The Adventures of Bipolar Girl

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Day 50: Let the SON Shine In

Yesterday I was tired of The Plan. My foot hurt really badly and I was tired and cranky. This morning my day started around 4am. I should have been cranky, but I wasn’t.  It is becoming clearer and clearer that my body can function quite efficiently with about five and a half hours of sleep. I no longer just lay there worrying about why I’m not asleep. I get up and find productive things to do like read my bible, pray for people, pack my lunch, and boil water to soak my foot.

Friday’s are always good days because they are very relaxed and slow paced. I give my students thirty minutes of free silent reading time at the start of class. Generally they love this time because it’s quiet and they can spend time in their own heads. Today the new ELL teacher came to talk with me. I did a little informal training with her about how our department is structured. I like her. I generally don’t like anybody the first time I meet them. I think first impressions are over rated. People are generally on their best behavior the first time you meet them. I reserve judgement until after I’ve had a few encounters with them. Some people drain the life out of me. Some of the previous ELL instructors were such people. I try to avoid said people as much as possible which makes collaboration hard. But so o far, every time I’ve encountered her I’ve walked away with a good feeling. I think we are going to work well together. I was energized after meeting with her and it set the tone for my morning….

Which went on to be really great, but this is where I throw my chronological account out the window. I want to save the best for last. The second best thing to happen today was the repeat performance of out “play.” I realized last night that it needed quotation marks because my students read the play. They don’t speak English well enough to actually memorize it and deliver their lines. They might be able to memorize them… but if they had to do it in front of an audience, they’d be so nervous that they would choke and forget everything. So we did it Greek drama style with a chorus to give them added volume and they all had copies of the script which they held. What they lacked in costumes and facial expression they more than made up for with verbal expressiveness, clever staging, and enthusiasm. They were SO excited as we rehearsed it twice before our audience showed up.

The audience was a shocker. There were more students in the class that I’d invited than I’d expected plus three staff members came. We ran out of chairs. There was standing room only. We turned off the lights and let my white Christmas lights set the scene. They play was a hit. The audience was quiet and attentive,  yet laughed at all of the parts that we meant to be funny. And it ended with a round of rousing applause as they took their bows. It didn’t matter that I was proud of them — they were proud of themselves.

So what tops that??

Just before lunch one of my newer students poked his head in and asked if I was having Bible Study. Honestly? Since I started The Plan it’s been fizzling out. Since I only work four days a week I have to use every spare minute that I am there to catch up and keep up. Giving up my lunch time for Bible study hasn’t been at the top of my priority list especially since I personally don’t feel like I know what I’m doing. I had no problem teaching Bible lessons when I taught in Christian elementary school. I also had a small bible study in my home once. But doing it at my workplace where I do have limits about what I can say if I want to keep my job… and where people are coming from so many different cultures and world views? I’ve struggled to know what to say to these 20somethings when temptations to follow anything but Jesus are all around them.

The plan was to only do it during the summer months when there was enough daylight late enough for me to safely drive home. Now that it gets dark so early I have an excuse. I could have stopped, but students asked me to continue so I did. But it’s pretty clear that revival is not going to come to my school through me. I usually only have a handful of students show up and I haven’t held it consistently. I can say that I tried... but it’s hard to go from classroom teacher to bible study leader mode. So I was surprised when he popped his head in and asked if I was having the study. My excuse for not doing it sounded lame even to my ears, so I asked if he had five minutes to talk to me about what he wanted in a bible study. On Sunday I felt like God told me to stop giving answers to questions that nobody was asking. I do that. I tell them a lot of stuff that I think they want to know and then try to disseminate the information. It still feels like class to me. But today class was already over and this student approached me before I started eating my lunch.

He’s a brand new believer away from home for the first time. All those Old Testament Bible stories that we often take for granted? He’s never heard any of them unless you count the “Prince of Egypt” cartoon. I figured he had no idea what he expected from a bible study. I was surprised when he sat down and told me clearly and concisely exactly what he wanted. He wanted somebody to sit down with him and go through the bible and explain it. He has a billion and one questions about Jesus and the faith and didn’t pull any punches. He told me that he wanted to know everything so he was starting at Genesis and was working his way through it by himself. I told him that he might make it through Genesis and Exodus… but that he’d hit a wall when he tried to read Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy with all the confusing laws, difficult to pronounce names, and long lists of families he didn’t know. I suggested he start with one of the gospels and then explained what that was and where to find them in the bible.

I end up inviting him to split my lunch with me in my classroom and we had an impromptu Bible Study 101. He asked questions and then I’d opened my bible and try to show him what the bible had to say about that question. He was confused by the behavior of Christians that he knows. He thought that when you became a Christian you just became this good person who doesn’t sin and has no struggles. Boy. Did God send him to the right person?! I was able to set him straight on what it meant to walk with the Lord… how being made into the image of Christ doesn’t happen overnight and that it’s a lifelong process of growing in him as we seek to know him.

It was amazing.

This kid has the seeker’s heart that I had when I first got saved. I lost that seeker’s heart because I had unrealistic expectations. I, too, had once thought that I’d become sinless and never have any struggles because I didn’t have anybody to tell me otherwise. When I hit my first major battle with sin and Jesus didn’t just swoop in and save me from it I thought that I was the worst sort of Christian and so did this kid.

I ended up telling him that while I feel like leading the Bible Study is beyond me… I am more than capable and willing to have talks with him the way we did today. I didn’t feel like his teacher imparting a bunch of information that he’d have to spit out for a test. I felt like I was an older believer trying to guide a younger one. He was so appreciative that I was filled with a joy and a peace that I haven’t known. And that was the emotional and spiritual wave that I was riding while my next class rehearsed for, and performed, the “play.”

