The Adventures of Bipolar Girl

Comfort for the Neurotic in All of Us

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God of Miracles

We sang this song in church on Sunday
asking the “God of Miracles to come.
That song had been in my head all week long
so I was excited to be able to sing it in church
because the whole “one heart. one voice”
this is still resonating with me
weeks… and weeks
after I first heard
the concept.

Later in the service the pastor
wanted to pray for people
who were struggling with anger
and depression. He asked that
if this applied to you,
then stand so the church
could pray for you.

We were already standing
so the request felt weird…
but what happened next
surprised me even more:
I didn’t remain standing.
I sat down.

For most of my life I have
been angry and depressed.
Given the life I’ve lived;
the things I’ve seen;
the things that have been
done to me; and the bad
choices I made in response —
it has never surprised me
that I was so angry
or that I was so depressed
about being so angry.
The anger and the depression
warred with my soul and I
often wanted death to come
just to end my suffering.

Over the years I have tried
working on my anger. I’ve tried
counseling and therapy groups.
I’ve read books, prayed prayers.
I read the bible. I been prayed over.
I took medication and did meditations…
but nothing made the anger or the depression
go away which only made me more angry
and more depressed. I figured I’d go to my
grave a bitter and angry old woman.

And then the last few months God
gave me a plan that changed my life.
Literally. It literally changed my life.
Last week I sent my closest friends an
email highlighting some of the bigger changes
that God has brought about in my life
and they were shocked and awed (in a good way).

So when the pastor asked all the angry depressed
folks to stand up, I was surprised when I sat down.
I never miss an altar call to deal with those two impostors.
So as soon as I sat down I asked God why wasn’t I standing…

And he answered me.

I do not know if what I heard was
God’s audible voice. I’m inclined to think not,
but very clearly, spoken right into the very center
of my mind came the answer:
“Because you no longer struggle with anger.”

That’s when I realized that it was true.
I might get mad when somebody does
something unsafe on the road or when a
student makes a bad choice… but most people
would feel some anger. It’s fleeting. It doesn’t
control me…because the rage that used
to live just below my surface
is gone.

After church somebody told me that she sees
my heart and there is a lightness to it that
wasn’t there before. My students are telling me
on a near daily basis what I mean to them and
how they are thankful for my presence in their lives.
Today is Costco a total stranger told me that I
had a beautiful smile.

I have a lot to smile about now.

And this is after going to the dentist today.

After my botched root canal a few years back, I hate going to the dentist. Though the oral surgery was nearly seven years ago, I have had dental pain pretty much every day of my life since then. I don’t often talk about my dental pain because what would be the point? There have been so many other, more pressing problems.

They tried to fix it five years ago. Another oral surgery. Evidently I have extremely long canine teeth. The exposed root was really far back and hard to get to. The surgeon had to drill into the base of the tooth just below my left nostril and cauterized an exposed root.  I still have a scar. That surgery and the “recovery period” was a nightmare that came on the heels of my third abdominal surgery. The morphine that they were giving me in the hospital was not enough to dull the pain that my tooth was giving me. My mouth bled for days afterwards. I felt like I was dying. That the surgery didn’t make the pain go away seemed to be par for the course with my life. I thought I would just have to live with it.

My new dentist has x-rayed the area several times over the past few years and concluded that the flare ups were just that — flare ups. I would have to learn how to live with the pain. I was resigned to living with the pain… until last week when the pain got really extreme. Since it’s at the front of my mouth it made chewing and talking difficult. I’ve been using a topical anesthetic to numb it up so that I could close my mouth without pain. When I went to the dentist for my cleaning today she decided to x-ray it again.

I don’t know why none of the previous x-rays showed this… but today she saw a bit of exposed root that hadn’t been visible before. I had been in pain all these years because something was literally getting on my nerve. She was able to numb me up quickly (usually I need several shots before my gums are numb enough to work on, by which time I’m a hysterical mess) and she fixed it. Her explanation of what was wrong or what she did wouldn’t matter to you… but it meant the world to me. I have been suffering with this for most of the past seven years. I gave up hoping that it could be fixed. She said that I would be a bit uncomfortable for the next few days, but that I should feel a noticeable difference once my face was back to normal.

My face feels pretty damned good right now. It’s still a bit tender… but it feels different. The pain is fading.

At first I wasn’t going to blog anything. I wanted to wait a few days to see if it was really healed… and then I thought about it. It doesn’t matter how it might feel in a few days. In a few days it might feel wonderful. And if it does, then I will give more praise to God. But waiting for the blessing we might receive tomorrow should not negate the blessings that we actually received today.

Today I am feeling emotionally, mentally, and physically stronger than I have ever felt in years. The pains that I do still have are not unbearable and I have a ever growing hope for the healing that I’ve been praying for all these years. I feel like God not only gave me my smile back, but he gave me a ton of reasons why I should be smiling.

I didn’t stand on Sunday because there was no longer any need to. I am neither angry nor depressed. I could sit and be still on Sunday because I finally think I understand and know what it means to be still and know that God is God. How long that I hold on to this revelation isn’t important. What really matters is that I see it and know it today.

Today is January 16th, the day we commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King in this country. And as corny as it sounds, the only thing ringing in my head is an anthem to the God of Miracles… “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty I am free at last.”

freedom

10% Reality. 90% Attitude

God is showing me
that I need to practice
what I preach.

Today I talked to my classes about attitude
and how it could make or break you.
It was actually a really good
and engaging talk with all
of my students.

I’ve been trying to lay a foundation
this week that I hope to build on
for the rest of the year.

On Monday we talked about “mindset”
and how yours can either be oriented
towards growth or the status quo.
Growth is based on how much effort
you’re willing to exert to meet your goal.
No effort generally = failure to grow
unless your an uber genius or something,

Then I taught them about “Multiple Intelligences”
and how there’s more than one or two types of “smart.”
Our world is so much bigger that reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic.
My students really got into this and are now happily identifying themselves
as: “bodily-kinesthetic learners or visual/spatial learners or interpersonal learners.
Oh, there is still room for the more traditional linguistic learners
and the logical-mathematical learners,
but we now recognize that there are more than six crayons in the box.

We understand
that the Michaelangelos
and the Walt Disneys
and the Aretha Franklins
of the world have their own brand of genius
that might not be readily identified
on a standardized test.

The educator that wrote the book on “mindset”
was much like the first person to discover gold
up at Sutter’s Mill in California.
He “found” it… but he really had no idea how it got
there and he, himself, certainly hadn’t put it there.

God is the creator and originator of what is now
being called “growth mindset.”
He gave people personalities and abilities
and the potential to use it in spite of any
limitations be they real or imagined.
He never intended man to remain bound
by his limitations.
He put an eternity in their hearts
and gave them an inner drive
to think and to learn and to do
and to grow
so that there can never be an end
to the knowing and the learning
and the doing and the
growing.

The major impediment to growth
isn’t what happens to you.
Look at Job.
An entire crap storm dropped
on him and while he did
indulge in singing the blues…
he didn’t listen to his wife
and curse God and die.
It was his attitude that
eventually saw him through
to the deliverance of God.

Then there’s Noah and
Nehemiah and David
and Joseph and a whole
slew of other examples
of people where weren’t
content to stay the way
that they were and meekly
accept the status quo.

And one thing that they all
had in common
was the attitude in which
they accepted the challenges
that came their way:
10% what happened to them.
90% how they reacted to it.
Attitude
it’ll make or break you.

All four of my classes
have been going incredibly
well all week long.
I’ve been building a stronger
rapport with my students.
My lessons have been engaging.
They are responding to my challenge
to raise the bar higher.
I have been floating on a cloud.

