Walking on Sunshine

It’s lovely to be participating in this meme again this week.  I’ve continued to be ill but am getting lots of support from my medical team.  One of them suggested I make a point of going to Confession.  I did and what a difference it has made to me!

I have three books to share with you this week:

Books Read & Reviewed:

  1. Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira –  Grumble Hallelujah – 2011/042
  2. Johnnie Moore – Honestly – 2011/043
  3. Joshua Harris – I Kissed Dating Goodbye – 2011/044
I think my favourite from the set is Johnnie Moore’s.  I read it when I was feeling really depressed and found it a great comfort and consolation.  Of course, getting a really nice note from him when he’d read my review didn’t hurt either!

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Sunday Snippets – A Catholic Carnival is a weekly blog event hosted by This That and the Other Thing:

“We are a group of Catholic bloggers who gather weekly to share our best posts with each other.  To particpate, go to your blog and create an entry titled Sunday Snippets–A Catholic Carnival.  In it, highlight one or more of your posts from the past week that you believe would be of interest to Catholic bloggers—whether they are posts reflecting on spiritual matters or posts about antics of Catholic kids, or anything in between.  Come back here and enter the URL of that post below.  Finally, go visit other participants, and leave comments!  If you want a weekly reminder to post, join our yahoogroup.

I’ve had a really mixed week.  My bipolar is playing up and I’m rapid cycling so I’ve had periods of depression interspersed with times of euphoria.  It is exhausting and makes planning more than a day in advance all but impossible.  I’m now on extra medication to try and stabilise my mood so I’m sleepy and lethargic.  Sounds like fun, eh?

But enough with this!  I have one book review to share with you this week:

This completes my Ludy marathon as I’ve now run out of relevant titles.  The couple have written a couple of others but they concern the education of children and planning a wedding and neither of those seem likely at the moment.  If my longing for all things Ludy doesn’t die down I may read them anyway but I’ve decided to try and move on to Joshua Harris just now – I’m waiting for his first title to be delivered.

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Sunday Snippets – A Catholic Carnival is a weekly blog event hosted by This That and the Other Thing:

“We are a group of Catholic bloggers who gather weekly to share our best posts with each other.  To particpate, go to your blog and create an entry titled Sunday Snippets–A Catholic Carnival.  In it, highlight one or more of your posts from the past week that you believe would be of interest to Catholic bloggers—whether they are posts reflecting on spiritual matters or posts about antics of Catholic kids, or anything in between.  Come back here and enter the URL of that post below.  Finally, go visit other participants, and leave comments!  If you want a weekly reminder to post, join our yahoogroup.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
NRSV

I’m not very good with posting schedules, am I?  But I did write this verse out ten times most days during the week it was my Memory Verse, I just haven’t had time to write this post and tell you about the experience.

For me, there are two key words in this verse.  They are ‘assurance’ and ‘conviction’ and I think it was for these that I chose this as a Memory Verse.

When I was growing up, I was bullied at school.  I was always doing or saying the ‘wrong’ thing which made me a figure of ridicule.  I didn’t know the rules and that made me the odd girl out who wanted very much to fit in with the confident, popular, assured girls she saw around her.  Today, I may be an adult but there’s a streak of schoolgirl still running down my back.  I still hanker after the glossy fantasy of the in-crowd and feel I am anything other than assured.  I want to be poised, cool under pressure and able to glide through all manner of social situations.  At 38 I’m beginning to see that I am who I am, blushes and all, and to give up the fantasy.

Does this mean I’m doomed to a life of stammers and squirming?  Not according to my reading of this verse.  Faith is linked strongly to assurance.  But it’s not about having the right hair or knowing which fork to use.  It’s about the ‘conviction of things not seen’.

How often have I doubted?  How often have I resorted to behaving ‘as if’ I believed?  How often have I slammed my Bible shut and turned on the TV instead?  Too many times.

But something changed for me the week this was my Memory Verse.  After coffee with a friend, we browsed the bookshelves of a local charity shop and came across one of those ‘alternative histories’ which makes various claims about Jesus that are contrary to Church teaching.  As I held it and scanned the publisher’s blurb I knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the Church’s version of events is true.  I felt conviction for the first time.  No doubts.  No probables.  No behaving ‘as if’.  That knowledge still sits inside me, a rock which cannot move.