Today was Day 50 and I got to do two things that I love doing. In helping my students pull off the “play,” I got to create something. I am a very creative person, but lack artistic outlets. I don’t consider my writing “artistic.” I write because I can. It’s what I am. Today was a way for me to express my artistic side in a visual and very present way at work. Plus, I got to have an honest, no holds barred conversation about Jesus with somebody who was thirsty for it. I felt like I was giving water to a man who’d been stuck in the desert his whole life.  God entrusted this precious new child of his… to me… and it was awesome.

 

Day 49: What’s In a Name?

Our play was a great success! The students had an awesome time performing it for the ELL class… so much so they want to do it again for other classes. I think I might make this a thing in my class. Most times my students are leery about speaking in public because English is their second language, so I’m really surprised how much they liked it. They did a good job and it was fun to watch.

My whole day was pretty awesome actually. Most of the academic classes were really small because a lot of students were testing or were called on to work in their trades today. I only had about five or six students in my morning classes. I decided to introduce my second period class to a bunch of word games. Again, I was really pleased to see how into it they got. We played Boggle (which most people either love it or hate it)… and the loved it. But the big surprise was when we played Upwords. Their collective innate competitive spirits were out in front leading the charge. Both games were great ways to introduce them to unfamiliar English words in a low key environment which equals less resistance to new things.

On a sad note, one of my students got terminated from the program and was sent home. “Pattern of inappropriate minor offenses.” I was sad. I like the guy. I didn’t even know about it until after he was gone. I’m also mad. That is such a stupid reason to get sent home. We give students every opportunity to change their ways. Our program is all about modeling appropriate professional behavior and mentoring students so that they can succeed. I liked this guy, but he shot himself in the foot.

Speaking of feet, my infected foot hurts really badly. It hurt to walk on it for most of the afternoon. Towards the end of the day I just had to sit down because putting any weight on it hurt. I’ve soaked it since I got home and intend to soak it again before bed. It’s only slightly swollen but I guess soaking it 3-4 times a day like I did over my five days off from work was what my foot needed. Two soaks doesn’t appear to be helping. I’m supposed to see the doctor in another two weeks. By then the soaking should have cleared it up… but if the pain gets any worse I’m going to try to get an earlier appointment. Oddly enough, my thoughts did not race to, “bilateral amputation” at all today. I was too busy enjoying my students and the time that I have with them to obsess about something that hasn’t happened and probably won’t ever. How’s that for living in the moment and not letting fear of the future get to me??

Reminds me of a poem that I like:

My Name is “I AM”

by Helen Mallicoat

I was regretting the past
And fearing the future.
Suddenly my Lord was speaking:

“My name is I Am.” He paused.
I waited. He continued,
When you live in the past
With its mistakes and regrets,
It is hard. I am not there,
My name is not I WAS”.

When you live in the future
With its problems and fears,
It is hard. I am not there.
My name is not I WILL BE.

When you live in this moment,
It is not hard. I am here.
My name is I AM.

Today is Day 49 and I Am is changing me.

Day 48: Let the Son Shine…

Today was another mid-week Day of Rest. I’ve moved beyond merely just liking these days to downright LOVING them. Last night I made this long list of stuff I wanted to get done today. I was all excited about it too… but when I woke up at 3:40 (again)… it hurt to put weight on my right foot. After four days of staying off of it and soaking it three times a day I thought it was getting better. Going back to work (while necessary) meant I could only soak it twice a day and I had to spend a fair amount of my time on my feet. My right foot let me know this morning exactly what it thought about that. So my carefully planned day got sidelined because of a foot.

Again, I’m reminded of how man can make all the plans that he wants — but God is ultimately going to decide where he actually ends up going. Seems like God had determined that my steps would stay right here at home. It was a good day, better than if I’d followed my plan. I finished listening to the Waipuna Chapel pastor’s message on “IF.” He talked about how all too often our sins can keep us in bondage and stop us seeing God’s full potential for us in our lives. Since I can see this in my life, I found myself nodding my head. He then made a point that caused me stop the podcast and think: Repentance is owning your sins, so that your sins no longer own you.

I always thought that “repenting” meant that you stopped doing whatever  it was that you were doing wrong. I’ve heard lots of sermons saying that it was a “turning away from your sins and a turning to God.” The Waipuna pastor made the distinction between “conviction” which comes from the Holy Spirit and is when you feel guilty about unconfessed sins; and “condemnation,” which is when you feel guilty about sins you’ve already confessed. I knew the day that I met Jesus that he forgave my sins. I literally felt this tremendous weight being lifted off of me as I stood on that beach and confessed  to Jesus every bad thing I’d ever done, said, or thought about doing. I was able to tell Jesus things I had never told a living soul… and I knew that he not only forgave me, but he loved me. I instinctively knew that Jesus would never condemn me for the things I told him that day on that beach.

He went on to point out how “God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt in a day, but it took forty years to get Egypt out of the Israelites.” Again, the podcast had to be stopped so that I could think. So much of my depression has sprung from the fact that I felt like I was losing the internal struggle raging inside of me. Surely, no real Christian would struggle with the things I’d struggled with..?? I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve been addicted to porn since I was a child. I’ve not tried to hide the fact that I’ve got a sketchy past when it comes to men. I haven’t tried to whitewash the fact that I’ve done things that even non-believers find offensive. I haven’t tried to hide any of my sin stained laundry. When my original blog was anonymous, it was tremendously liberating to finally tell somebody other than God what I was struggling  (but failing) to overcome. I have always known that God would forgive me… that’s what he does. Besides, since he’s omniscient, I wasn’t confessing anything he didn’t already know. Telling other people? I was certain that if any of the good Christian people that I’d met over the years knew my secret sins they’d judge and jury me. I couldn’t even handle the idea of their condemnation, so I bottled up my fears  day after day; year after year becoming more and more depressed.