FINALLY.
My love for teaching has grown
exponentially since I started to
discontinue the lithium.
It’s been like I’ve been slowing
walking out of a fog
and into the Son light.

So one would think that with
all this talk of growth and mindset
and attitude that I would have ascended
to a higher plan or something.

What I have found about revelation is that
it’s not really worth anything if you can’t walk it out.
What good is learning a truth or even being able to teach it
if, when called to, you can’t apply it to your life?

After such a great and wonderful day, I hit a wall.
I had a meeting at the end of the day.
Bipolar Girl is known for her abject hatred of meetings.
If they are brief and on point I’m ok…
but if they aren’t I start to feel anxious
and caged in. I start to hold my breath
and I give myself a headache. I feel
overwhelmed by the sheer amount of
information disseminated and the number
of decisions that need to be made quickly.

By the time I left the meeting most of my major
buttons had been pushed. I was edgy and tense
on my drive home. So much so that I started
to crave McDonald’s.

It was a comfort food craving.
I didn’t even register it for what it was.
I just felt like I would die if I didn’t get a
Big Mac.

And fries.

And salt.

And it was good.

So now, I’m not going to beat myself down
for succumbing to the stress and having a “greasy hug.”
I’ve been eating so healthily (yep, it’s a word)
that one off day won’t kill me or my complexion.
I haven’t had a Big Mac since some time last summer.
I’m allowed even if my motivation for having it wasn’t so great.

I came home and shut myself up in my room
because I didn’t want to have to take to another living soul.
I won’t say that I was hiding out… but I did wait until my housemate
had gone to her room to come out.
I felt like a caged animal
that needed to expend some energy.
I washed all my dishes.
I packed my lunch.
I got my gear ready
for tomorrow.
And still the stress was high.

Next thing I know I am walking/pacing
in a furious circle around the living room
in the dark.
I was hoping my housemate wouldn’t come out
because when I do that… even I know it looks a bit crazy.

I was walking around and around and around
the living room waving my arms about in an attempt
to expend even more of my angst out energy.
As I walked I prayed. I thanked God for all of the great stuff
that had happened today.
Of course, I didn’t start out thanking him.
I started out stressed and angry over this
hour long unavoidably
stressful meeting.

I still wasn’t getting enough air.
I felt like I was suffocating —
like I had Saran Wrap on my face —
I turned the ceiling fan on and shortened
the size of the imaginary track that I’d been walking.
Now I was walking in a circle the size of a small kiddie pool.
If I looked crazy before I sure I looked like a total nut job
walking around in a tight circle with my nose in the air
trying to breathe the cooler air descending from the ceiling fan blades.

I am not sure how long i walked.
All I knew was that i needed to come to the end of myself.
I cannot control that meeting (I’ve tried).
I cannot get outta’ this meeting (it is mandatory).
I cannot control what other people say or do in the meeting (they have a right to do or say what they please).

In my stress, I didn’t want to call anybody.
I’m angsted out. I’m not in crisis.
There are people I could have called
or texted
or emailed
and asked if they would pray for me.
But I didn’t.

So I found myself here.
Typing and coming to the
realization that God had given
me an opportunity to practice what
I’d been preaching to my students all day long.

That meeting wasn’t even a large chunk of my day.
How had I let an hour long meeting steal all the joy
of the other seven hours that I’d spent at work?

10% reality – I had to sit through a really stressful and
disorganized meeting where people were trespassing
all over the borders of the Bipolar Bubble.
90% my reaction to it – I over reacted.
I know that my reaction was disproportionate
to the stressor.

Stress eating hadn’t helped.
Isolating myself hadn’t helped.
Grumbling and complaining NEVER helps.
And the physical nature of my pacing only took
the edge off.

It was only once I started typing with a slant
towards being thankful for all of the good
that had happened today
that my attitude began to thaw out.
It became easier to praise God and rejoice in the
90% of my day that went hysterically well.
Go God!!

It was a lot harder to thank him in that meeting
because I couldn’t even see him in that meeting…
not even a fingerprint
because I was too focused on
all the things that were stressing me out
rather than on God’s bigger picture and purpose.

But from where I sit right now…?
I got the attitude adjustment
that I so desperately needed…
and I’m exhausted now.
It feels like I have run a race.

I let what happened to me dictate how I felt
and now I’m suffering the consequences.
I’m not proud of that… but I do intend to learn from it.
God had me practice what I was preaching and I came up short.

Praise God he doesn’t just stop with one lesson
or one opportunity to grow. Hopefully, I will be
better equipped the next time I’m tempted to look
at my circumstances instead of looking up to Jesus.

God knew about all of my problems
and challenges
before I’d even lived a day.
Today was no surprise for him
though my reaction caught me unawares.
Praise GOD that tomorrow is a new day
with new mercies.

Today is January 11 and once I called out to Jesus, I got that attitude adjustment I needed and I was able to give the 10% and my 90% to him.

angst

 

January 6: Today

From where I sit right now, “Yesterday” and “(…And It’s STILL) Yesterday” really do seem so… far away. The immediacy to record what happened isn’t so immediate anymore. I wrote three blog posts about what happened in one day. That’s a record for me. By the time night fell, I knew I wasn’t going to write any more. Talk about cliff hanger, huh? I  ended up writing the rest of what needed to say my private journal because Cardinal Rule #2 of All Adventures is that: Some things are best left between you and God.

The take home lesson from what I did and didn’t share?

God loves me so much he will tell me to wait, not because there is any inherent value in waiting… but because of what he wants to teach me through the waiting and what he wants to give me once I’ve waited. Ultimately, God wants to know us and be known by us. He uses the delays, the aggravations, the vagrancies of life because he wants us to know what the Apostle Paul summed up in a simple prayer:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3: 18-19

“Yesterday” bespeaks of many things: regret over things not done; fond memories of times past; events that cannot be undone. I wanted to write down the events of “yesterday” before tomorrow came… because my heart seemed full to the point of bursting. God had done some really awesome and amazing things and I wanted to tell everybody about this God who “knew everything I’d ever done.” But in true “Woman at the Well” fashion, some details really are better left between me and God. What matters most... what I want to matter most to you, is that God will reveal the length and the width and the height  and the depth of his love for you through the events that happen during your day whether they look good to you or not. He may tell you to wait and you may be tempted to grit your teeth, clinch your fist, and tense every muscle in your body until everything hurts and you are ready to implode… because he wants you to be still, take a deep breath, and know.

As great as the day before yesterday was… it’s over. I received the blessings and I learned some of the lessons. And as today draws to a close, I will wait expectantly for tomorrow which promises to have lessons, blessings, and waiting.

TODAY is January 6th and as I waited, God put another song on my heart:

January 5: (…And It’s STILL) Yesterday

I would like to preface this post by saying that I’m well aware that most of the stuff that happened yesterday wouldn’t seem like a big deal to most people… but when you’ve lived most of your adult life under a rock, or in a Bipolar Bubble… everything just looks, feels, and smells different. I’d also like to say that this post might make me look judgmental and small minded, probably because I can be but largely out of a need for self-preservation.

I have a tendency of labeling people. I personally don’t think labels are bad, but that’s a rant best left for another day. I affix invisible labels to people because said labels help with the care and feeding of Bipolar Girls. I only have so much emotional energy to go around. I have found that there are are some people who fall into two rather distinct categories that can emotionally drain me faster than a cheap car battery left on all night. I need to avoid those kinds of people at all cost or at least limit my exposure to them because they negatively impact my mental stability.

