365 Days Later

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One year ago tonight as I put my son George to bed, I remember praying while he fell asleep. I knew something was wrong because he was excessively thirsty, hungry, fatigued and had severe mood swings. I was scared and unsure. When we got up the next morning, I weighed him and discovered that he was losing weight. We went to the doctor that afternoon and George was given a diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes. And our lives have never been the same.

One year ago today, I was blissfully unaware of how to count carbs for meals. Testing someone’s blood sugar was a mystery, and I definitely had never been trained on how to administer insulin through an injection. I didn’t know the purpose of insulin, or the function of a pancreas. Long-acting insulin, short-acting insulin, lancets, test strips, pens (a fancy way to give shots), blood glucose records, food records, carb to insulin ratios, sick days, pumps, insets, cartridges, syringes, ketones, glucagon, and of course hypo or hyper-glycemia. All foreign. Like a foreign language in a foreign land.

365 days later it is now my native tongue and the T1D community familiar ground.

Some people told me that it would get better. That our “new normal” with T1D would get easier. That has not happened. I’m not sure it is possible with a chronic disease in which 24 hours a day, 7 days a week I am my son’s pancreas. And nutritionist. And nurse. And teacher. And mother. And comforter, and pastor/shepherd (although there is ONE much better at those roles, and I point George to Him every time I can). However, the way I respond to our new normal is better. And because of technology we can treat diabetes in a more straightforward way. For this I am extremely grateful.

A year ago tonight, I would never have fathomed going through some of the experiences we have had to endure. But there is the key phrase: Going Through. I have learned that grief is a season, not a destination. My stage of grieving now is such that I look back over the past year with an ache in my heart but faith and hope in my spirit. I have had some dark times. Anxiety. Depression. Isolation. Fear. Deep deep grief and loss. Sometimes it seemed like there was no light at the end of the diabetes tunnel. But none of those places were destinations for me. Those are not destinations for any of us.

What am I destined for?

365 days after a life-changing diagnosis for my beloved son, I can truly say that I’m destined to give God glory. I’m destined to lay all my pain, weakness, fear, sin and doubt at His feet and just worship Him. Because I learned this year that most of the time, that is the one and only thing I am capable of.

I learned that I’m far weaker and more fragile than I ever imagined.
I learned that I am completely dependent on His faithfulness.
I learned that He takes care of my son in ways I never can.
I learned a new level of teamwork and partnership with my incredible husband Shane.
I learned that He has uniquely fashioned my beautiful daughter to be on this life journey with us.
I learned that some of His people are truly truly His hands and feet. And He sends them to me exactly when I need them.
I learned that prayer is everything.
I learned that He is always speaking to me. Sometimes I listen.
I learned that He gets to be God all by Himself. This is the true definition of sovereignty.
Where there is anxiety, I learned how to ask for peace.
Where there is depression, I learned how to lift my eyes and worship.
Where there is isolation, I learned to receive help from others.
Where there is fear, I asked for faith.
The chasms of grief and loss do not go on forever.

365 days later it is no small miracle that I can lift my head toward my Savior and my God and declare, “My help comes from the LORD…He who keeps me will not slumber…The LORD is my keeper; the LORD is my shade on my right hand.” Ps. 121

Tonight when I put Georgie to bed, my heart ached. But my spirit was singing. He is healthy. He is learning how to walk with His Lord. He is a normal 6 year old boy. Who happens to have T1D. And we are all impacted by his little life, and his great courage.

“Courage is simply the willingness to be afraid and act anyway.”
Dr. Robert Anthony

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Letters to My Son

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My Precious Boy,

I’m sitting in our back yard tonight looking at the garden you helped me plant this weekend. Just a few hours ago, this patio table was covered with Star Wars Legos and you were teaching me all about them. I love watching your excitement! Georgie, you are so very loved. So valued and cherished.

God created you with an extra tender heart. You have a sensitivity toward others that runs deep.  You are usually aware of how others might be thinking or feeling. These are special things God has planted within you, and they will grow into beautiful tools that you can use to show compassion to many. They will also help you in your relationship with Jesus; having a tender heart toward Him, being sensitive to when He is speaking to you or wants you to do something.