What I was feeling wasn’t conviction. Bipolar Girl’s super power is transparency. If I were any more transparent I’d be invisible. It wasn’t a question of unconfessed sin. What I was feeling was condemnation. The pastor reminded me that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” and that The Accuser of the Brethren will remind you of every horrible thing you’ve ever said or done or thought about doing. I have always believed that if God wasn’t going to fix me, then I was better of dead. I couldn’t understand how people in scripture would have these miraculous transformations after being delivered from their sins by Jesus. I was jealous of the people I know who have amazing testimonies of how Jesus instantly delivered them from addiction. That was all happy slappy for them, but it didn’t do anything for me but make me feel more condemned. Was I so far gone that Jesus wouldn’t save me? Working in Christian ministry always made me feel like a big fat flaming hypocrite. If any of those good people knew exactly what kind of person I was… surely they would reject me. So I poured out my secret, shameful secrets in my blog anonymously.

Now that I’m not hiding behind a wall of anonymity, I can say that I have well and truly confessed everything. If I don’t blog about it, I have several people in my life whom I go to for accountability. I’ve never lied to any of them. Of course, I could lie to them by omission. I don’t have to tell them when I screw up and fall into sin. They’d never know, but that would defeat the purpose of accountability. Telling them in the first place was conviction. Any guilt that came after I dropped the secrecy wasn’t from the Holy Spirit. The fact that I would fall into deep depressions after diving head first into sin and that those deep pits of depression would usually suck me into a dark place of suicidal thoughts and planning… proves that this wasn’t coming from the Holy Spirit. Jesus didn’t come to bring me death. He came to bring me abundant life but since I wasn’t seeing any of this “abundant life” I felt condemned… dead Bipolar Girl walking.

I’ve heard pastors speak about how transformation into the likeness of Christ is a process. I’ve heard people say that repentance is a process. I could hear that, but in my impatience to feel free, I couldn’t believe that. God could deliver me any time he wanted, but would he?? This thought used to torment me. The Waipuna pastor’s words brought this question to a dramatic end for me. He laid it to rest with a simple point:  The Israelites had been enslaved for 400 years and God delivered them in a day. He delivered them from Egypt in a single day… but it took forty years to get Egypt out of them.

It has taken twenty years to get Egypt out of me. God is still taking bits of Egypt out of me like picking so many bugs out of your teeth when you drive with the top down. Because I haven’t stopped doing some of those sins after all of these years, I have been tempted to give up hope and give in to the condemnation. Because I still do some of those things that I know are sin, I don’t feel free. But none of that has been conviction. Today I spent time before God owning my sins. I’ve already confessed them to God and man,  but it was my own guilt and shame that I had to confront today. After I was done talking to God I felt a tremendous freedom… as if a great weight had been lifted off of me. Does that mean that I will now live a happy sinless life until I die or Jesus finally comes back (whichever comes first)? Not hardly. I will continue to be tempted by my pet sins and there will be times that I will give in to said temptations. I find it interesting that I also struggle with gluttony/greed  and a bunch of other sins, but it’s only the sexual ones that have the power to condemn me.

I realized today that God really has been trying to provide me a way out when I’m tempted to sin sexually, I’ve just been so blinded by condemnation that I couldn’t see the EXIT sign through the haze of self-loathing and self-pity. Today was a good day to have my eyes open. I would have missed out on all of this if I’d followed my plan. So, once again, I have to be thankful that God used my infected foot to get my attention and to turn my eyes to greater things. He slowed me down and sat me down so he could shine the light of truth on me. Today is  Day 48 and I’m done with letting my past sins own me.

Day 47: Top 10 Things That Made TODAY Cool

Attitude of Gratitude time.

Bipolar Girl’s Top 10 List of Things That Made Today Cool:

10. My first block class decorated my room for Christmas. They worked together well and it looks really festive.

9. Rather than obsessing about my foot when I woke up at 3:47 this morning, I grabbed my bible, my devo, and my journal. Good times.

8. My drive to work was largely peaceful. Having a car I can trust is huge. Plus island traffic in nothing like mainland traffic.

7. We are doing a play in my third block class and the rehearsal was HYSTERICAL. My students had so much fun they want to perform it for the whole school. We spent the entire class period having a good time and laughing.

6. My students have never read  How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I used it as a springboard for some critical thinking activities and they loved it. I also taught them “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and they cracked up. Neither have any spiritual messages to be had, but we had fun. I spent most of my day smiling and laughing.

5. I naturally gravitated towards healthy food today. No more microwaveable blah meals or high sodium Styrofoam noodles in Styrofoam cups. Shopping at Whole Foods is really changing my life. Fresh chicken salad sandwich for breakfast and a yummy salad for lunch. No added salt on anything.

4. My housemate is awesome and so is her dog. There is peace, respect, and communication in my home.

3. I can do things I couldn’t do a year ago (bend at the knees, run up stairs, sit up in bed without assistance or pain).

2. I started and now I’m ending the day with praise and with prayers.

1.  The Plan is working.

Day 46: Not Another “Manic Monday”

Today was a good day.
It started early — before 4am.
My foot hurt
so instead of lying there with
visions of bilateral amputations
dancing in my head
I turned on the lights and
opened the devotional book
that the Older Gentleman
had given me.

