Six months since I’ve written. What can I say about that time?
I finished my first semester of seminary school.
I was in Death Valley for three months.
I started my second semester of seminary school.
That about sums it up. Chronologically and factually.
What about emotionally? Oh, I’d say it has been a roller-coaster. More like a kid’s roller-coaster. You know, the kinds that just slightly has it’s ups and downs, nothing major. Still a roller-coaster though. Death Valley was a dark place emotionally. I felt lonely and separate from everything. Most of the time I kept my emotions in check. It was hard work. I’m lucky that I was able to mostly keep it together.
Now I’m going into this second semester of seminary. I’m feeling mostly good. It feels amazing to be back home. After my summer experience, it really feels like a huge blessing to be where I am right now. I have the stress of school. I have the stress because of my current weight. My body doesn’t feel well. My mental health is suffering as a result. I have to put in the hard work for my body. But at the same time I have to put in the hard work of school. It’s already a month into school, and I haven’t quite gotten into the rhythm of anything. I better step up fast.
My prayers are just that I can keep myself together emotionally and do what needs to be done. And there is a lot to be done!
Got back from Brazil this week. Our church does a short term mission trip there every year. It was my first year to go and it was incredible. I’m still trying to process everything.
It was so cool to see how God answered prayers while we were there. We even got to see some of the fruits of our work while we were there. There were some rough times for me personally but overall it was just wonderful and I can’t wait to go back next year.
I might write something more detailed about the trip at some point in the future. I’ll have to plan it out.
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Eph 3:14–19.
Seminary school started two weeks ago. I’ve been busy. So many events to go to, so many new people to meet, so many new things to read! Plus I volunteer at church, and I have to work. And take care of my mental health. It’s a lot! How does God fit into the picture?
A common problem with studying theology is that it tends to focus too much on the knowledge and not nearly enough on the spiritual learning. I’m beginning to see how that’s entirely possible. At the same time, I’m encouraged by my professors. I’m taking two classes on campus, and both classes begin with prayer to focus ourselves on why we’re there in the first place. For my online courses, the professors are always bringing in the spiritual piece to the conversation. Back on campus, we have chapel, where we have a speaker give a talk on spiritual matters. It’s encouraging to be at a place like this.
This week I have started to get scared. I have a lot of work to do over the weekend. But I also have other commitments. I’m worried about how I’ll get everything done. I had a bit of a breakdown at work this morning and had to go home. Then I slept for literally half the day. This only adds to my worries. But I’m going to be strong and confident. I’ll get through this. I’ll work diligently at doing what I can, chip away, and study at every moment I have.
What I’m learning most is that God is good. School’s tough. It’s busy. It’s stressful. But I’m hopeful. I’m learning so much. And I’m encouraged by everything I read and hear. A thing here or there strike me differently and get me thinking but it’s a good sign. I’m excited for all that this semester will bring!
Remember how I was excited about getting back to my goals? Well, I ended up catching a cold. Coughing, sneezy, runny nose, body aches. So much for watching my diet and exercising. Haven’t eaten much. Haven’t moved much. Pretty much sucks. This kind of sick just has to run its course. It better hurry up, because I’ve got stuff to do!
One week until I start seminary school. Later this week is orientation. I’m super excited to get started already! I’m ready to learn! I’m also getting nervous. What if it’s too hard? What if I can’t keep up? What if I fail? These are normal anxieties. A lot of people feel this way when they step up to something big. But that’s why they’re big dreams. Not everyone has the courage, will, and determination to do it. So here I am, making my attempt, answering the call. And I will be successful. It’s a path that I’m ready to take on. Each step will lead me to bigger and bright things in the future.
“May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.”
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”
The thing about mental health is simply that it effects your mind. The chemicals in your brain have become unregulated making it difficult to think straight. With bipolar whether your thoughts are good or bad, it’s amplified. When your surroundings are good, you feel ecstatic beyond reason. You’re energetic, electric, and love being alive. You’re so optimistic you feel on top of the world. When something so slight makes you worry, it sends you into panic, unable to breath, heart racing, doom encircling you. And then you get sad, and the world crashes around you. You can’t get out of bed. You can’t take a shower. You can’t eat or sleep. You think and feel things that aren’t real. All the while shadows following you. Voices trying to get your attention.
I started getting better. I’ve been exercising. I’ve been getting sleep. I’ve been using my coping skills to get me through tough moments. Really, I’ve been doing well. I thought so anyway. Just when I think things are going great with my health, I forget a dose of medicines, and BAM. I’m back to being a mental mess. I really thought I was doing well, until I wasn’t. It wasn’t even just the missing dose of medicines. It’s been gradual. I’ve let my guard down to my illness.
I resolve to contain this. I won’t let myself spiral out of control. I can do this. The best thing that I can do right now is to grant myself grace.
The last couple of days have been especially rough. I could not see any break of light. I was trapped in the black thicket of my mind. I asked my parents to take me to the hospital because I didn’t feel safe from myself. I couldn’t go to work. My mom had to drive me to work, and I still couldn’t go in. Again I said I needed to go to the hospital. I feel ashamed of that. I feel like I should have been able to get a hold of myself. But I couldn’t. Did I not have enough courage? Did I not have enough strength? Was I not trying hard enough? How I must have let them down. They must have lost respect for me. As a business, how can they trust me? I’m not reliable. If I can’t work, how can I do anything else? These thoughts are plaguing me. How can I express these feelings to my employer? Should I even disclose it? These questions go unanswered.
But. I’m doing better. We didn’t go to the hospital. I’ve been continuing to go to the gym. It’s so hard, but it gives me a sense of accomplishment. I’ve lounged in my pajamas for half the day, but haven’t succumbed to sleeping. Went out for coffee, went errand shopping. Laid down and read a book. Essentially I’ve been avoiding stress. Not sure if that’s good, or? I haven’t confronted my negative feelings. I can think about it now though. My parents’ love over the last few days shows me how much my parents so care for me. They’ve dropped everything to help me feel better. My mom made me breakfast. She took me out to lunch. She bought me some office supplies (which I secretly love). I’ve been bombarded with love.
I’m avoiding writing about how God fits into this picture. Anything I can think to say is so cliché. But it doesn’t make it any less true. I’m trying to come up with a better way to say this. God has been like clear mountain air. You’re hiking through the mountains, enjoying the scenery and all the beautiful trees, and peaks out in the distance. You’re breathing the air and it’s beautiful. On the trail you see some bear scat. And you get scared. It’s fresh. It stinks, it’s in the middle of the path. There’s a bear nearby. So you proceed with caution. Maybe you even see the bear. But all around you is still the mountain air. You can count on it. It has never left you. So you keep going. Soon enough the air is fresh again. The pine trees and the mountain laurels are perfume. You realize how satisfying the air is to your lungs. You breathe it in and feel full of joy. And you keep going on your journey trusting that the air will always be with you. He is the breath of life. A that’s just one piece of God.