Along with this, you are living with Type 1 Diabetes which has opened your eyes to a whole new world. You can empathize with people going through pain and suffering. In the past few weeks I have noticed that you not only empathize, but you act on it.  Which is true compassion.

  • When we read the Bible and pray you always want to pray for your Dad.  “Dear God.  Thank you for this beautiful day.  Please put joy and grace down deep into my Dad’s heart.  Let him know I want to play with him and I love him.”
  • I was struggling through some discouragement recently.  You could tell even though I tried my best to hide it from you. I will always remember how you told me that I’m beautiful and graceful and the bestest mom. You hugged me, kissed me and told me that you would help me all day long.
  • Your sister stepped on a bee yesterday. Your dad and I couldn’t get her calmed down, but you brought her water.  Then you brought a piece of bread and helped her eat it. You spoke soothingly to her about how the pain wouldn’t last long and everything would be OK.  She stopped crying and allowed you to care for her.  Because you have experienced pain, you knew how to care for someone in pain.  It was breathtaking to watch.

And Georgie, just as you reach out and care for others, I want to be sure that you know how many are reaching out and caring for you as well.  Today I realized this in a profound way.  Your grandparents from Lacey, WA are here visiting and taking care of your great grandma for a few weeks.  Your Grandma Patty had to learn how to give insulin shots to your great grandma.  When you realized this, you wanted her to give you a shot for lunch today.  My heart was in my throat because you haven’t allowed anyone to give you a shot except your dad and me since your hospital visit.  It was a huge step for you!  And for me.

So many people are ready and willing to walk this road with you.  Your grandparents here in town went to an all day seminar to learn how to care for you and give shots.  Your brother and sister-in-law are researching, learning, gathering recipes and doing all they can to be prepared in case anything ever happened to your dad and I.  My parents are learning as much as they can as well. Your uncle, aunt and cousins sent a huge box of goodies especially to bring us joy.  And above all…everyone is praying.  Contending for your healing.  Constantly.

I’m sure by the time you read these letters, you will know that one of my all time favorite books/movies is The Lord of the Rings.  Toward the end of the movie, when Frodo and Sam are trying to climb the last mountain that will take them to destroy The Ring, Frodo falls down under the weight of the evil ring and cannot get up.  Sam cries, “I cannot carry the ring for you.  But I can carry you!!”  And he carries Frodo up the mountain.

We cannot carry T1D for you, my brave boy.  But we can, and will carry you.  Because we are also being carried.  By the Creator and Maker of tender, sensitive hearts.  By the One who loves us beyond measure.

Triggers

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Today was a nice day!  It felt similar to our old normal in several ways.  Georgie’s blood sugar numbers were pretty consistent, thanks to still being in the Honeymoon Phase.  So he was energetic, funny and didn’t have any big mood swings.  Hopie is getting her 2 year molars, so she is another story, but along with Georgie she had a great day.  Shane worked all day in the back yard.  He says he’s trying to make it into a “sanctuary” for me.  I appreciate him so much.

I took the kids in the double stroller for a 5.5 mile run, then a picnic at the park.  It was really fun and I’m getting accustomed to doing the finger poke, and determining what snack will keep him as stable as possible.  It is still a little awkward when George announces to the entire park that we are going to check his blood sugar, and would anybody like to come watch….but I’m thankful that right now he is too young to be self-conscious.

We even had S’Mores tonight.  Shane made a fire pit and I was able to calculate the carbs and give a shot for George to have one.  We had fun and I tried hard not to eat so many that it cancelled out the calories I burned on my run.

All was well until I decided to research various insulin pumps online tonight.  I never know what might trigger the tears and anger.  Tonight when I typed “Insulin Pumps” into the search engine, I was instantly in tears.  Frustrated.  Angry.  Afraid.  Am I really doing this??  Am I seriously learning about different insulin pumps because my 5 year old has Type 1 Diabetes?  I thought I had worked through the shock.  But after a relatively normal day, when it kinda felt like I had my life back…reality hits.  And it hits hard.  And I remember that I still need to set my alarm to check his blood sugar at 10pm, 1am and 4am.