The scriptural reference?
Be anxious for nothing…

So I got up. Got dressed. And I soaked my foot before I left. I prayed that the six minutes that I was able to soak it would be enough. I would have soaked it longer, but I didn’t want to wake my housemate up at 4am while I tried to heat up water. For a brief instant it crossed my mind that if I lived alone I could do whatever I wanted and I would have soaked it without worrying about anybody else. But I squashed that thought because I’m happy here. Living here with my housemate and her dog makes me happy… and I wouldn’t trade that for all the foot soaks in the world. That in mind, I didn’t grumble and complain at all today as the pain in my foot reasserted itself.

Despite the early wake up call my day was good. My students were great. They really missed me. Enough to write me a note on the board telling me how much they missed me. I even got this hysterical note from a student in my mailbox that had me laughing so hard I almost coughed up a fur ball. I wasn’t overly ready to go back today after five consecutive days off. Not knowing how my foot would hold us was also an issue, but my students made the day so easy for me by being perfect. So there really wasn’t anything to be anxious about.

And we finally got a new ELL teacher. I got to spend time with her today. As far as first impressions go, I liked her. Hopefully we can build a really good working relationship. Man. I really have come A LONG way. In the seven years that I’ve been there the ELL position has had a revolving door. I think there’s been something like 8 or 9 people that have come and gone and I’ve had to try to adjust to all of them. It has been stressful at best and an epic nightmare of outlandish proportions at worst. Bipolar Girl does not play well with others. I used to feel horribly threatened by each new Instructor because these fresh shiny faces would come in all set to change things totally ignorant our uncaring of the fact that I had been doing this job for years. For the first few years I was the Reading department. The very presence of another Instructor in said department seemed to imply that I couldn’t do my job, so I was terrified that I’d be replaced by some new hotshot.

Today I felt nothing but peace. I am finally secure in who I am in my job and what I bring to the table. This woman was no threat to me. So I had nothing to be anxious about.

My pain level wasn’t bad and my foot was bearable. Towards the end of the day I started craving a salad. YES. Me. Craving something other than a Big Mac. I stopped at Whole Foods on the way home and ended up getting a salad, a bit of cooked meat, and almost a container full of tasty cooked veggies. In the past I would have sworn that that was an oxymoron. “Tasty” and “vegetables” did not belong in the same sentence as far as I was concerned…but I’m finally learning that healthy doesn’t haven’t equal “tasteless.”

The one thing I could have been anxious about and felt justified in doing so?? My health. The bone pain was noticeable, but I realized that it’s significantly less than it was say… six months ago. My foot hurts tonight more than it did this morning. My podiatrist wants me to come in to see her, so if I’m going to be anxious, I don’t have long to do so.  I haven’t heard anything about that nerve conduction study, but tonight at least I’m not obsessing about my health. I’m not going to lie and pretend everything is ok… but I’m not going to camp there either. And on a completely random note, my left eyebrow has grown back. I know that sounds weird, but for the past few weeks I was steadily losing the hair in my eyebrow. Just the one. It was really distressing me. It’s one thing to lose your eyebrows. Plural. To just lose one is just plain weird. I’m relatively hairless anyway, so they’ve never been very full, but I was losing just the one eyebrow and it gave my face a decidedly odd look. I tried all kinds of goofy YouTube remedies. I was even starting to consider tattooed eyebrows. I was so upset I stopped looking at my eyes in the mirror. Then this morning I looked in the mirror by accident and noticed that not only is it back, but they are bother fuller looking than they’ve ever been. Must’ve been something I ate.

A thought occurred to me: I just got a new car in July. If, instead of gasoline, I put sugar or olive oil in the gas tank no good mechanic would think that the car itself was defective. They would see that I was the problem because of what I put in it. If they could salvage the car, I’m sure this good mechanic would tell me to stop putting crap in the gas tank. As I improve my diet things — good things– are happening to me that counteract all the bad things that were happening to me because of all of that sugar and olive oil I put in my “gas tank.” Chronic McDonald’s was giving me chronic diarrhea. My food related health problems were affecting my mood for the bad. Now all these positive changes are affecting my mood for the good. It is a win-win-win-win-win situation.

So as the day ends I feel emotionally good. No big spiritual revelations, but I think I’ve got enough to gnaw on for a few days. My health could be better, but that’s a statement of fact, not a complaint. Today is Day 46 and Monday has never felt so good.

Day 45: Potential (Week 8)

Today was another one of those Sundays where I almost skipped church. My foot wasn’t feeling so happy and I thought it might be a better  idea to stay home and soak it. I’m not sure what got me out of bed, but I decided to watch a podcast from waipunachapel.com. I used to attend that church before I moved to town and the pastor’s messages always made me think.  I listened to a message entitled, “IF” and I only made it through the first twenty minutes of it before I knew that I would regret missing church today. Before I knew it I was sitting in a chair listening to the worship team practice before the service.

The Waipuna pastor had been speaking about “IF” and the regrets that go with it. He talked about regretting the things we don’t do. Sadly, Bipolar Girl is very familiar with this flavor of regret. Then the Waipuna pastor put a new spin on one of my favorite old quotes: “Your talents and abilities are God’s gifts to you. What you do with them is your gift to God,” but instead of saying “talents and abilities” he had substituted the word “potential.” Our potential is God’s gift to us.

Everybody used to tell me that I had so much potential… before the Bipolar manifested and swallowed up the last three decades of my life. All these years I’ve thought that I was a failure and a loser because, in my brokenness, I hadn’t lived up to any of that potential. My dream? To go Harvard and become a lawyer. Instead I went to my fall-back school and developed a mental illness. My mother used to always say that I wouldn’t amount to anything and all these years I believed her. But now, God is using The Plan to restore that potential that he placed inside of me… that hope for a future… that I used to have before the locust started chowin’ down.

