Monday, May 28, 2012

Tasty, Tasty Me

Before I tell you my story, let me just say Happy Memorial Day. THANK YOU to everyone who serves or has served in our military (especially you, Joshy.) 

Somewhere in Berks County, Pa., there is a swarm of insects that got that way after feeding on me Saturday night. We went to our friends' house for a cookout and as we sat around the fire pit later that night, I turned into a buffet for the little buggers. My syrupy sweet blood must have been like a big gulp of Kool-Aid for them. A couple of hours later, I was C.O.V.E.R.E.D in bites that eventually turned into welts. Arms, legs, neck...they even got my elbow and one of my knuckles. My husband counted 17, and those were only the ones that were visible from where he was standing. I spent Sunday greased like a Thanksgiving turkey in Benadryl cream, and I took Benadryl orally, which knocked me out for the day. It didn't really help. Sunday night I was achy and restless.

I covered a Memorial Day service for the paper this morning and it was ridiculously hot, so the heat and the sweating irritated the bites even more. Long story short, some of the bites got infected and I wound up making an emergency visit to the doctor after the ceremony.

I assumed I was consumed (hey...that's rhymes...) by mosquitoes, but the doctor stared at me for a good, long time and said, "Hmph. I think these might be spider bites. Or ticks. Probably some are mosquito bites. I don't know."

Then he said, "I don't think you have West Nile Virus...but if you start feeling sick or run a fever, you need to get to the ER right away."


Shoot, man! I just wanted to avoid an infection! I didn't think about West Nile! Oh snap.

He said he couldn't figure out why I was having such a major reaction to the bites - "Maybe it's because of who the bugs bit before they bit you." That was super comforting, too. Hopefully they didn't feed on a leper or something before they got to me. Can you spread leprosy through bugs? I don't know. I've never needed to know.

Keeping with the tradition of only learning things the hard way, I now know I can only enjoy a summer bonfire while wearing a snowsuit. Heat stroke or West Nile, those are my options.

"Diabetic? JACKPOT!!!!"

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Check Before You Fawn

Bobby Ross over at GetReligion has some interesting comments on this story about one of my favorite subjects - Christians trying to find their designated 'spot' among their fellow churchgoers.

As a married-but-childless woman in her 30's, I tend to gravitate towards the older crowd and single people. The reasons, I think, are obvious - they don't have to find a babysitter in order to make plans, and I don't have to listen to pregnancy/childbirth/parenting stories that I'm not only unable to relate to, but remind me time and time again that my dream of motherhood has not come to pass.

The Rev. Kevin Cosby, pastor of St. Stephen Church, said his congregation is trying to create a culture in which “you’re not abnormal if you’re single.”
“One is a whole number,” he said. “You’re not a fraction.”
Hopefully Rev. Cosby is also working on normalizing childlessness in the church because infertiles like myself are awfully tired of being told to work in the nursery. We appreciate sympathy, but get annoyed when moms assume we have all the free time in the world to play with. In fact, all pastors everywhere should preach a sermon aimed at teaching their congregations that:

-Not all childless women are childless on purpose.

-Some women don't want kids at all - and you can feel however you want about that and back it up with Scripture, but the point is, you should never assume anything.

-When a woman says she can't have children, sympathy is great. Immediately acting like the world has ended isn't a good approach. You mean well, but you might be grinding salt into an open wound.

-Don't suggest to an infertile woman that she should volunteer in the nursery. See above.

-Childless women don't have all the spare time in the world. Well, maybe some. But most of us have learned to fill in the time.

-Many infertile women have accepted that it is God's will for their lives and are OK WITH IT. Check before you fawn.

-Hey, since churches have singles groups, why not have a group for people without kids? Just a group - not a SUPPORT group, or a SYMPATHY group, or a GRIEF group... just a regular group.

Next up... how about we make people with mental illness feel like a part of the church body while we're at it? Stay tuned.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

No, seriously. I'm a revolutionary.

It's hard knowing which bandwagon I want to jump on. So many Jesus worshipers, so many opinions, so little little patience. Everyone is a revolutionary in their own mind. In the end, we all wind up being smudged portraits of Christ.