Because I’ve got a depressive illness, I do not need to spend any more time wallowing in negativity than I have to, because that’s my baseline. I can whine and complain all by my lonesome, I don’t need to get sucked into somebody else’s dark cloud. That’s one reason I’ve been such a loner all these years. Before I got diagnosed I used to be an emotional black hole — I would suck people in and they would have absolutely NO IDEA what’d happened to them or where they had gone. Once I realized that I do this to people… I determined not to do this to people. And I militantly avoid people who unknowingly do that to me. Hurting people are like drowning people. They will latch on to anything that looks stable enough to support their weight even if their weight is too heavy and they end up dragging the would be lifesaver down with them.

The other type of person that I need to avoid is the extreme extrovert that only wants to talk about themselves, their successes, their failures, their issues… as if the world revolves around them. To those people I say, “Get a blog.” It’s what I do. I’m self-absorbed and I know it. It’s the one place that actually is all about me. If people come by to read my blog, they KNOW what they’re getting into. I’m an ambivert. In my classroom I’m really outgoing and funny as all get out. In my blog my humor and my quick mind (as well as my humility) are evident to all. Put me in a group (large or small) and I close up like the DMV at 5pm. In a group setting I’ve got the social skills of a potato, so I end up doing a lot of smiling and nodding until I get bored and my face starts to hurt. Then I start doing a lot of looking for the exit.

There are other types of people whom I need to steer clear of, but these two types of people seem to upset the delicate balance of my mental health more so than most.

And behind door number one was a woman who wore both of those labels. Over the years I have tried to like this woman because she’s a Christian, but she sucks all the air out of me. She overwhelms me by launching in on her latest rants and, unlike me, she’s not funny. When I whine and complain I always do so knowing that God is going to show me how wrong I was for ranting or raving. I do it knowing that I’m going to reflect back on it later and laugh because I can now see the humor in it or I’m going to grow because I’ve learned the lesson from it. When I leave this woman’s presence all I feel is deflated. And because she has this effect on the students as well, I have prayed on more than one occasion to vote her off the island. God, however, has never seen fit to move her on so I’ve avoided her for the past seven years.

When I pulled open her door I was expecting to see a substitute in the room. When I saw her I stopped in my tracks. I wanted to turn around and flee, but it was too late. So rather than let her launch into her rant… I launched into mine. In one breath I told her how I’d gotten there early only to be stonewalled at every turn. And just as she sucked in a deep breath before preparing to launch in on her own documentary length diatribe, I quickly added, “And you need to pray for me RIGHT NOW!

I have found that prayer can stop even the most pessimistic blow hard in their tracks. Either I will offer to pray for them or I will get them to pray for me… OR I will get them to pray for themselves. She prayed for me, but then her prayer started drifting into black hole territory. When she finished we talked a bit, but then I prayed. When I pray the words just come out of my gut as if planted there by God. My prayers are not big and flowery. I don’t get into any “thus sayeths the Lord.” I pray with the spiritual precision of a sniper. When I pray I see visions and dream dreams. When I pray I hear songs… which used to embarrass the crap out of me. Here I am pulling out my soapbox to pray and God puts a song on my heart.

I can sing. I sing rather well… but I don’t like singing in front of people. But I could see her trying to rev up to dump her rant on me and suck me in to the black hole,  so I told her that I needed to sing praise to the Lord and I did. It was this song about waiting on God:

I waited
for the LORD on High.
I waited
and he heard my cry.
He pulled me out of my despair
and showed me where to walk.
From fear into security,
from quicksand to the rock.

And in that instant I knew WHY God has called me specifically to worship him in song. Most of the time I’m holding my breath. People do that when they are tense. They hold their breath while the grit their teeth, clinch their fist, and tense their muscles so tightly that everything hurts. When you sing you have to take in deep breaths – in through the nose and out through the mouth – and it’s calming. Don’t believe me? The next time you’re in the car driving while mad, belt out a song and see how much calmer you feel.

All the while I was talking to her I was pacing back and forth. I learned a while ago that pacing helps me call down. It’s a small nod to the fact that physical exertion lets off whatever chemical in your body that calms you down. After I finished singing I told her to be still and wait on God. There were going to be a lot of buttons pushed yesterday and people’s tempers were set to “high.”

As Christians, we are supposed to be light on that campus pointing people to Jesus… but if we are so angsted out and angry that all people see is ugly, then we need to rethink what being a Christian really means. I told her that when she felt her buttons getting pushed to take a step back and pray. And if she had time and opportunity (and some privacy) to sing a praise song to God. I said this all the while slowly backing out of her classroom. That woman is like a pit bull. She started to follow me out, but Bipolar Girl can move faster now. Why walk when you can run??

As I walked down the corridor (it was now 8:00) Security was still not back, but a bunch of other doors were open because other staff members had finally arrived. Everybody was quite happy to tell me the new code to get me into the main door… but that still left my classroom door locked. There was still another locked door between me and my plans. When am I going to realize that God isn’t in the business of blessing the plans that I come up with on my own? He is going to wait until I’m listening to his still small voice outlining HIS Plan and then, and only then, will he open the doors.

It seems like this story is taking longer to tell than I thought it would. I need to shift gears to tell the next part… but I need to take a break to refocus. I still have some hours before today becomes tomorrow... so I WILL finish this post about “Yesterday” later tonight before I go to bed. Then again, that’s my plan. My new mantra: But God had a different plan.

Today is January 5 and I am thankful for the God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Whose version of this story would you rather hear anyways? His or mine?

god-of-yesterday

January 5: Yesterday. All My Troubles Seemed So…

… freakin’ up close and personal.

In fact, they seemed to be staring me in the face and daring me to say, “Boo about it…” yet the day had started off so well. There I was driving down the highway to work in rare good form. The song coming through my car speakers? That one about how “that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I’m not saying that Kelly Clarkson is prophetic… but I should’ve paid closer attention to the lyrics. Remembering that might have saved me some grief later in my morning. As is,  I was grinning like a loon, an unsuspecting loon, by the time I parked my car on the grass and opened my door…

loon

None of my bones hurt. No chest pains. Nothing. So I thought that I could unload all of my gear from my car instead of making a second or third trip later in the day. Walking up stairs still tends to be difficult for me first thing in the morning. Walking up the two flights of stair to my classroom used to feel like climbing Mt. Everest minus the Sherpas and the possibility of dying on the way back down. I used to only carry what I could comfortably carry (not much) and I still always leave my hands free because I used to be really unsteady going up stairs and there was always the very real and very scary possibility that I might fall.

Yesterday? I didn’t seem to have a trouble in the world when I got out of my car and looked at the view from our parking lot. Crystal clear blue sky with streaks of fuschia sitting atop the aptly named glassy surfaced Pacific Ocean. Mysterious green mountains rising up for stark contrast. Conde Nast Traveler… come and get me.

condenast

I grabbed everything: my fully loaded backpack, my bilum (google it), books, my lunch cooler, my hydro-flask, a WalMart bag full of good stuffs, and, as a last minute thought, my two really big three ringed binders. When I had it all in hand, I felt like a Sherpa. By the time I’d gotten to the top of the second flight of stairs and reached the door it was as if I actually had successfully climbed Everest… only to find out that my code to the door didn’t work. They regularly change the door codes at work for security reasons. I don’t know if “secure” would describe what I was thinking. I put all my stuff down on the ground, but rather than schlepping all the way back down to the security office to get the codes, I called down there on my cell. I got the voicemail.

Oh joy. Looks like I’d have to descend Everest after all. I left my stuff up there on the floor (now I understand why so many mountain climbers jettison so much of their crap after they reach the summit. It’s too much of a pain in the butt to haul all of that stuff back down)… and I trudged back down to Security. Only to find that the lights were on but nobody was home. I tried the auditorium. Nobody. I walked all the way over to the dining commons which isn’t really all that far, but it was really cold and I wasn’t dressed for it. My right foot was starting to hurt and I was getting cranky. The folks in the dc told me that all the security staff had gone to the airport to pick up students.