I would’ve regretted missing church this morning. During the worship all these verses and references to verses kept coming to mind. When that happens I look them up. It feels like God is speaking directly to me through his Word and I’ve long since learned not to ignore these promptings. This morning I thought of the scripture about the “Woman at the Well.” In the dim light of the theater turned Sunday morning sanctuary I scoured all four of the gospels and couldn’t find it which made me think of the parable about the woman who lost the coin and swept the house from top to bottom in her attempt to find it. I tried repeatedly to find it, but couldn’t, so I prayed and told God that if he wanted me to find it, he was going to have to find it for me.

Evidently, he wanted me to find it because my finger was right next to the scripture about the “Samaritan Woman.” I was looking for the right story… but by the wrong name. When I rolled my eyes and said, “Duh” I was talking to myself… not God. How often do I search for things of God only to miss what is right in front of me… things he has been trying to show me all along? I’d come to church on a mission, but was God telling me to keep my eyes open so I didn’t miss anything? My reason for coming to church? I wanted to ask the guest speaker from last week if I could get his message notes. His words had spoken into a sore subject for me like a balm and I wanted to experience is again. I figured if I didn’t go to church I might miss him. From what I gather, he’s British and I wasn’t sure how long he would be on the island. But as there were other ways to get in touch with him, I didn’t really have to go to church this morning. I could’ve stayed home and soaked my foot.

But once again, I see that if I’d stayed home… I would’ve missed out. After the worship one of the pastors spoke about how God had told him to be obedient. Particularly in the area of taking a rest. Yesterday and this morning I was pondering the notion of “obedience” and how that differed from “submission.” I’ve been following The Plan because I believe that God laid it out and told me to be obedient to it because my life depended on it. The plan the doctor had laid out to me didn’t sit well with me, so I consulted The Divine Physician and as I’ve tried to walk out The Plan I’ve had confirmation after confirmation that it was, indeed, God’s highest and best for me. Even the sticky parts that I didn’t necessarily agree with like taking a weekly day of rest MIDWEEK. Six months ago I would have balked at the thought. I am an anal retentive control freak (how’s that for transparency?) The idea of surrendering my classroom to a substitute any day of the week (let alone MIDWEEK)  was a horror of horrors. Yet, here I am not only taking every Wednesday off,… but actually enjoying incredible rest and fellowship with God while doing it.

Then our female pastor stood up to give the message. I am embarrassed to admit that I find her a bit shrill, so I tend to selectively listen when she gives the message. When she’s being emphatic her pitch raises. The more high pitched her voice gets, the more my mind drifts. Other people rave about her messages and how they speak to them. I have not had that experience because her pitch distracts me. This morning I flippantly told God something like… if he wanted to keep me awake he was going to have to get my attention. Would you believe that she was talking about the way we perceive things? Essentially — the way that we hear what we hear and see what we see. How two people could hear the same thing yet hear completely different things?? And would you also believe that all those scriptures and references that had come to my mind during the worship were all things that she touched on in her message? God got my attention. I even started to take notes. And while I have been known to fall asleep while journaling, I wasn’t likely to fall asleep or day dream while she was speaking because she went there.

She started talking about the woman at the well… or more correctly, “The Samaritan Woman.”  The story that I’d frantically searched for during the worship was now confronting me in the message and it would behoove me to listen. The pastor said that this woman perceived Jesus through her prejudices and through her “woundedness.” I am still pondering what she said and what it means, so for now, I’m going to treasure her words in my heart and see what God does with them. It’s enough to know that he wanted me to read the account of it before I heard the lady pastor’s interpretation. He had me search for it  as if it were a lost coin or a pearl of great worth…because though I read it, I didn’t perceive it the way that she had. The shrill lady pastor that I hear, but don’t always listen to, had led me to see something that I had missed… something that was right there staring me in the face: She showed me that while in a different time and in a different place, I am the Samaritan woman. (See John 4) I perceive God through my prejudices and my own woundedness, but Jesus can reach us through all that.

The fact that God has been using social media as a sort of Memory Lane of late hasn’t been lost on me. I suspected that he was queuing up all these old and familiar faces to address areas of woundedness and prejudice in my life. Now I’m sure of it.

Church ended and I sought out other pastor. I wanted him to pray for my foot. Why do I overlook the obvious? Good is concerned about so much more than my foot. So much more is at stake. Would you believe that as I told the pastor what’s been going on a guy walks up and the pastor introduces me to him. Out of nowhere he tells the guy that I’ve got a lot of potential that has yet to be used by God. *Bipolar Girl does a double take. Et tu pastor?

There are so many pieces to the puzzle that are coming together. Church gave me a lot of food for thought and my bones are giving me a lot of pain. I told the guy pastor about The Plan and how God has called me to be obedient to it. He asked if I’d be willing to be a resource to other people in the church struggling with Bipolar. For once I am not seeing my limitations. I am seeing my potential. I came home from church and soaked my foot. The bones in my hand and hip are hurting and my foot and leg has been giving me grief, but I’m ok with that. I can still blog. Pain doesn’t limit my potential. It just makes me more determined to pursue Jesus so that I can reach it. Today is Day 45 and I want to live up to my potential in Christ… whatever it looks like and wherever it leads me.

 

 

Day 44: Oh! Christmas Tree

It all started
with a Christmas tree.

1992…

I don’t know
what kind of a year it was
for wine,
But it sucked
for me.