I have a friend who doesn't believe in evangelizing, per-se. She believes one should share their faith only by their actions. There isn't any real need to come out and say, "Let me tell you about Jesus." It's about stained-glass windows and reciting incantations and creeds. Tradition. Delicate beauty. Hymns that say more than Stellar Kart could ever dream of. But that's not for me. Anyone can follow a tradition. I know lots of tradition followers who sit behind stained glass windows, but they don't exude God's love. I'm a breed of Mormon, Episcopalian, and Catholic. Trust me here.

I have a friend - actually, many friends - who believe that God still performs miracles today, that we should embrace and explore all art forms as types of worship, and when they talk about the Holy Spirit, I picture candy cotton clouds and unicorns prancing through gumdrop rainstorms.
Incidentally... this is one bandwagon I really do like the idea of riding. It's OK to cry around these people. I like churches that let you cry, even though I'm not terribly in-touch with my own feelings right at this moment. They're the people the Nightly News makes fun of - hands in the air, kids waving flags, people yelling "AMEN!"

I know a guy who is completely religion-free... supposedly. I don't think anyone is religion-free. We're all asking each other to conform. Telling the more buttoned-up believers to be more free isn't any different than telling them to conform. It's still conformity, in a round-about way. There is no church building, no authority, no hierarchy for these Christians... they're kind of like hippies that are high on Jesus instead of LSD. But I think they're off-base, too. They're big on moral relativism and I don't get the impression that anyone is accountable to anyone else. That's not good, either.
And yet... I wouldn't mind living that way myself sometimes.

(Excuse me. I've had a lot of coffee today. I have a point. Really. I'm almost sure of it.)

But all of these groups have one thing in common: they wouldn't ever want to be like any of the other groups. They're predictable. Watch.

Group One: "Shoving the Bible down somebody's throat is not the way to lead them to God...which is why I never talk about my faith unless someone spots me pulling out of the church parking lot and directly asks me about it."

"Excuse YOU, but people know me by my LOVE."

Group Two: "Group one is too concerned with religion. They need more of a relationship with Jesus. That would make them WANT to talk about their faith. If you don't wear your faith on your sleeve, where DO you wear it?" (Group Two's favorite method of "hearing from God" is to point to a random scripture and "claim" it as their "word" for the day.)

"What? Ouch! I tripped over Burt's foot!"

Group Three: "How can you live an abundant life with so many rules and regulations? Fellowship is everywhere. Authority is for Presbyterians. Look, I painted you a picture of the Grateful Dead Bears! Would you mind handing me my Baja pancho?"

The family that prays together stays together...but not because some pastor says so.

OK, maybe this isn't entirely accurate. That's the picture from where I sit. Where do I fit? I'm in Group Two, but I'd like to ride a unicorn and I think some tradition is beautiful. I'm a church octopus - my body is in Two, but I have tentacles in One and Three.

Jesus, I'm guessing, is in all of these. Or none of them. When I want a truly authentic portrait of Jesus, I read the Bible, but guess what happens? Everything I've ever been taught by anyone of faith clouds the picture. Don't you wish you could wipe all of that out of the picture and separate the wheat from the chaff? The Bible tells us to "test the spirits." Spiritual maturity helps us pick out the weeds and water the beautiful things. Those dandelions, though - they just keep coming back, proving that sometimes things look pretty, but they're dangerous weeds that want to choke you.

 Tell me I'm not the only one?!?

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Monday, May 14, 2012

I'm a little behind on blogging, so in the meantime, here's a tune for ya.
I've had this in my head ever since we sang it in Celebrate Recovery on Friday. Love this.

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mommy's Little Booger

My Cat is Freakin' Awesome Because:

-She uses 2 litter boxes. One is for pee, one is for...the other thing. It would figure that I have an OCD cat.
-She watches TV and has an affinity for Animal Planet.
-She will only sleep on my side of the bed.
-She shares string cheese with me.
-She showed up on my doorstep as a kitten and obviously has impeccable taste.
-She always smells good. Somehow. I don't know how she does it.
-We have conversations and I understand what she's saying...and it's not because I'm bipolar, either.
-She's afraid of children. It's hilarious.
-She eats houseflies.

I'm pretty sure I love this cat more than I should.

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Yes, Please!

Found this website on Pinterest today. My shirt is soaked with drool!
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All Over Again

Happy birthday to meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! I'm 33 today. I don't really feel any different, but then again I never do. Turning 30 sort of felt like a milestone, but it didn't bother me. In my heart of hearts I'm at least 10 years younger than I really am.

Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of my salvation. OK, that sentence looks weird. Rephrase: I've been a Christian for 20 years. I remember everything about the day I asked Jesus into my heart. Twenty years of faith is a far bigger milestone than turning 30, if you ask me. I'm pretty psyched about it, but you know what? I miss my cousin, Jay. That's what I kept thinking yesterday. For those of you that don't know the back story, Jay and his wife were very instrumental in leading me to Christ. Jay also suffered from bipolar disorder. In September 2009, he died of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, after a 5-year battle. I miss him every day, but I especially missed him yesterday. I wish we could still email back and forth and talk live, faith, and BPD. 

A few weeks ago, someone very close to me told me that the older she gets, the more afraid she becomes, and that someday I would understand her fear. I told myself no way - my faith will always keep me from being crippled with fear the way that she is. Last night in Celebrate Recovery we talked about God's plan and how it's always a good plan, and yet... we don't really know what it is. We don't know if the way we die will be just as impacting as the way we lived, or even more so. While we're making plans for next year, God might know something we don't - that maybe our lives will end 30 seconds from now.

I remember being sort of haunted by that while Jay was sick and for a long time after he died. I could not, would not surrender my life to God because I didn't trust Him with the outcome. I didn't want to give Him something fragile, something He could drop, something that could break...

But while I was figuring out all that crap, Jay was already letting go. So eventually, I decided, if he could do it, I had to give it a shot.

Guys, I give it a new shot every day. Forgive the politically incorrect phrase, but I'm such an Indian giver. I offer myself up, take myself back, and offer myself up again. I'm getting closer and closer to that once-and-for-all. Inches away from believing that in the hands of God, the only breakable thing about me are the walls I build around myself.

Your 20th birthday is as good a time as any to give it up all over again, right?
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In This Together

I like being able to stand next to someone who has bipolar disorder and say "I understand." I hate the disease and I hate that other people have it, but I like that I can empathize. Especially when that someone is another follower of Jesus Christ. Christians don't always know how to relate to someone with a mental illness. If they did, I wouldn't be blogging right now.

It means a lot to me when I find a fellow believer who understands the need for sleep and how hard it can be to fall asleep. It means a lot when they understand that a bad mood isn't personal. It means a lot when they pray for me and with me, instead of telling me my problem isn't real and I just need a spiritual kick in the pants. God bless the Christian who understands that the brain is an organ, and sometimes organs get sick. Those are the people I try to surround myself with.

I was really glad I got to spend part of my day hearing someone else out.
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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I love this. Spot on. :-)
Sorry, wouldn't let me imbed.
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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I can never tell when I'm manic or depressed until I'm REALLY manic or depressed. Rarely do I know which one I am. At some point, it just occurs to me: I've been isolating myself, I'm angry, I'm paranoid, and people are tip-toeing around me. It's like walking face-first into a plate glass window. I don't know what has happened until I'm bloody.

You know, if you have a baby, or have surgery, or have a disease, you can count on people to check in on you. Church shows up with a meal. It doesn't work that way with a mental illness. People scatter like ants.

What really bothers me about being bipolar is how obvious it seems to be to other people, but not to me. I've had lots of people say they can tell I'm getting sick by reading my Facebook statuses. Today I thought about disabling my Facebook account until I got to feeling better, but decided it was too much of a hassle.

When I 'crash' it feels like I've done something wrong. It's like after 7 months of not smoking, I went out and bought a carton and chain-smoked them all. Or I looked at porn all day, or got drunk, or did drugs. It feels like a total FAILURE. You stand up in front of people and give your testimony about how God has changed your life, and then you find yourself just struggling to be normal and few people understand... and you feel like such a hypocrite.

You wonder if you're really sick or if you're just not as spiritually mature as you thought. I'd rather be sick than a spiritual lightweight.

I want everyone I know to understand that bipolar disorder is not who I am, it's something I have. I'm a child of God, healed of many things. I am totally changed from the inside out. Brain chemicals can't change what the Lord has done in my heart.

The truth is what keeps people like me from being swallowed by sadness, but it's still there. Christians are sad sometimes. Well, we FEEL sad sometimes. I guess there is a big difference.
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