My troubles just inched a little bit closer to me.

In my anal retention I always get to work early. Sometimes I get there as much as an hour to an hour and a half early because Bipolar Girl has had to pedal faster than most people just to keep up. If they went to the airport, I could be waiting out in the cold air for at least an hour. I tried to check my work emails from my phone to see if there’d been any message about the changing door codes… but I “couldn’t get a secure connection.” I always check my work email from my phone. I started to get mad until I heard something. What had been a faint whisper of the still small voice all morning long was now fairly roaring in my ears: WAIT.

God had been whispering to me to wait all morning long, but I had missed the subtle request. Again, no audible voice. Just that quiet certainty that comes when I read my bible or pray or look for God’s fingerprints around me. For the past few days God has been telling me to wait. I realized yesterday just how much harder waiting is than actually doing something for God. At least it is for me. I feel like I’ve been waiting my entire life with all the mental and physical health problems. Now that I can walk I don’t want to just run… I want to soar.

Some other inconveniently irritating things happened to push more of my buttons, but I only need to give enough details to set the mood. You get the point. My day was going from aggravation to aggravation giving me a divine opportunity. I could choose to focus on all the crap that was hitting the fan or I could wait and let God show me something new today.

I’d seen other cars parked on the grass. That meant other teaching staff were on campus and probably in their rooms. I walked the corridor looking through the windows into darkened rooms until I came to an open room at the end of the hallway. I felt a little like I was opening up the cupboard in the Spare Oom. I almost turned around and went away but the cold air won out.

unlocked-doorNow recounting this next part is a bit sensitive and I’m not sure how to proceed, so I’m going to stop for now. I had to wait… now so do you. I have finally learned the wisdom and the benefits of thinking before I speak (or write in my case). I don’t want my words to cause anyone grief and words, once they are out there, cannot be taken back. The only thing I need to say right now is that by choosing to open that door, I let God change the course of my whole entire day… but I’m going to stop right there. The big take home lesson? It’s twofold:

Remember this. There might be a quiz later:

Lessons  #1 and 2:

waiting-3

wait2

Today is January 5th and I’ve got all day to get back to the telling of this story before it stops being “Yesterday” and becomes “The Day Before Yesterday,” which doesn’t have quite the same ring to it… so I will finish this up in another post later tonight.

January 4: Just LIKE a Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Today was a roller coaster of day and my emotions ran the gamut… I’m exhausted, but I want to record at least a part of today because I saw God doing so many awesome and incredible things that I’m going to be mad at myself in the future if I don’t get some of this down for posterity. There’s no way I’m going to squeeze it all in one post tonight, though. So. Where to start? I guess I’ll start with the big lesson that God has been teaching me the past few months: growth doesn’t happen in a vacuum. As I have been opening my life up to people to hold me accountable, to mentor me, to pray for me… I have seen more growth that I would have seen if I’d stayed true to my comfort zone and just blogged about the past few months without involving people.

I have always been content to go it alone with just me and Jesus against the world. I’ve heard pastors say it again and again: There are no Lone Ranger Christians… but I was always so sure that this could not possibly apply to me. Letting people into my life these past few months wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I’ve spent so many years dwelling on wounds caused by “well-meaning people” that I totally overlooked all the good that has been done in my life by well-meaning people and how much I’ve grown because of my relationships with them. Today I got to haul in a bumper crop of “fruit” and I have to say it was pretty damned gratifying. I guess I will start with the one thing that I had ABSOLUTELY no control over (as if I have any real control over anything, right?) When I finally do get to the point, you’ll see what I mean though.

Have you ever seen that movie, “Pay It Forward?” Well, what happened today is nothing like that. I haven’t actually seen the movie… but I’ve heard enough about it to get the general gist. I think I’ve avoided it because I heard that the kid died. I hate movies where you get sucker punched when a key character dies. I get enough emotional drama in my own life. Why would I pay good money to be depressed? That’s not “entertainment” if you ask me. I still haven’t forgiven Disney for killing off Ruffio in “Hook.” And I didn’t even bother watching “My Girl” or “Bridge Over Teribithia.”

My point? “Pay It Forward” was going to be my original title for this post, but then I googled the meaning of the phrase and found that it’s when somebody does you a kindness and you turn around and pass more kindness on to somebody else. That is such a cool idea. Back when I taught elementary school we read a story encouraging random acts of kindness… and my students really shocked and awed me (in the very best way) with how creative they could be when they were trying to be kind to people.

But like I said, what happened today was nothing like that because it didn’t start with a kindness. Remember my wretched ex-landlord and all the drama he put me through right up until I moved out?? I posted a bit about how I was bent out of shape with him because he kept a large chunk of my deposit and how God walked me through the great big grimy wad of emotions surrounding all of that. I hated the man and felt justified in the hating.

When I did get my deposit back I couldn’t keep it. If I had deposited that check into my savings account I would have choked on a fur ball every time I thought about it. It would have dredged up my feelings of justifiable hatred and it would have been ugly. So, I added a bit of my own money to it and then sent it to a friend who works with a ministry in Chicago that helps urban Black youth. Since I was an urban Black youth… it seemed like a good idea.

That was back in August.

Other than working through my issues about the whole sorry affair with God, I haven’t given the money much thought. Until today when I got a fb message from my friend. It couldn’t have come at a better time because this morning was chaotic and Bipolar Girl does not handle chaotic well. People’s tempers were set to “high” and nothing was going as planned. So many of my buttons got pushed I should have been going off like a Roman candle. Ok. I was going off like a Roman candle… but a small one. God was holding up a mirror and I didn’t like what I was seeing. I had an opportunity to change my attitude and I made the right choice. I sought out prayer and then I sang a song praising God for his goodness even though I wasn’t seeing a whole lot of goodness this morning.

And then I got this message:

Hello dear friend! Happy happy new year! Just wanted to send you some love and an update.

There’s a young lady at our church who has three kids and her boyfriend just passed away. She needs to go back to work and the only way to do that is if she has reliable transportation.

I wanted to let you know that I took the money that you entrusted to us and paid for repairs on a vehicle that another person was willing to donate so she can have transportation not only for work, but more importantly, so that her kids no longer have to do school online. They are now able to go back to school  in the excellent charter school they were in. She had taken them out of school because she couldn’t get them there and back. This is such a huge answer to prayer for her family.

Another “dear friend” sent me a message that moved me.  Except for this time I was laughing and doing my “Snoopy Dance.” This must be my season for “dear friends” and “beautiful young men” and alls I can say to God is, “Keep ’em coming!” It is not with false humility that I say that I cannot take credit for this. I didn’t pass the money on because I have some deep humanitarian streak. I don’t. I was pissed off at my landlord and was having a hard time restraining myself from praying that God give him a case of terminal jockage. I’m changing… but I haven’t changed that much. God in his wisdom prompted me to send it to somebody who could do some real good with it. All I did was be obedient.

Now if the woman who received God’s gift goes on to do something nice for somebody else… then we’ve got a “pay it forward” situation. I think what happened here is more like a case of “turn it around.” God saw my pissy little ‘tude, but he also saw my desire to do the right thing as far as not letting bitterness and resentment fester. He took that judas money and turned it and my attitude around to bless this woman and her kids. I’m not even going to try to take any credit for that. How can I?

I am thankful for my friend who is caucasian, yet serves tirelessly in a community of African Americans to show them the love of Christ not just with words… but with actions.When I asked my friend if I could recount the story here, this was her response:

Absolutely!!!! It’s amazing to me that your radical act of obedience has been used by God to answer the prayers of a person who desperately needed to see God show up at a critical crossroad not only in her life, but also in the lives of her kids. Thank you for the opportunity to be a blessing bridge!