I found myself sitting
in front of somebody else’s
Christmas tree
depressed and crying.
Wondering how my life had come
to such a miserable pass.
I was bitter and resentful.
I hated myself
and the world.
I figured I’d end up all alone
broken and unloved.
My unresolved incest issues
which had chased me for
years… were now
staring me in the face
and in that moment
I think I hated Christmas.

It would make for a great post
if I could remember what followed…
but I don’t remember.
Oh, I remember the macro
details:
I started therapy;
quit my job;
ended up homeless;
couldn’t get another job;
broke and desperate;
emergency oral surgery;
post op infection;
life  fell apart;
at the end of my rope;
looked up
and saw
Jesus.

I will probably never remember
any of the micro details…
that filled in the gaps between
my larger life events at that time
like mortar…
but that’s ok. The meaning isn’t
in the minor details and probably
won’t ever be.
What I will never forget,
however,  and is
worth pointing out…
is that a Christmas tree
showed me my need for a
Savior.

Fast forward to 2016.
Once again I was sitting in front
of somebody else’s Christmas tree.
My housemate bought a six footer
She’d asked if I was allergic
before she bought it.
I held it straight while she screwed
it into the stand…
but then left her to decorate it
figuring that
that would be that.

I wasn’t expecting her to invite me
to come sit in front of it
and to offer me tea.
At first I felt awkward.
My mind jumped back
to another tree…
that other tree…
until
I reminded myself to
live in the moment.
And in that moment,
The three of us
(can’t leave out
Molly,
the Dog)
sat in the living room
lit only by the tree lights
companionably talking
for the longest time.
Actually, this was the
longest time that we’d talked since
I moved in and it was good.
I was good.
When she got up to put
water on for the tea
I looked at the tree
and couldn’t help but
think that…
I don’t even
remember the tree from 1992.
That was something like 996 Bipolar years ago.
And it’s one of those micro
details that I’ve long since
forgotten. Besides…
the tree wasn’t important.

I may not be into Christmas,
but it’s not like I haven’t seen a
tree since 1992.
The fact that I’m a Christian
because of a Christmas tree —
THAT’S what’s important
The fact that I haven’t lived in a
home with a Christmas tree
for nearly a decade or that
it’s appears to be part of The Plan…?
That’s momentous.

What will be worth remembering
about THIS Christmas tree isn’t the pretty
pretty lights or the beach themed ornaments.
What will matter to me 996 Bipolar years
from now is that I felt totally
normal tonight.
I didn’t feel bitterness.
I didn’t feel resentment.
I didn’t feel broken.
I didn’t feel unlovable.

Today is Day 44
and
I feel hopeful.
Week 8 starts tomorrow…
and my life on lithium
is coming quickly to an end.
The Plan unexpectedly
opened me up to God in a
new and deeply
significant way…
and I feel good.
My life is changing
and is now changed
and, for this,
I am profoundly
thankful.

day-44

 

Day 43: Back to the Future

Day 43. Quiet day.

I had plans to have lunch with my “hanai mom,” but had to cancel because my foot appears to be infected. For those living outside the islands,  “hanai” is Hawaiian and refers to an informal adoption relationship between two people regardless of age. I met my Maui Mom shortly after becoming a Christian in my mid-20’s. It might seem weird to some people to think of my having been adopted as an adult, but what’s is God’s family but a bunch of adopted folks of all ages anyway?

The memory of how we first met or when we actually became close is lost to me. I don’t remember exactly when I met my hanai mom, but I know that she’s been a part of the adventure pretty much from the beginning. She is one of the few constants in my life. We are an interesting pair the two of us. When we met, she was an older white woman from South Africa and I was a young black woman from South Central Los Angeles. Who but God could have brought the two of us together to share the bond that we share today? I hope she doesn’t mind that I share this but… she lost a daughter to Bipolar and I nearly lost myself to it. God knew that we needed each other… and that has been what has bound us together all these years. She has been there to listen and to mentor and to love me. She has loved me unconditionally for the past 20-odd years and I… well… I can’t put into words just how much I love her.  When I woke up this morning, though, I knew I couldn’t spend the day with her. I was feeling anti-social because of my foot. We talked briefly and prayed together on the phone then I pulled out my new devotional and my bible before settling in to see what God would say to me today.

I ended up spending most of the day soaking my foot between watching episodes of the new Netflix original, “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.” It made me laugh and think and feel. It made me cry right before making me think again. And while I doubt that most of my readers have ever even watched a single episode of “Gilmore Girls,” I’m not going to put out any spoilers here — at least not today… and by the time I do talk about how these episodes spoke to me, they won’t be “spoilers” anymore. Let’s just say that watching all four episodes back-to-back, made me see events in my own life differently.

Since the first day that I met Jesus, I’ve begged God to get to the root of my issues. I thought if he’d just expose them then I could be healed and be done with it. No more depression. No more Bipolar. Now I am convinced that my rip-the-band-aid-off approach would have caused more damage than healing. God, in his wisdom, waited because every time I “tried to get to the roots” my mental health would suffer. I’ve been on the lithium for twenty years but now that season is ending and my roots are showing. I am older and, theoretically, more mature. I am more mentally stable, but more importantly, I am more spiritually mature/stable. All along I kept telling God that I just wanted to “know the truth” not knowing or understanding that I wasn’t strong enough to handle the truth. My faith wouldn’t have been strong enough to weather the mental upheaval involved in getting to the root of all my issues so God’s, “Wait” seemed like a “No.”

