the challenge?

May God bless you & keep you!

My Apologies for the Delay…

Good morning (or whatever time of day it is in your part of the world…)

In the middle of some major “renovations” here on this blog. As soon as they are completed, I will certainly include more information about them. For the time being, I thank everyone for their patience. New content will be added soon.

In the meantime, keep working towards that faith-filled, sustainable and compassionate future. We CAN be the change we wish to see in the world.

May God bless you & keep you!

19th Century Reality

“O my people, listen to my teaching. Open your ears to what I am saying. For I will show you lessons from our history, stories handed down to us from former generations.” (Psalms 78:1-4)

I tend to over-romanticize earlier times in history. Sure, there’s a lot to be said for a quiet, peaceful walk where no motorcars pollute the air, assault our ears with their constant rumble, and the threat of being struck down by one is non-existent. There’s something to be said for growing your own food, knowing where it came from, knowing what’s in it, and knowing how to preserve it for the winter months when nothing grows. There’s an art to cooking. Sadly, many in our society no longer take the time to learn that art. They’re too busy to slow cook anything; nuke for 3 minutes instead…and watch most, if not all, of the nutrition evaporate. And, as mentioned in yesterday’s post, the craftsmanship that went into everything! Today’s styles, whether we’re talking clothing, or furnishings, or even architecture, are–in my not-so-humble opinion–bland. There’s no attempt at individuality. Everything is churned out in a factory so that every house, every sofa, every pair of jeans is often identical to the next. The only difference may be that this house is blue and its neighbor is yellow. So, I lament the loss of such craftsmanship.

However, yesterday afternoon, I spent some time reading some of the literature in the herb garden “office”. “Office” because it’s really the basement to another exhibit, but it has been converted into a part-garden shed, part-gardening library and, yes, part-office. Some of what I read, I already knew but it was kind of sobering all the same:

Every family could expect to lose at least one child in infancy…mostly due to bacterial infections and viruses, of which infants have not developed immunity against and, of course, there’s no real hospital with today’s pre- and post-natal care.

Every family could also expect to lose at least one child before the age of 21 because one out of every five children never got the chance to grow up due to childhood diseases. I often criticize certain vaccinations–usually the flu vaccine and, in this case, I will continue to do so–but, while some of the vaccinations we received as children may cause some unpleasant conditions and/or side effects, they also save lives. I, for one, would not want to contract tuberculosis–what was called “consumption” in the 1800’s. Consumption was one of the biggest killers in the 19th century.

Diseases like malaria and cholera took the lives of hundreds of people each summer. When was the last time we heard of anyone contracting cholera? There’s something to be said for public sanitation, too.

Women between 20 and 45, their childbearing years, were always at risk of losing their lives in the birthing process.

Menstrual pain, PMS and menopause were treated with patent medicines. These were primarily alcohol-based “remedies” prescribed by doctors to suppress certain symptoms. And, as anyone knows who has had alcoholism in their family, sometimes the effect is not calming but the basis for more irrational behavior.

One could practice medicine without a license, without even a formal education. The herbalist in me says this one isn’t so bad. No, I don’t want a surgeon cutting me open without ever having received formal training to do so but I don’t mind being able to tincture a few herbs together and being allowed to call it “medicine” instead of “remedy” or “supplement”. However, doctors of the 19th century were of two extremes. Some were merely learned herbalists who, rather than just the more benign plants like chamomile, mint and fennel that nearly everyone knew and trusted, employed harsher herbs. One such fellow, Samuel Thomson, believed the body must first be purged of all ill humors and then heated up because he believed that cold was the enemy. So he prescribed, almost exclusively, first, Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata) to induce violent and copious vomiting and diarrhea (Lobelia inflata has since been proven to be quite toxic) and then followed it up with a heavy dose of Cayenne Pepper (Capsicum annuum). He was incarcerated for murder when one of his patients died but then acquitted when nobody on the jury panel could readily identify Indian tobacco. The other side of medicine in the 1800’s used mineral-based remedies like calomel (Mercurous chloride), which had pretty much the same effect on the patient as Lobelia inflata. Bloodletting, purging and blistering were other orthodox methods of “healing”, methods that often sped a patient on their way by further weakening the victim. Lastly, though surgeons were often quite skillful, even in the 1800’s, the risk of infection was great and I, for one, would not like to endure such surgeries without the use of anesthetics.