SO. I got my title which made me look up the lyrics of the Simon and Garfunkel song of the same title. It fits. There is so much more to share about today. I’ll blog more tomorrow since I’m taking the next two days off. Hearing how that drama all turned up has done something to my heart…. which makes me think about “The Grinch” and how his heart was “two sizes too small.” I wouldn’t go as far as saying that my heart was that bad… but it hammers home my point: real growth doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Even The Grinch learned that lesson.

Today is January 4th and I saw God use all things (even my crappy attitude)… for the good of somebody who loves him and is called according to his purposes.

How cool is that?

 

January 2: Alice the Camel

When I was younger I used to go to camp. There were these week long summer camps for underprivileged inner city kids that got us away from the asphalt gardens of our faded neighborhoods and took us to new and exciting places in the mountains or near the seashore. Some of the few good memories that I actually have from childhood were from those camps.

I don’t remember which camp it was that I learned this song or why it became stuck in my head tonight for some reason … but I’m learning not to ignore anything that slips through the fingers of my Creator to float into my subconscious.

You probably haven’t heard the song… if you haven’t I encourage you should click on this link:

Then again… you might not want to because it’s guaranteed to be stuck in your mind tomorrow and then you’ll want to blame me. Anyways — I thought about this song while I was reading this book that I have to read for work called Mindset. It’s this “new” philosophy that is supposed to revolutionize the way that people learn. Only thing is… it’s not new. It’s about our potential for growth, which if you care to look, you will see this new philosophy all over the old pages of Scripture.

Growth mindset isn’t new to God.

“Alice the camel has five humps…”

The way I learned it back at camp, Alice had 10 humps. I think it was to drag the song out and make the fun last longer. The song counted down how many humps Alice had and every time you decreased the number of humps that she had… Alice was encouraged to keep going faster. Whatever the number of humps Alice had, by the time you get to then end of the song and you find out that Alice had NO humps because Alice was a horse. Talk about trying to live up to something that you’re not.

Tonight I felt like Alice.

Reading that Mindset book caused my thoughts to go off on all manner of tangents. I thought back to elementary school when I was identified me as being “gifted.” I had a higher than average IQ and thought I was smarter than most lesser humans. My mother, however, would call me “stupid” and say that I was “never going to amount to anything.” I think I made it my goal in life to prove her and the rest of my family wrong… which is probably why I hit the wall so hard when I got to Berkeley and realized that the small pond that I’d swum in back home couldn’t compare to the one I’d swum upstream to get to at Cal. There were other fish in this pond who were a LOT bigger than I was. These fish had been exposed to things I’d never even imagined. They’d gone to better schools. Read more challenging books. Had gotten higher scores on their SATs. Clearly, I didn’t belong in that pool. I didn’t belong in any pool.

Academic failure was probably the first trigger for my depression at Berkeley. I had never gotten a fail in my life. My first one (in Math) came as a huge surprise. It was a direct attack on the foundation of who I thought myself to be. I was “The Smart One.” Like Joseph from the Old Testament, I had a vision of how my life was going to turn out, but all that vision did was put me at odds with my family. When I had my first serious depressed/suicidal episode in college, telling my family didn’t even cross my mind. I was too ashamed. I wasn’t living up to my potential. I was a failure.

I have lived most of my life thinking that I was stupid… that I was a failure. That I was never going to amount to anything. When the Bipolar manifested I didn’t know what was happening to me because it attacked the very heart of my identity. Bipolar affects my ability to read, concentrate, and make sense of what I’ve read. In the midst of an episode I cannot read. How ironic that I would end up a Reading teacher because I began to hate reading years ago. Especially once I went on the lithium, I felt like it slowed down my mental processes. I stopped reading almost completely. Oh, I can read. But I don’t like to because it’s slow going for me and I feel like an idiot child.

Coming off the lithium? I now know how to make accommodations for my special reading needs. I find the ebbs and flows of when I’m most likely to be able to read, understand, and retain what I’m reading and that’s when I read. It feels good.

Tonight I didn’t feel good. I haven’t felt “good” all day. The fireworks that should have ended on New Year’s Eve continued last night. Molly the Dog was a wreck and that translated into another sleepless night for me. I was sleep deprived today and that is not a good thing for Bipolar Girl. But I am no longer going to fear known triggers, I’m going use what I’ve learned to navigate my way through these minor squalls. I slept a lot today unfortunately, it wasn’t the restful kind. My stomach was bruised and queasy and I was irritable. Not “manic” irritable. I was “my neighbors need to lay off the fireworks” irritable. I was even mad at Molly the Dog when she insisted on laying on my bed despite the 9 millionth warning I’ve given her to keep her paws off my pillow.

I was watching something on Netflix when I put my head down and just started to cry. Not a free falling, watch out for mania cry. Not the cry of one trying to avoid depression. It was a short cry of letting go. Yesterday was great but after such a high… there is always the possibility that the pendulum might swing the other way. I need to use what I’ve learned about managing my moods no matter which direction they go. I can’t fully put into words what I was feeling, but it had to do with accepting that, for a lot of years, my God-given potential was derailed. Whether it was due to my “fixed” or “growth” mindset or nature/nuture or my disorder… whatever... my life hasn’t turned out the way that I wanted it to.

Now it could have turned out to be a “cry over spilt milk” kinda cry… but my past is over. It’s a done deal. Sure, it shaped who I am, but it has lost all power to determine who I am going to be. With each new wound or hurt that I’d experienced… with each defeat and failure I felt more and more like my mother’s words about me were true. I started out with so much, but like Alice, I lost whatever humps made me different from everybody else and was still told to “go faster.”

The words of my former pastor’s in that recent podcast just came back to me: Your potential is God’s gift to you. What you do with your potential is your gift to Him.

I honestly don’t think it matters to God if I’m smart or stupid. What I think matters most to him is whether or not I’m going to follow his plan for me and  if I’m going to use the gifts that he has given me to do it. I think the crying from earlier tonight was over wasted time. I’ve wasted so much time, but it wasn’t a bad sadness. It was acceptance. Yes, I’ve wasted time trying to live up to a label… but so what. God isn’t done with me yet. I have seen so much growth in me in the past six months and even more accelerated growth in the last two and a half months as I walked out The Plan. All those years between college and now where I wasn’t living up to my potential?? Says who? I’ve been seeing it from my very limited human perspective.

God has a perspective on my life and my potential that is unknowable to me, but totally known by him. The fact that I am still breathing proves that I have not reached my fullest potential in him. Tonight was about grieving a past that should’ve happened but didn’t. It was about acknowledging that my plan for my life didn’t pan out the way I’d expected. It was about accepting my limitations, but not arguing for them.

In short, I need to cry because I needed to let it go. When I watched that video I laughed. I’ve always maintained that if I can laugh I’m ok. Actually, I am better than ok. I no longer feel like I have to live up to something I’m not. It’s not whether I’m smarter or more talented or more successful or even LESS of any of those things than anybody else. It’s about who God is growing me up to be. So what that Alice ended up being a horse at the end of the song. She could still run. In fact, she could probably run faster as a horse than she could as a camel. Makes me wonder how I’m going to be able to run this race that God has set before me now that I know who I am and for whom I’m running. Growth mindset? More like God mindset?

Today is January 2 and I’m done being a camel.