Has this experience made me more assured?  Well, I still don’t have the right hair but, to be honest, I’m not so fussed about that.  At a night out this week some acquaintances decided to indulge in a little Catholic-bashing.  I hesitated a bit and then stated my case quietly and with dignity before allowing the conversation to move to other topics.  I was assured.  And it felt better than the right hair.

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This week’s Memory verse is Matthew 6:33:

But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
NRSV

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  NRSV

I have the memory of a hen.  I’ve been convinced that I should learn some Bible verses for a long time and start every few weeks with shiny good intentions.  My resolve may hold for a day or two or even a week before it is forgotten.  I keep a note of meaningful verses and, when I’m in learning-mode, I write the chosen verse out ten times each day.  I try to meditate on the words as I write them, reminding myself of why I chose those particular words.  I should like to choose one verse each week but have never actually achieved this.  My current memory verse has been languishing on a scrap of paper for two – or is it three? – months and I’m ashamed to say I still don’t know it by heart.

My problem is really just a lack of discipline coupled with a day-dreaming habit which sucks time out of my day leaving me rushed and frustrated.  I am a faff-aholic not yet in recovery.  I want to change – and isn’t that a good place from which to start?

What I’m proposing takes the form of a meme which you may choose to join.  Each Sunday I will post my new memory verse.  During the week I will write it out and meditate.  When Sunday comes around again, I’ll write about what I’ve learned during the week and announce my new verse.  And so on.  You are welcome to join (choose your own verse or use mine) by leaving a link to your weekly post in the comments of mine.  Oh – and you’re very welcome to visit me during the week to ask how I’m doing.

I’m going to keep this neglected little verse for the coming week.  Are you going to play?

A Gentleman God

Have you ever worried about God sending you on mission to deepest, darkest Africa if you yield your life totally to Him?  And this when he knows you’d rather eat your own leg and have an arm for dessert!  I have.  I’ve worried He’ll insist I do something that goes so much against my nature that I’ll spend years living in misery, longing for the comforts of home until, one day, I die and get the reward of Heaven.  Then He’ll pat me on the head and quite possibly deliver more of the same.  I don’t have the heart of a missionary, a nun or a teacher and I’m OK with all those deficiencies, thank you.

There are lots of teachings available which encourage a Christian to ‘let go and let God.’  It sounds so easy.  Until I remember Africa.  What if I let go and God’s already arranged my flights?  So I say things to Him like:  ‘It’s up to you God only there’s no way I’m going to Africa.  Send me there and the deal’s off.’  Or:  ‘OK – we’ll do it your way.  But only if it’s not too hard.  You forget how weak I am … I can’t manage much … And no Africa, y’hear?’  Oddly enough, God has always gone along with me on this – not one mention has He made of Africa even though I’m sure that’s what He really wants.  How strange that is.

He’s wrought other changes in my life though.  For many years I’d felt that He wanted me to join the Roman Catholic Church.  I’d drifted from one denomination to another (and sometimes to other faiths – or no faith!) for a very long time.  For most of that time I felt like a jigsaw piece being forced into the wrong picture.  I was sky trying to fit in as sea.  When I first ventured into Mass I found a whole lot of other skies joined in making a beautiful picture.  I knew this was where I belonged.  So I started to research the faith more earnestly.  I liked what I found until I was introduced to the concept of the Real Presence in the Eucharist*.  I ran away.  And years passed while I drifted through a few more Churches, trying miserably to act like sea when I now knew I was really sky.

Eventually, I sat God down and told Him we needed to talk.  ‘If you want me to be a Catholic, God, you’re going to have to make me believe in the Real Presence because I just don’t and I’m not a liar so I won’t pretend.’  Then I decided to let it alone.  I was at the end of my own strength – I’d tried to believe, I’d tried to fit in elsewhere and I could do no more.  I went to Mass sometimes, I went to other Churches.  Yes, I drifted a bit more, all the while expecting a painful experience that would teach me God’s truth – whatever that might be.

There was no thunderbolt.  There was no awe-inspiring display of strength.  I didn’t go through some terrible season of trial as I’d expected.  I just came to believe.  No striving.  No intensive study of Biblical texts.  No hours spent on my knees on a cold chapel floor.

I can only attribute my conversion to God’s grace.  And it is a gentle, tender grace.  I was not forced to believe by might or by strength but by grace.  I went to classes at my local Catholic Church and was received last Easter – with two other pieces of sky who’d found their home.