Lastly, as a woman, the 1830’s hold less appeal, not enough to taint my joy in learning the skills and donning the beautiful outfits of the time, but because I’m simply far too independent to leave myself at the mercy–or lack thereof–of my closest male relative for my care. There were strict boundaries between women’s work and men’s. There was little to no industry for women at all (though the rapidly-growing textile industry was changing this). A widow living alone, even if she could figure out how to manage a plow on her own, hired out for the job instead; that just wasn’t woman’s work and one might appear “unseemly”. I face some of this same discrimination today as there are certain “stations” within the museum that women are strictly prohibited from learning: tin smithing, pottery, coopering and blacksmithing are a few of them. These were men’s tasks and so, in an effort to stay true to the time period, modern women are pretty much denied these skills. (Funny how we bend that period correctness when women are needed to “clerk” at the store and for a Christmas program during a time period when Christmas would not have been commonly celebrated in New England…but that’s another post for another day…) What’s that old expression? “We’ve come a long way, baby!”

May God bless you & keep you!


“He does not fear bad news, nor live in dread of what may happen. For he is settled in his mind that Jehovah will take care of him. That is why he is not afraid, but can calmly face his foes.” (Psalm 112: 7, 8)

Growing up in an alcoholic home, change often meant something bad. Or at least I learned to associate it as such. Not the little changes that occur everyday but the big changes. The yet another move across country, either to Rhode Island or to Missouri, depending on where we were at the moment, meant beloved pets were sent to a shelter and the loss of sentimental items; a change for better financial circumstances meant more alcohol and more fighting; the sudden loss of a job also meant more fighting, creditors at the door…and possibly another major move.

As you can see, it was a vicious cycle. And it sent a message to an impressionable little girl that, even when things are looking up, expect the worse to quickly follow. It’s an anecdote for insecurity, wiping away whatever joy one might find in this life, and damaging to that little something called faith.

Yes, both good and bad exist in this world. And life is a never ending wave of ups and downs. All things balance under the sun. Hardships don’t last forever. And the good times will come to an end, too…only to swing back up again at a later time. As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”

It took me a long time to truly believe that passage.

And, of course, here I am on top of the world with this new position coming up…yet waiting for some ax to fall.

You see, there’s even more to the story than this. Things were promised to me repeatedly…only to be taken away just before they were supposed to happen. The trip to buy school clothes was cancelled at the last minute. The dance lessons had to be dropped. The babysitting money I earned was “borrowed” and never paid back. The piggy bank was raided without my knowledge. Sure, it did teach me a lot about handling disappointment. But, because this was a steady situation, it also taught me that I wasn’t worthy of anything better in life, that it was wrong to want, to strive for success. That no matter how hard I worked, the end result was always the same.

The saving grace was school. I worked hard, got good grades and, yes, there were rewards. This balanced some of the negativity coming from home and mitigated the apathy of such an existence. Is it any wonder that in my late-40’s I went back to college? Or that, in so doing, my confidence levels have steadily soared?

Of course, the New Age gurus who hang upon the every word of “The Secret” would say I’m attracting this negativity. Maybe I am. But, after having read said book, my first thought was one would drive one’s self around the bend trying to stay positive all the time. Despite everything I’ve just written, it’s just not logical–or possible–to be positive 24/7. And to deny, suppress, etc. the negative is a form of denial. It’s unhealthy. Instead of facing whatever negative thing or thought, and working through it, you’re suppressing it…where it does more damage in the long run.

Faith is the key.