 

January 1: That’s What Makes You Beautiful

It’s 10pm and the fireworks woke me up. Three hours ago Molly the Dog and I went to sleep. I wasn’t planning on blogging because I was exhausted. The fireworks on New Year’s Eve had been too much for her. She’d had an hysterical night where she tried to escape the sights and the sounds of the fireworks displays that seemed to be erupting from all over the neighborhood. She’s a high strung little bugger, but in her defense, I have to say that I have never seen such an extravagant neighborhood display of pyrotechnics. I felt like I should have bought a ticket for the show. Each of neighbors must’ve sold a spleen on the black market to be able to afford to put on this show that literally lasted hours.

Which, in dog years, probably felt like decades to Molly the Dog. She was terrified. I felt like the mom of a teething or colicky infant. Nothing that I did helped (and I tried so many different things that I’m embarrassed to admit to all of it). It wasn’t until around 3am that we both finally dropped of into a deep and dreamless sleep. Happy New Years… unless you are a dog in my neighborhood.

I guess it goes without saying that my plan for this morning didn’t happen. For more years than I can count I’ve made my annual pilgrimage to the other side of the island to Kam III Beach because that’s where I met Jesus on January 1, 1994. It used to be a big deal for me to go there and reflect back on the epic tale of how I came to know Jesus. Years earlier when I was at Berkeley I embarked on a quest for Truth. While most of the other students around me were on a quest to see how many guys they could sleep with or how much beer they could drink, I wasn’t trying to indulge in a journey of self-discovery. I already knew who I was and I didn’t like what I saw. My world had become a waking nightmare of depression and suicidal ideation and I felt that the only way out of it was to search for truth.

And I found him years later on a beach in Maui. Correction: I didn’t find Jesus. He wasn’t lost. I was. I met Jesus on that beach… so every year if I was on the island, I journeyed back to the place that we met. That is… until life started happening and I realized that, while sentimental, there was nothing inherently spiritual about that beach. I didn’t have to make it my Mecca because I could worship him anywhere in spirit and in truth. After my recent journey to taper off the lithium, going to the beach seemed anticlimactic. I can’t swim. I don’t like being in direct sunlight. And I can’t understand why sand has to work its way into so many hard to reach places.

This morning I wanted to be all symbolic and go for a walk around the Stadium. A journey of a thousand miles starts when you lace up your walking shoes, right? Well.. actually, no. God let the air out of that notion when he had me baby sit a traumatized dog the night before. When I finally did wake up walking around a track wasn’t an option. Both my feet hurt and I hobbled around the first few minutes until I slipped on my Oofos. Plus, I really only had three hours of sleep, but I knew it was time to get up and get moving. I spent time reading the devotional that The Older Gentleman had given me. I now read it every morning with an ink pen and my cyber-bible on the ready. God has been speaking to me so clearly when I purposely seek the truth in his Word. I also knew that he would reveal more of His Plan for me today.

And therein lies beauty the adventure… God will lead me over my mountains; calm storms in my life; and call me to get out of the boat and walk on the water to meet him if I will only be willing to surrender to his plan for my life instead of clinging to my own. After I closed the devo and powered down my cyber-bible I knew I needed to get ready. One of the most valuable lessons that I learned as I walked out The Plan was that real emotional growth doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Sure, I’ve grown despite living like a hot house flower behind the impenetrable walls of the Bipolar Bubble, but the air in there was getting rather stale and the soil had always been a bit thorny.

God called me onto the “good soil” when he had me move to my current home. And since I started tapering off the lithium I have seen exponential emotional and spiritual growth. The cool thing is… I’m not the only one seeing this in me. People around me are remarking on the dramatic change in me giving me lots of opportunity to give testimony to what God has done (and is doing) in my life. Each conversation is a sort of “Ebenezer stone” giving tribute to the goodness of God.

God had better things for me to do today than a solitary walk on the beach or around the Stadium track. Both of those things would have been good because I would have been doing them for him, but today he had something excellent for me. God sent another beautiful young man to speak truth to me. This one came in the form of my former guitar instructor. We had planned to have dinner on Thursday, but he’d requested that we reschedule to this Sunday after church because he was behind on a work project. When I agreed it hadn’t registered with me that Sunday was New Year’s. I had unknowingly arranged to spend my spiritual birthday with another person. Since I usually spend it alone, I started looking for God’s fingerprints on this.

Me being me I was up at five making sure that the house looked nice and that the table was set. Since we were doing lunch instead of dinner I planned to pick up something from Whole Foods rather than waste any of our time together cooking. God has been convincing me of this truth: “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that falls from the mouth of the Lord.” What was on our plates wouldn’t really matter because God wanted us to feast on him. During the service at  church the pastor said something that made me feel like he and I were supposed to take Communion together, so I bought a round of crusty bread and a bottle of their best 2016 Sparkling Apple-Grape juice and hurried home to assemble our meal.

Would you believe that he texted me that he was eating healthy now and would bring a  salad to eat? It surprised him to find out that I, too, am eating healthier now and had also bought salad fixins’ from Whole Foods for us to eat. I’m not a foodie, so you will find no pictures of our meal here. Besides, the real feast was in our conversation as we shared what God has been doing in our respective lives. I shared some highlights before asking him to say a few words about communion. And would you believe that he’s been pondering words about communion for the past few days? He shared his insights (which are his and not mine to share)… and then he broke the bread. Honestly? We would have been fine without the food because our conversation was so rich and so filling.

As I sat across the table from this beautiful young man I was struck anew by the reasons why I find him so beautiful. While he is aesthetically pleasing to look at (and I’m not old enough to be his mom)… it is his passion for God and his desire to use his gifts for His glory that make him beautiful. God has gifted him greatly and he is not some tightfisted man clutching his talents to his chest. He uses his talents liberally to bless people. He’s like a farmer scattering seeds all over the field that God has given him. He sows deeply into the lives of other people even though he might not be there to actually see the harvest.

I realized that part of today’s quest wasn’t about me and what God wanted to show me. It was about growth and how it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I needed to let this man… my friend… know just what an impact his words and his actions had had on my life. I read him three of the posts that I’d written as I walked out The Plan that were directly related to his influence — the ones dealing with that former supervisor and the healing that God worked in me by showing me what forgiveness really looks like for me.

I love reading my stories to people way more than I enjoy writing them. I’m a Rhetoric major from Berkeley with an emphasis on oral interpretation. Writing is my passion, but public speaking was my first love. There’s something intimate about sitting with somebody and giving a reading of my work. It’s that whole “overcoming him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.” There is power to overcome in my testimony and I know it. I’ve always known it. I am the poster child for the “neurotic in all of us” pointing a way to truth and hope. There is nothing new under the sun and that includes my life. To pirate a quote from a movie that I watched recently, “Everybody was thinkin’ it. I’m just sayin’ it.” My former guitar instructor… my lifelong friend… said that he likes listening to me more than reading my blog because I’m “content rich.” I think that’s his nice way of saying I talk a lot.

We talked about so many things… and given the fact that he got here promptly at 12:30 but didn’t leave until a quarter to five… one might wonder what we hadn’t talked about. I even pulled out my guitar and he played a few worship songs and sang to me. He always stirs something deep within me when he sings. I wanted to cry and dance at the same time. It might be because of the fact that he can sing. He plays and sings beautifully… but because of health problems as a child he was told that he’d never be able to sing. This speaks to me. God, our God, is in the business of giving his kids more than they can ask for or imagine. When I spend time with this friend I dare to dream. Our Father and our God has given us both great promises and my friend reminds me that I have God’s permission to ask.

I am blessed to have this friend who just “gets” me. There’s no need for explanation or apology. I never have to worry about overwhelming him because to share anything less than the unvarnished truth would be to underwhelm him… and we can’t have that now, can we?