I know of one other trigger.  When well-meaning, kind-hearted people tell me, “It will get better.”  NO.  Actually it won’t.  My sweet little son will not get better unless a miracle happens.  We might adjust to counting carbs and giving shots better.  We might get more educated, more familiar, better able to manage this evil evil evil disease.  But it will not get better.  Life for our family is forever altered.  And as I wrote about in my previous blog, Diabetes is not the king of my home.  But unfortunately it is in my home.  And it has not, nor will it ever make our life better.  Hearing, “It will get better” does not produce good things in my heart.

Having said that…in my grief, fear, anger and frustration tonight, I realize that although things may not get better so to speak, hearts are going deeper and perspectives are narrowing in on what is truly, truly important in life.

For example.  Today after our run, we are walking up a grassy hill to the park when out of nowhere George says, “Mom, I don’t want to do things my own way.”  I wasn’t sure what he meant since this was totally out of the blue.  So I just waited to see what else he had to say.  And the next words out of this miracle boy’s mouth were, “I want to do things God’s way.  Because God’s ways are always right.”

I couldn’t stop fast enough.  I knelt down beside him, wrapped my arms around him and told him that that was all I wanted too.  I encouraged him to keep thinking and feeling that his entire life.  Because it is truth.  And it is life.

And I wonder if his little heart is beginning to realize that God’s purposes are always higher than ours.  HIs plan incredibly deeper and further reaching than we can even imagine.

So I will keep researching insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring (CGMs).  I will not shy away from people as they try to care for me and offer me hope.  Because there HAS to be some eternal purpose to all this.  There has to be.  Because Georgie said so.

A Declaration

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Over the past week, I have been becoming more aware of the far-reaching effects of Type 1 Diabetes.  It is sinking in that unless a miracle happens (which we are believing for!), we are going to live life side by side with this disease.  Every day.  Every growth spurt George has.  Every head cold or flu.  Every sport he may be interested in.  His future health.  His future family.  Side by side with T1D.  Not my choice of a lifetime companion.

I’ve heard what T1D has to say up to this point.  It has been rather loud and clear.  But it is my turn to talk now.  I have a few things to say.  Although speaking out is not as easy for me now as it once was.

Being in ministry like I was years ago, I had a constant platform (so to speak) that put me in situations where speaking out was expected of me.  I got so used to preaching, teaching, leading prayers, counseling etc., that I didn’t think twice about public speaking.  It didn’t matter if it was at a women’s conference in Tacoma, at a Bible Institute in Africa, or in a family counseling setting.

But then life changed.  God began a heavy-duty breaking, rebuilding and refining in my little life.  I realized that what I might have to say was really just not that important after all.  I no longer had those automatic ministry opportunities, and now that nearly 6 years have passed, I find my heart leaping out of my chest with anxiety just at the thought of praying in a group setting.  Even if its just a group of 2.  Not only has life changed, I have changed.  Drastically.

But today at the leaders meeting for the BSF class I attend, I knew I needed to voice a declaration.  My declaration of life.  As I faced 60ish ladies, in fear and trembling (lots of trembling) here is what I declared (or attempted to at least):

  • I will not waste this pain.  I will not waste the suffering that this disease causes.  I will offer it up to the Lord, and watch Him turn it into something extravagant.  Something beautiful.  Something with eternal purpose.  I will do whatever I need to do so that none of this journey through suffering is wasted.  I will boast in our weakness, so that His strength is even more evident.

“As they pass through the Valley of Weeping, they make it a place of springs.”  Ps. 84:6

  • I might have moments of anxiety, but I will not live an anxious life.  Fear, anxiety, unpredictability…that’s just part of the learning curve of T1D.  But I will round that curve.  I have trusted in the One True God for as long as I can remember.  I will not stop now.