I have hit at least one snag in this new change…maybe. But I’m striving to take it on faith. He brought me to it; He’ll lead me through it. To deny that there’s a potential snag looming, is to get broad-sided later with something bigger. Maybe that bigger something is His plan. But, while Jesus is referred to as the Good Shepherd, and we his flock of sheep, denial is not the answer.

Faith is.

And faith is telling me that, yes, we moved around a lot but, because we did, I have friends in Rhode Island, Missouri, and now Connecticut. If we hadn’t moved so much, I would not have my best friend, Mary, in my life…or countless other good friends. The promises made that were forever reneged? Finances didn’t always allow those promises to be kept…which has taught me the value of budgeting, thrift, living within one’s means and having some sort of an emergency fund.

So I guess I am incorporating “The Secret” in my life to some extent–I’m looking for that silver lining in every situation and focusing on the positives learned from it. The bad times hurt. But maybe they do for a reason–to make sure the lessons are painful enough to be remembered.

Either way, I’m taking it on faith…because while there is “a time to cry”, there is also “a time to laugh”. And this promise is for all of us…no matter our situation. He will never leave us.

May God bless you & keep you!


Byrne, R. (2006). “The Secret” Oregon: Beyond Words Publishing.

Who’s Really in Charge Here Anyway?

“We ought not to insist on everyone following in our footsteps, nor to take upon ourselves to give instructions in spirituality when, perhaps, we do not even know what it is.” St. Teresa of Avila

I’ll admit it. “Charles in Charge” has nothing on me. I’m in control, or so I tell myself, and then hear the echo of what can only be God laughing as I tighten the reins…and chaos erupts.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I think I remember reading somewhere that 98% of us have at least a touch of it. Some of us have a bit more than a touch, unfortunately. Oh, it comes in handy at times. The alphabetized CD, DVD, VHS and book collections make finding whatever I’m looking for a snap. Because, really, who wants to waste time looking for something that may be right in front of your nose? I have bigger fish to fry, as they say. And, maybe it’s a bit extreme but my closet is color coded with all the yellow garments together, all the red, all the green, etc. Again, it makes finding that outfit easier. And I’m all about economizing my time. However, these little impulses and neuroses also tie me in knots and can make me a rather difficult person to live with.

Poor Mom.

This feeble attempt at perfectionism often manifests as criticism. I hear myself and cringe. Criticism was definitely NOT the intent but that’s what surely came across if I put myself in her shoes. And really, how important is it if the buttery popcorn bowl wasn’t rinsed first before it went into the sink? Or if the spoon rest is backwards on the stove? This latter “pet peeve” doesn’t get spoken; I simply turn it around again but then I think, as I’m doing it, does it MATTER???

And here is where the knots get tied because, as one voice is asking about the importance of such an act, another voice knows how much of a mental distraction it will be if I leave the spoon rest backwards…or the toilet paper feeding from under, rather than over.

Of course, I’ve never really sat down with Mom and tried to explain exactly what it’s like to live with OCD. Sadly, such a conversation tends to veer off into why mine is so intense in the first place: it’s a response to the molestation I grew up with. And that is a subject Mom would rather forget about altogether. As a child, I couldn’t control what was happening to me so I acted out by adopting these little “habits”. It gave me a false sense of security. And I was desperate to feel secure. Not only the abuse but also the alcoholism, the drunken accusations that told us all that we were “stupid” and couldn’t do anything “right” and to “look a little harder than you have to”. Like many children who grow up with some sort of substance abuse…as well as the abuse of their bodies, minds, and spirits, I turned all this negativity onto myself and shouldered all the blame. If I was a better student, he wouldn’t be so angry. If I kept my room neater, maybe he’d leave me alone. If I did all the chores around the house, all this chaos would stop.

Who was I kidding?

I’ve been tied up in knots since I was a very little girl. Is it any wonder that I’m still tying myself in knots? Unhealthy though it may be, it’s also a comfortable numb. It’s familiar. And, if I don’t grasp, and clutch, and sterilize my whole life, I start to relax…and then chastise myself for being “lazy”.