You wanna know the first thing he said to me when he walked in the door? He said that I looked beautiful. For now, it’s sufficient to say that he said it and I received it. Today was my 23 birthday in the Lord and I am growing. My love for him could only be matched by the peace and the hope and the joy and the faith… that I now feel and all of it (and so much more) was all shining forth from my face and my eyes were bright with all the passion that comes from fixing my eyes on Truth…

Today is January 1, 2017. Truth— that’s what made me beautiful.

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Day 1: … of the Rest of My Life (2017 words)

So I haven’t blogged anything since Christmas….

I wasn’t quite sure what to do as far as my blog was concerned, since the whole daily blog idea was God’s not mine. In the months leading up to The Plan I barely blogged anything. My life was in shambles physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And I was just vain enough that I didn’t want  people doing a slow drive-by past my life like rubberneckers at the scene of a bad car crash. There were some days during the last two and a half months were I only blogged because God said so. I didn’t want to and in a few posts I even said as much… but I’ve had to learn the hard way not to ignore the direct leading of God. If he said, “Blog every day,” my line was supposed to be, “How many words?”

But The Plan ended Sunday — Christmas Day — with all the necessary fanfare to make it memorable enough for me to remember it without having to go back and reread my blog. God had gotten me safely off the lithium. Jesus called me to step out of the boat and I hadn’t made the cardinal mistake of looking at the waves. Unless you’re a surfer, waves suck. When Peter asked Jesus to call him out unto the water he was fine until he looked at the waves. The minute he did  he started to sink. There were some waves that threatened to wreck my peace in the last two months, but I only looked at them with my peripheral vision. Instead of getting my knickers in a bunch, I ran to God; I got my accountability folks to pray for me; and then I did a daily recap here which helped me to reflect on what I had seen God do. The Plan did what it was supposed to do… now what?

Walking out The Plan put me on an increasing spiritual high despite the physical and emotional challenges. It would be really easy to become depressed now that I lack such clear direction. I hadn’t lapsed into mania as I was decreasing my meds, but the therapist made sure to point out that now that I am medication free, I’m at risk (for the rest of my life) of having manic episodes which could have fatal consequences. Oh, joy. Something to look forward to. Not. If I listen to that advice I’m going to live the rest of my life in fear. I’ll be worried that this or that situation will trigger an episode and I’ll be doomed. It’ll be like a self-fulfilling prophesy –but I don’t think that was the why God called me to get off the lithium and not replace it with anything else.

I could have, y’know… replaced the lithium with something else, but I was convinced in the most remote corner of my soul that that was not what God wanted for me. So the morning after I took my last pill, I woke up and put my feet on the floor like I always do. I didn’t wake up and find out that the Bipolar was miraculously gone. I wasn’t expecting that, so I wasn’t disappointed, but neither did I wake up feeling like I was on the verge of a manic episode. I felt like I had felt the day before. I felt like I feel now: Normal. Whatever that means. My “normal” looks a lot different than your “normal”… I would bet money on it.

Monday, God had a different plan for me. My plan meant going in to work on the holiday and busting out a lot of work. Everybody else would be observing Christmas by having Monday off, so I planned to take advantage of the silence. God overruled me, so I ended up staying home doing things around the house, praying, and reflecting on the journey I’d just finished. It wasn’t until later that night that God’s bright orange fingerprints became evident to me.

I met a beautiful man.

It was Monday night and I’d gone to that worship group on the other side of the island that, I may or may not have mentioned in another post. I went last week and it was AMAZING. It was the epitome of Christian unity — one heart; one voice — all lifted up to God in worship and praise. I couldn’t wait to go back even though I was sporting a minor sore throat and wouldn’t be able to belt it out. Last week I was taken aback by the sheer number of people in the room, but it didn’t mash any of my buttons. This week I knew what to expect, or at least I thought I did.

I was sitting, writing in my journal when this young man walks up to me and introduces himself. He had an open friendly air about him which was good because as much as I liked going last week, the crowd was really young and I felt like the old man out. He made me feel instantly comfortable which is almost impossible to do. It’s a little known fact, but Bipolar Girl generally does not like anybody the first time she meets them and reserves judgement for future encounters. I liked this guy right off the bat. Then it dawned on me that I had prayed earlier asking God to bring somebody into my life who would just “get” me. Would you believe the guy is a writer? He also has a blog. And he’s not afraid to step out of the boat when God tells him to… or maybe he is a little bit… but he doesn’t ruin the adventure by focusing on the waves.

When they started singing he was quick to rise and began to loudly sing praises to God unashamedly. Before that he’d just been this really nice guy reaching out to a stranger. But as he humbled himself to kneel before the LORD and pour out his passion… that is when I noticed his beauty. There were other guys in the room who were much more physically/classically attractive than he was (but since I’m old enough to be the mom of most of the people there, that wasn’t the point). I was seeing him as a beautiful child of God sold out for Jesus.

One of the five point in The Plan to get me safely off of the lithium dealt with my relationship health. I didn’t go into much detail about that particular point in any of my posts over the past 73 days because when it comes to relationships, Bipolar Girl’s path, like Hell,  is paved with good intentions. Prior to embarking on The Plan I was dipping my toes in the Christian Mingle pond, because I do want to meet someone and get married. Given everything else I’ve shared in this blog, there should seriously be no shame in admitting that, but relationships have always been a huge trigger for me and I didn’t want to mention it here unless I had to. Besides, CM was hard for me anyway.

I’ve got incest issues, an addiction to porn, and I’ve got Bipolar. I also tend to be attracted to younger white guys. So, how do you put all that in an online profile and attract anybody other than a serial killer? As part of The Plan, God prompted me to let my membership with CM lapse and that I should not pursue new relationships until March.

One wave that hit really hard during this time was that the guy I was dating just before I got saved in 1994 contacted me out of the blue via facebook . Blonde. Blue eyed. German. Surfer….Bisexual. TMI… I know, but my failed relationship with him was the catalyst that catapulted me into the arms of Jesus. He contacted me on Day 39, but I was too shell shocked to go into detail. I nearly jumped back into the boat, but God had designed The Plan to be able to withstand even tsunami sized waves like the return of Oliver.

God has been challenging the way that I view men, relationships, and myself. After my last relationship imploded I made myself as ugly and unappealing as possible. I gained a bunch of weight. I started dressing like a dowdy hausfrau. I let my skin go and I retreated into the Bipolar Bubble. Yet Monday at that worship night, this passionate young lover of God looked at me and told me that I was beautiful. Then, at some point in our conversation he told me some things about myself that only God would know. When the whole room divided into smaller groups for prayer he prayed for me then started telling me things that he felt God had shown him about me. He shared things about me that he would have absolutely NO WAY of knowing, speaking in direct response to things I’d only dared share with God. I was grinning like a bloody idiot. I wish I’d had a tape recorder so that I could capture all of his words and treasure them in my heart. I fairly floated out of that house at the close of the evening. It didn’t even matter that I hadn’t been able to sing. Oh, I was all set to belt it out like I’d done the week before… but would you believe that I didn’t know ANY of the songs? Talk about humbling experience.

What happened to one heart; one voice..?!

Worship is not limited to singing. My writing is my greatest act of worship. After talking to this young man I had to talk to God, so I pulled out my journal and listened. I felt like God was refining The Plan... expanding on it to shine  light on the next phase of the journey since I’ve  finally submitted to following His Plan for my life rather than my own. The Plan was about discovering a deeper intimacy with God and that didn’t end on Christmas when I took my last lithium. It didn’t end on Monday after my encounter with this wonderfully prophetic young man, either.

Tuesday, after I put my feet on the floor, I got ready for work and drove there with a new calm that was birthed out of the last two months of putting God’s plan above my own. I did my job without my usual written agenda where I furiously try to tick things off the list afraid that I won’t be ready by the time the students come back in January. So much of what that young man shared with me is just going to become part of the Jesus culture that is my life. In time I’m going to forget his exact words, but I am not going to forget what God said to me through them.