A realization hit me today. This has been a year of people returning to my life. Some I’ve mentioned here like when my host family from Australia unexpectedly walked back into my life. It has been wonderful and amazing to reconnect with them. I also mentioned the return of my niece. That world rocking event that happened this past Monday? A face from my past came back after 20 odd years of being wrapped away in my foggy memories. And  there have been other people from my past who have reached out to me this past year. The internet and social media are really making this a truly small world after all. I didn’t realize just how many returning people there have been until today. I also didn’t realize (until today) that I had some kind of warning or foreshadowing for some of the bigger re-entries. These warning didn’t register until I went back today and read things that I’d written in either my blog or my journals, but they were there. God had been giving me warnings that I’d been too ignorant to see. Now I want to be ready for anybody walking back into my life. I wouldn’t be surprised if my brother (the one I accused of molesting me) or my Australian ex-boyfriend (the one I thought I’d marry) or my long lost older sister… came back into my life. And if they did… (while stressful) then this, too, would be a part of God’s plan for me. God has been exposing some of those roots I’d been asking for by bringing back people with their own memories of events.

All year long, God has been bringing people back into my life who are strategically placed to help fill in the gaps that I cannot or do not remember. I keep saying that my memory is bad and if I don’t write stuff down, then it’s as if things hadn’t happened. But that’s not true. For all the events that I’ve forgotten… there are people who were there and who remember. Things have only just started getting interesting since I embarked on The Plan… but The Plan is not over and neither is the year. God might have other people gearing up to contact me out of the blue. I find it interesting that all of these people have seen fit to contact me and not the other way around. I kinda thought I’d burned a lot of bridges or that people had forgotten all about me. Seems like I thought wrong on both counts. So, if God’s plan is to continue to bring people back into my life (and I’m not saying that it is), but if it is,  then I want to be ready. My older brother? My step-father? Any one of my sisters?

Or what about people whom I have wronged? What if somebody were to contact me and tell me that my actions had caused them harm? Assuming that I even remembered them, would I have the grace to forgo any explanations, excuses, or denials… and just apologize to them? Given what I’ve been through, I should hope so. All these thoughts are rushing to the forefront of my mind. I’m going to need to go to my thinking spot at the beach and be still in order to process it all. I am thankful that my foot hurt forcing me to stay home or I might have missed all of this. Today is Day 43 and I am seeing God restore things that were once broken. Now hopefully, he’ll restore that which appears infected.

 

Day 42: Giving Thanks According to Bipolar Girl

I didn’t go anywhere for Thanksgiving dinner today. I’d tossed around the idea of joining some folks from church and my housemate invited me to go with her, but I think I have an  infection in my foot and spent the day soaking it. I read today’s entry in the devotional that the Older Gentleman gave me and the verses that the author had cited. When I do that, though, I don’t just read the cited verses in isolation. I read the entire chapter, sometimes more so that I can get a fuller picture of the context. Today’s selection was on giving thanks in bad circumstances. Since Bipolar Girl is no stranger to bad circumstance I’ve heard a lot of teachings on this and have concluded that it’s easier to thank God in all circumstances than it is to thank him for all circumstances which was what this author was suggesting.

I’ve considered the notion of thanking God for my Bipolar. I may even have said the words a few times in the past… but only as an exercise in obedience. I am not thankful that I have Bipolar. I hate having Bipolar, but were it not for my mental illness, I doubt that I would have ever sought out Jesus. As a matter of fact, I’m sure of it. My mentor and I talked about this very thing yesterday. SO, while I don’t particularly like all the physical pain going on with me, I do recognize the truth in that scripture, Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word (Psalm 119:67)… so in a roundabout way, I guess I am thankful for it.

As I walk out The Plan, no matter what has come my way I have been challenged to seek Jesus with more and more of my heart. So although it goes against all reason, I am going to thank God today for the bone pain, the chest/heart problems… all the other pains that I don’t mention, and this possible infection that I have going on in my foot. Besides, infection is a far cry away from neuropathy or bilateral amputation… so how can I not be thankful for that?? If giving thanks draws me nearer to God, why limit myself by just giving thanks for the good stuff? I may not share the same sentiment tomorrow, but…

Today is Day 42 and I am thankful for everything God is sending my way (whether I like it or not).

day-42

Day 41: Stop. Drop. And Roll.

Given the way my day started I didn’t expect it to unfold the way that it did. Today was another one of my pre-planned sick days. Could it be that my omniscient God knew that I would need a day off after the events of the last few days? I was able to hold it together at work on Monday but Tuesday I had to dial it way back because my mind and my emotions were still running on overload. But I did go to work and I did a good job. None of my students had any idea that there was an emotional storm raging inside of me. By the time I came home on Tuesday I was wired for sound. My feet and legs were doing that humming/vibrating thing and I was experiencing pain. As the hours crept by I kept telling myself to go to sleep, but I knew the bone pain was going to be worse if I laid down, so I didn’t want to go to sleep. My eyes were dry and burning but still I wouldn’t go to bed.

That’s another thing. I have chronic dry eyes because my eyes don’t naturally tear up. I mean they do…when I’m crying, but most of the time my eyes are bone dry. My optometrist inserted the pegs into my tear ducts to try to address this issue. Yes, it sounds as uncomfortable as it was. There used to be this gag on tv about the “Chinese water torture.” I can tell you now it can’t possibly compare to the  “American Peg in the Eye.” Personally, I think it has something to do with my mom telling me that I was stupid to cry so much when I was a kid… so I stopped crying. For years I could be sobbing until my chest hurt and absolutely no tears would fall. Eventually I had the doctor take the pegs out because they hurt and they weren’t helping, so now I use these special eye drops. But last night, I wouldn’t even get those. It was like I wanted to suffer. Maybe I was subconsciously waiting for the other shoe to drop… I’m not sure… I just know that it was past midnight when I finally forced myself to go to sleep.