“…none of those who trust in Him will be desolate.” Ps. 34:22

  • I will be the mother He has called me to be.  I remember at a baby shower for Georgie, a sweet single mom of twins came up to me and said, “Remember, not only did God choose George to be your son, He chose YOU to be his mother.  No one else can do the job like you can.”  I have never forgotten that.  These aren’t just my children…they are actually God’s.  He entrusted them to me because He thinks I can do this.  So I will.  With all my heart.  That means taking care of my marriage, and my health too.  So I ran 5 miles on Monday. I’m still going to do a half marathon before Autumn this year.  And I try my hardest to continue to encourage Shane with my respect and love every chance I get.

“No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent.”  Ps. 9:10

  • Diabetes is not the king of my home.  Because if it is, then we have no hope.  The King of our home is the Man of Sorrows who bore stripes on His back for our healing.  The King of our home is the Prince of Peace who is not only present during this storm, but He takes my hand and as I keep my eyes on Him, enables me to walk out into it.  And over to the other side.

“The LORD will keep you from all harm -He will watch over your life.”  Ps. 121:7

I don’t know all the reasons why the Lord wanted me to verbalize my declaration today in that group of incredible women….but I knew that I would also blog about it.

Because I will not waste this suffering.  I will use it.  To bring glory to God and encouragement to others.  This journey is not about me.  Its all about the One who is carrying me through.

Thursday Mornings

This morning was not my all-time best morning.  It was a Thursday morning.  And Thursday mornings are typically not my all-time best.

I have been part of Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) for a few years and in the last few months I have been serving as a children’s leader (in training).  One of the BEST experiences in serving-ministry I have ever had.  I absolutely love it, and feel humbled to be part of it.  The one and only aspect of it that I don’t enjoy, is the process of actually getting there on Thursday mornings.  Seriously, I think every single Thursday morning my kids are more argumentative, I’m less tolerant, I never allow enough time to get all of us ready, the house looks like a bomb went off and everyone really should just go back to bed.  And this is just a usual Thursday morning around here. 

Maybe you read my previous blog on what mornings look like for me now that George has been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.  It is time consuming, frequently stressful and emotional, and the hardest part for me:  Unpredictable.  No telling what Georgie’s blood sugar numbers will be, or how he will feel upon waking, or what his little emotions are going through.  So I now add this element to my already ridiculous Thursday mornings.

This morning, all of the above was in play…except I need to add that my daughter found a bag of dried lavender (my fav scent on earth), and spilled it.  All.Over.The.Entire.House.  One of the first times I’ve been thankful that we have such a small house.  We were very late to BSF, but at least we smelled good. 

So I finally loaded the kids in the car.  I sat behind the wheel and looked in the mirror at myself with crazy hair, food stained clothes, and tear stained face and I thought to myself, “I’m going to crack.  I’m going to completely lose it.”  I have been feeling stretched to my limit on so many levels…absolutely emotionally messed up, physically exhausted and seeing the effects of stress and trauma, spiritually confused and wrestling with God (more blogs on that to come, I’m sure).  It’s been almost a month of being in Type 1 Diabetes survival mode and I’m honestly considering pulling back on everything in our lives.  Every single component of our lives seems overwhelming and insurmountable.  And honestly, at times I’d like to give in to the depression, discouragement and hopelessness.  Because once you give in, the fighting ceases. 

Then I hear Georgie’s sweet voice behind me say, “Mommy, can we bring some food to that poor man that we see on our way to Bible Study?” 

I know who he is referring to.  Every week we pass an elderly gentleman who stands at a certain intersection and begs for help.  We have passed by him for 3 years.  We have talked about bringing him breakfast.  We have talked about praying for him.  We have talked about how helping those in need brings great pleasure to Jesus. But we have not done it.

And now my little boy is noticing him again.  Maybe Georgie feels this man’s pain now that he also experiences pain with Type 1 Diabetes.  Maybe Georgie understands this man’s helplessness now that he has felt that as well.  My son is tuned in to the lonely, hurting, unnoticed ones.  And it is beautiful.

What really struck me is that when we pulled into Starbucks to get a bagel and cream cheese for the elderly man, George didn’t complain that he couldn’t have his usual cake pop or cheese square.  He didn’t bat an eye when I said I couldn’t get a treat for him since I wouldn’t be able to dose him for it before Bible Study.  My five year old son was focused on feeding the poor regardless of what it cost him personally. 