The paradox of all of this is that my property from the roadside looks like tobacco road. This is another coping mechanism from dealing with alcoholism. It keeps people away. But such a desire never cropped up until a few years ago when I had a live-in boyfriend…who was also an alcoholic. He seemed a nice enough guy when we met. And there was an instant rapport. This last one should have been a red flag…heck, it should have been flashing in neon red. Because that kind of comfort level so early on, well, they say a girl looks for her father when she dates…or, in this case, father figure. I was embarrassed. The sometimes-arrogant self, who would never allow herself to be caught in such a situation, got caught in it. How did this happen? How did I let this happen? And, worse, it took me forever to finally get out of it. The same mind control that I grew up with, manifested again in this romantic partner. The same self-doubt and shame crept in. And I felt sorry for him. He, too, had grown up with abuse in the home. I knew what that was like. And, while I had had a network of family and friends behind me as I sought therapy and tried to claw my way into some sort of normalcy of life, he was still wallowing in the beaten-down misery he grew up with. He even threatened to beat me physically…and I still let him stay. It wasn’t until, in a drunken stupor, he cut down a beloved shade tree in the yard that I snapped and gave him the boot.

Tobacco road’s been growing ever since…because I’m mortified that I allowed myself to be caught up in this unhealthy situation. I fell down on my principles. Every stitch of therapy went out the windows. Though I have no actual proof, I even suspect he was abusive to one of my cats as Trooper’s behavior while he was here was almost unbearable. And it stopped almost immediately once this man was finally gone for good.

A little bit at a time. That’s what friends tell me as I tackle this overgrowth. It’s a little bit like that “One Day at a Time” motto advocated by both Alcoholics’ Anonymous and Al-Anon. A little bit at a time, one day at a time.

This homestead is healing me as well as it is healing the land. My OCD says I should be able to perfectly landscape the 3/4 of an acre I’ve set aside for fruits, vegetables and herbs in a weekend’s work; it’s not good enough otherwise. Reality says, as I am implementing Charles Dowding’s “No Dig Gardening” method to bring as low an impact to the earth as I can, that such an enormous undertaking simply cannot be done in one weekend…not to the scale I envision. And not by one single person…especially one on a part-time income.

No, the “No-Dig” method isn’t expensive. Quite the contrary. It uses flattened cardboard boxes laid out on the ground (something easily had for free from many of the local businesses who don’t mind not having to pay out to cart the cardboard away instead) and then composted waste, from both the kitchen, and the animals, layered on top of the cardboard to create a raised bed. I’ve been dismantling a broken section of stone wall that runs along the front of my property to outline the beds once they’re made and using old feed bags that I’ve cut open and laid flat for the walkways in between. As funds permit, I buy a bag or two of red mulch and lay it atop the bags. This is where the part-time income comes into the picture as I cannot purchase enough at one time to cover all of the walkways at once. And, as I am on a major interstate, as well as in the commercial district, it has to be “pretty”.

So, a little bit at a time, one day at a time.

And, when the OCD starts kicking up again and stresses perfection, I need only look outside to see the rhubarb growing tall and strong in the three-tiered pyramid I built for it and the strawberries; I need only look at the green beans poking their kidney-shaped heads out of the ground in one raised bed and the beautiful purple flower heads of the chives, and the lush expanse of marjoram in another to tell me that, yes, one day at a time is good enough. It doesn’t matter that it’s not “perfect”. Obviously, these plants don’t care a fig if it’s perfect or not; they’re still growing in imperfection.

As for the grass?

Mankind has ever strived to tame and “control” Nature. I refuse to use anything gas-powered, or any chemicals, to kill it off. Even with the raised beds, the weed and grass barriers being laid down, there’s still the occasional blade that pokes up even amongst those sections already landscaped. This is a reminder that, despite my valiant efforts to control and manipulate this landscape, much like the landscape of my life, there is Someone greater than I who is really in charge. Someone who takes those knots I’ve tied myself into, lays them out flat…and helps me to grow.

May God bless you & keep you!