God says in Zechariah 4:6:

‘So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel:  ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.”’

God, in this verse is a gentleman.  Perhaps He’s all too aware of the weakness of His creatures.  If He’d chased me with thunder and lightening I would have run.  If He’d tried brute force, I would have rebelled.  Instead, he created within me the heart of a Catholic and allowed me to discover that faith for myself while the grace of His Spirit moved in and around me.  I now know God as a gentleman.  He does not violate free will – why would He have created me with that only to stamp all over it?  That would be futile.

Is He going to send me on mission to Africa?  I doubt it.  But I do know that, if He does, He’ll first give me a missionary’s heart just as He gave me a Catholic heart before bringing me into the Church.  Knowing this, I find that I am more willing to open myself to His will – His good and perfect will – with excitement rather than reluctance and fear.

*Catholics believe that the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus are, in a special way, present in the bread and wine used for Communion.

How I’m Feeling

It has come to my attention that FaceBook friends are concerned about me so this is a brief (and hopefully reassuring) post about how I’m doing.

I have Atypical Bipolar Disorder and err on the side of depression rather than mania.  My medication regimen reflects this – I take a large dose of anti-depressants and a smaller dose of an anti-psychotic with mood-stabilising properties.

On Monday, I was very upset about changes to the benefits system which I accept are necessary but will mean I have to jump through a whole lot of hoops to ‘prove’ I’m unfit for work.  Rationally, I know I’m unfit but it’s a bit like a ‘normal’ person being charged with a crime – she’ll go to court knowing she’s innocent but terrified there will be a miscarriage of justice.  For me the upset and stress led to a psychotic episode the details of which I’m not going to go into.  Fortunately, I retained enough of my marbles to know I needed to increase my anti-psychotic to the maximum allowed.  This made me very sleepy so I spent most of the day in bed (hence, no FaceBook).

Tuesday dawned and found me feeling very depressed and lethargic.  This is partly due to the anti-psychotics I’d taken on Monday.  Because they’re mood-stabilising, they pull all the sparkle and joy out of life if I have to take more than usual.  I required two small extra doses during the day which, while keeping me safe, increased the depression.  I spent most of the day pottering about and eventually settled down with my knitting in the evening.

Today the weather is wet, windy and dull, dull, dull which isn’t helping.  I’m hoping to manage with just one extra dose of anti-psychotic (haven’t had to take it so far which is good).  I’m very, very tired and still feeling inexplicably sad, unmotivated, uneasy and generally am not a very happy camper.

I can’t tell if my mood has really slipped or if it’s all down to the extra anti-psychotics until I’ve had a couple of days without extra pills but I do know how to manage the way I’m feeling.  It’s important to stick to routines and try and stay occupied.  I’m not able to read (no concentration and it tends to send me to sleep) so knitting is the order of the day.  My faith is a great support to me and I’ll be going to Mass as often as I can (not going today as there’s a funeral).  The cats are furry little comforters and will be having lots of extra huggles.  I need to eat well, keep to a regular bedtime and, if at all possible, stay out of bed during the day.  I have no intention of harming myself in any way – it’s all about nurture and comfort.

My Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN D) is on holiday this week and I hate speaking to the duty person (have had several bad experiences) so I shall manage this myself until she comes back on Monday.  I already have an appointment to see her on Friday next.

So, life’s fairly miserable but everything’s under control.  I am very good at managing my illness but just don’t have a whole lot of energy for chatting right now.  Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

A Bit of Me (Me)

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done? Anything.

The list of these events is endless and still growing!  But the one that springs to mind is the night I got out of bed at 2am to rescue a cat which had become stuck in someone’s attic.  I’d laid a trap for her earlier that day and got the call from the people to say that it’d worked in the middle of the night.  Now, the cat could have waited till breakfast time without ill-effects but I got out of bed and drove for 20mins to get her to the comparative safety of my spare room.

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A Bit of Me (Me) is a weekly blog event hosted by There’s a Book.

We all leave our “footprint” on the world, in one way or another. We each, individually, do something or are someone that makes the world a little better just by being here. I created this weekly meme to get to know the blogging community I love just a bit better. To know what makes them tick, outside of books, that is. Each week I will post a question to be answered in the following week’s “A Bit of Me(Me)”. Check back each Saturday to get the info for next week’s post and link up with your current post right here.