Lack of sleep is bad for Bipolar Girls. I know this. The therapist warned me about this. I had to promise her that if I got less than five hours of sleep I’d let her know if it happened more than once. I got three hours of sleep before my Bipolar Girl was interrupted for a regularly scheduled bathroom break. I was able to immediately go back to sleep, but somewhere between my 3am call of nature and 5am when I finally woke up I had a nightmare. I used to have chronic nightmares as a child that followed me to college where I would wake up nearly every hour on the hour scared out of my gourd. Some nights I’d wake up in a cold sweat. Other nights I’d be too afraid to go back to sleep. But every morning was always the same. I would wake up feeling mentally ill and fragile.

Last night’s feature film was more precisely a bad dream. There was no death or dismemberment. Nobody was hunting me or trying to kill me. I actually know what the dream meant and why it escaped my subconscious to terrorize me when I woke up. Being wired before bed… delaying my bed time… triggered it. When I woke up I wasn’t sure if it’d been real or not and I was having one of those “bad dream hangovers.” My dreams always made moving difficult in the mornings. Today was no different and on a day when I didn’t want to be late. I was meeting with my mentor. It was time for our monthly check in. She has  been helping me deal with issues that used to make teaching a walking nightmare for me in the past. It is directly due to her influence that teaching is so fulfilling for me now. When she started being my mentor I hated teaching and was burned out. She helped change that.

In addition to being my mentor extraordinaire, she’s also an integral part in Point #1 of The Plan (Accountability). I tried calling her on Monday when the crap hit the fan, but was unable to talk to her. Generally when I can’t reach people on the rare occasion when I actually try to call people I know it’s because God wants me to talk to him first. After I prayed, God had me email my scuba diving friend and I sent her the blog post that I couldn’t post here. Probably because today’s mentor meeting wasn’t supposed to be about what happened on Monday. These meetings are a time to remember how far God has brought me and to inquire about the coordinates for the next leg of the journey.

We had an awesome talk. We generally meet her at her house and I bring a detailed outline of what God has been doing since we last met and how I’d acted on any of her council. I told her about Bipolar Boy and some of the other situations that I’ve been dealing with that I would’ve handled badly in the past. My mentor is a retired math teacher. She’s an awesome teacher. I have been able to swallow my envy enough to ask for her advice and it has done wonders for making my classroom manageable. Our talk was great. We talk and stop to pray and we allow the conversation to develop a life of its own. Today was no different. What’s scripture say about how a man can plan his steps but the Lord will determine his course?? I went in there with a written agenda, but we talked about so much more than I had planned. I got there at 8:15. We didn’t finish talking and praying until just before noon.

I don’t plan anything for the rest of the day because I want to see where God leads. I try to be open for anything. Today he lead me to the Maui Ocean Center (https://www.mauioceancenter.com/) I’m a member there, so I can go as often as I like. It’s a nice aquarium and all… but I go there to see the glory and splendor of God. How anybody can look at all that color and life moving in total harmony and not see the hand of the Creator God, is beyond me. When it’s not crowded (as it evidently isn’t on Wednesdays at 12:30) I like to find quiet spots to pull out my journal and my  bible. Today? I was totally hungry, so I had lunch at their restaurant, Seascape, which boasts a really nice ocean view and a four star yelp rating. I started writing down what I’d gleaned from our talk and my reaction to it. I’m finally accepting the fact  that if I want detailed “memories” of events I’m going to have to write them down before I blog. It happened eight hours ago and my timeline of events and ability to make direct quotes of what she said is already sketchy. So I tried to get as much of it down before they brought me out my tasty lunch (and would you believe I  ate the veggies first? I really am changing).

One thing I couldn’t help but notice? I’ve been a paid member for years. I like the place but it cannot compare to my memories of the aquarium from when I lived in San Francisco. It’s small for one thing. You can cruise through it in less than an hour. I go there as often as I can, but I do it to be still before God. I go there to escape. I go there because, in addition to all the pretty fish, it’s got bathrooms, shaved ice, places to buy lunch, and readily available parking. That’s a winning combination when you’ve got all the health problems that I’ve had. But it’s been a couple of months since my last visit. In that short amount of time they made A LOT of changes. Normally, I hate change… but I was fascinated by all the small touches that they’ve added to make the place more of a destination. Visible guided tours instead of those goofy radios that you could rent. A kiosk where a guy was giving ukulele lessons. Quick educational videos and more signage. I thought it was all great. One major change that I loved? Outside, they’ve added all these reclining sun chairs with small tables to invite people to stop and be still… as if subconsciously directing them to be pause and take notice of the glory and the splendor of the Creator God.

I had a big mellow going on when I left the Ocean Center. The Plan states that I need to make sure I rest. It doesn’t actually say “sleep.” I felt more rested after my time with my mentor and at the Ocean Center than I’ve felt all week trying to sleep at night. And despite my lack of sleep and the horrible start I had to the day, it ended up being wonderful. Tonight I take my last lithium of Week 7. I won’t take another dose until Sunday. And as I said yesterday, I’m in no rush to speed up this process. When I was a kid we were taught to “stop, drop, and roll” because it could save your life in an emergency. Well, I think we should all be taught to “be still, look, and listen…” because it can help us see evidence of God, who is life. I did that today and I saw God’s workmanship all over the place.

Today is Day 41 and God clearly has a plan for my life… one to give me a hope and a future. It would behoove me to continue to be still so that I can take in as much of his glory and splendor as I can  handle along the way. From now on? Lights out before midnight.

day-41

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