I still don’t know how often I’m going to blog. I know I can’t go back to my old hermit ways of hiding out behind the walls of the Bipolar Bubble. I don’t want to. But I’m not sure if I’m going to blog every day. Towards the end of the journey, God was revealing so much tasty spiritual goodness that I was having a hard time digesting it all enough to condense it down daily to an intelligible blog post. Whatever I end up doing, it will be my act of worship because I write from my heart now. I’m not afraid to be appropriately transparent anymore.

God used The Plan to teach me a life long lesson about how I should view my days:

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. ~Psalm 139:16

God used that beautiful young man to remind me that I don’t have to fear the Bipolar or the mania. God has a plan for the rest of my life and  alls I needs do is follow it.

Today is December 28th… and  I am not afraid.

 

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Day 73: The Chronicles of Bipolar Girl

It is finished.

I just took my last lithium tablet. The Plan did what God purposed it to do. In a few days time the only traces of lithium left in my body will be the ones that occur naturally in the human body or that I ingest naturally through food. All I wanted to do today was praise the Lord. Interesting that I would finish it on Christmas.

In so many ways these last 73 days have been like waking up from a long, dark sleep, so it seemed fitting that I should watch, “The Chronicles of Narnia” today. That, however, was not my plan. That was so far away from my plan for the day that I knew it was God. I was sitting in church this morning and just knew that I needed to watch it. And while I watching it, I knew the exact moment when I was supposed to take my last pill. After the battle had been won  and the White Witch was no more… Aslan said, “It is finished.” And I knew. I grabbed the lithium bottle and took the last one.

The Lord knows I’m a sucker for symbolism. Not even I could forget that moment.

I have never been able to watch that movie without bawling my eyes out. No, I’m not crying because some computer generated lion got killed. I cry because of what the movie represents. So it’s fitting that I would watch it on Christmas. The sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus… the final victory of the Great Lion.. restoration and reconciliation… that’s what this movie is about.

And that’s what Christmas is about to me. Back when I was an atheist Christmas meant nothing to me because who was Jesus but some baby in a manger who couldn’t even wipe his own butt?? Of course, Easter wasn’t much to me either because who was Jesus then… but some dead guy on a cross. Either way, Jesus couldn’t help himself and he couldn’t help me. At Berkeley, I stopped believing in God in favor of a relative “truth” that could mean anything to anyone.

                                               “A fool says in his heart that there is no God.”

I think I established a few posts back that I was a fool and that didn’t change when I became a Christian, at least not at first. For years I believed things that just weren’t true about Jesus and those half truths or outright lies got mixed in with the real truth of who he was so that it  has taken me years to clearly see that from birth to death… everything that has ever happened… ever... has been part of His Plan. He has always known what he was doing. Christmas is a celebration of that plan.

Christmas is not about trees or decorations… or gifts or feasts or songs. It’s not even about being friends or family. Don’t get me wrong. All of those things are good. And if you are blessed to be able to have all of those things then you are blessed indeed. But if Christmas were just about those things then people who didn’t have those things would have no cause to celebrate.

Usually, I hate Christmas. For me it used to be all about family until I didn’t have one anymore, then it sucked. I lost sight of what Christmas was really about as I wallowed in self-pity, bitterness, and resentment. Well today was different. After the adventure that I’ve been on with Jesus these past seventy-three days… I had every reason in the universe to celebrate today. Jesus had used this time to wake me up from a never ending winter and I was just happy to be alive.

I didn’t rush to the tree to tear open my gift this morning. Yes, I had a gift. My housemate left me a large brightly colored box under the tree when she left for the mainland. I determined not to open it until Christmas Eve though the gold and white wrapping paper seemed to call my name. I did open it last night, so that this morning I was free to do what I was supposed to do to celebrate Christmas. I put on my tennis shoes and went for a walk around the Stadium track. I didn’t need family to do this. I just needed Jesus. It was truly a walk of faith seeing as I haven’t been able to walk without pain since the beginning of November. I wasn’t sure I could do it.

Yet, I was SO excited to be out there walking with the Lord. It was amazing. I thanked the Lord for all kinds of stuff and as I walked I felt a joy and a peace and a hope for all the things that I believe that God has said to me. I couldn’t walk my usual hour because my foot started to hurt after 25 minutes…and rather than trying to “push through the pain” … I listened to the still small voice and stopped. I walked a grand total of 31 minutes including my stretch. There was nothing to be gained by walking past the point of pain. The track will still  be there the next time Jesus and I decide to come back. And I will be going back.

From there I went home, cleaned up, and got dressed. It was off to church. Usually, I avoid church like the plague on Christmas. All that Christmas music and all those smiley people… all the families and the vague sense of pity. I realized today that I hate Christmas carols because they’re usually sung in a really high soprano that I can’t hope to reach, so rather than it being about singing praises to the Lord, it becomes this awkward exercise in straining to avoid sounding awkward. This  morning I didn’t care. Christmas isn’t about seasonal songs or going to church, although those things are good. I just needed to be still and listen to Jesus. As I listened to the brief message and watched some women do a Christmas hula, I felt a peace and a joy and a hope. And I didn’t mind all the smiley people because I actually had things to say to some of them. I even took time to talk to some guests from Indonesia. When does Bipolar Girl ever talk to complete strangers??

Nobody mentioned the fact that I don’t have family… and I didn’t sense any pity in the air. I even offered to help The Older Gentleman start a blog. He’s got all this stored up wisdom that really needs an outlet and while I am not Techno Girl, I do know enough to get him up and running with a blog. So what that I couldn’t sing any of the songs today. Christmas isn’t about carols. I can always sing worship songs next Sunday in church because I do plan to go back.

From there I ran to the grocery store. Whole Foods was closed, so I had to figure out what to feed myself and still stay healthy. In the past, I’ve gorged myself on Christmas to the point of being ill. Christmas is not about feasting or overindulging. After 73 days of eating healthier, it shouldn’t have surprised me that I went straight to the produce section and bought the fixings for salad. I do not feel my usual post Christmas dinner illness coming on. I didn’t self-medicate myself with extra helpings of turkey, ham, or stuffing. I didn’t even miss any of that stuff. I feel great and for that I feel hope and peace and joy. My health is improving because over the past 73 days, God showed me how to honor him with my body.

Earlier today, I was on my computer when I got a text from an unknown number. Somebody was wishing me Merry Christmas. They weren’t sure if I still had the same number. I thought the area code was Oakland. I wondered which one of my friends was trying to reconnect. Turns out it was the Los Angeles area code… and it was my sister. One of my sisters. I have seven. I haven’t spoken to any of them in years. She was my favorite one of them all and I hadn’t spoken to her in three years. She called to tell me that my mother had died and then she just dropped off the radar without any explanation.

And God brought her back to me today of all days. I’d unpack that story, but Christmas is not about my past either. It’s about the bigger picture of Jesus and the work of reconciliation that he completed by dying on the cross. My sister is going to text me again. I didn’t push for a phone call. I’m not going to push her at all. I told her that I love her and that she can always contact me and left it at that.

From there I fairly floated on a cloud for the rest of the afternoon. I turned to Netflix to watch “The Chronicles” and was reminded anew that Christmas always was and will always be about Jesus and what he sacrificed for us. When the Great Lion said, “It is finished” I took my last lithium and then I thanked God. I kept thanking God. Today had to be the best Christmas for me… ever. From beginning to end it has been about me seeing what God meant Christmas to look like for me.Which makes me wonder about what he means Christmas to look like for other broken people in need of a Savior with a plan.

 

Today is Day 73 and it is finished... and… yet it is also just beginning…

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