I gave George the bag of food, and when we passed by the elderly gentleman, George rolled down his window and handed it to him.  The man gave thanks, and my darling boy said, “God bless you.” 

This particular Thursday morning was hard, yes.  But it was also holy. 

And I took a deep breath.  And I decided to keep fighting.  On all fronts.

Use it or Lose it

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Well.  That’s the last time I go three weeks without exercising!!

Due to my neck issues, cold weather, and changing sleeping patterns of my little girl, I went three full weeks without any exercise.  Four days ago I started up again, and seriously, I can barely walk.  My muscles are very sore.  I was shocked at how much ground I had lost!  My stamina was less, muscle strength lower, definitely slower and in need of more breaks during the workout.

Yesterday as I was glaring down Jillian on my exercise DVD, wondering how I was going to get through the next circuit of torture…I tried to get my mind off the pain by thinking through my situation.  I know that physical and spiritual things are closely related.  (If you want to study it more, I suggest 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul talks about the “natural” and the “spiritual” and how they relate to one another.)   As I thought about how much ground I had lost physically in three weeks, it led me to think about other things I could lose if I’m not careful to exercise them.

Here are some things I came up with:

Maintaining an attitude of worship unto the Lord.  Of course worship is a lifestyle, not just a few minutes at a church service.  It’s a posture of the heart.  It’s a choice to glorify God in the midst of any circumstance.  It’s honoring the Creator, the Great I AM, the Almighty God, YHVH….realizing the incredible privilege we have to do this because He pursued us, rescued us, and provided a way for us to spend Eternity with Him.  Simply put:  If I don’t posture my heart to worship Him every single minute of every day, I will end up worshipping something else.  And it could be anything!  Myself.  My husband or children.  Pursuit of money, education or status.  Material things.  Pursuit of health/fitness.  The list goes on forever.  He is God.  I am not.  I need to constantly work on maintaining a heart filled with worship unto the Lord.

Praying and listening to God.  These are disciplines that Christians should be continually working on.  I’m not sure which one is more challenging, but I know you can’t have one without the other (usually).  Because of my season of life with small children, I rarely get a chunk of time alone to kneel and spend time with God in prayer like I used to.  So I have been trying to pray and listen as I go about my day.  It doesn’t take much. God knows my heart.  He even knows what I need before I ask Him for it (Matt. 6:8).  Which leads me back to the previous point.  He already knows my needs.  I can just worship Him and be confident that He is at work on my behalf.  As for the listening part, He speaks through His written Word of course, and through His people, and through nature, and through circumstances, and through whatever way He wants to!  The point is, He is speaking.  He is always speaking even if its just to say, “Wait.  Be silent.  Spend time with Me.”  Am I listening?  Am I praying more, or praying less?  If I’m not in this constant communion with my God, I have to ask myself why not??  Am I used to going about my life without talking to and hearing from Him?  Do honestly think I can manage without Him?

Being uncomfortable.  If the top two points aren’t hard enough, let me throw this one in.  If I want to run a marathon next year (which I do), I’m going to have to push myself to very uncomfortable levels in running to achieve that goal.  Consequently, if I want to grow in my walk with the Lord, and in my relationships with others I will need to be willing to step out of apathy and comfort in order to do so.   Do I want my faith to increase?  Then I need to be ready for it to be tested.  Do I want to learn how to help the helpless and needy?  Then when a need presents itself, I will have to actually find a way to meet that need.  Do I want my marriage to increase in intimacy?  Then I must choose to love Shane with vulnerability, forgiveness, honesty and no strings attached…regardless of how he chooses to love me.  Do I want my children to grow up with strong Bible-founded convictions?  Then I absolutely must be willing to be ridiculed and who knows what else as we set the Word of God as the standard of our home, time and time again.  There’s nothing comfortable about it:  if I want to cultivate these things in my life I will have to practice them.

The amazing thing about exercising is the more you do it, the more you want to do it.  I’m praying for myself, and for whoever is reading this blog, that the same is true about the above points.  The more we worship, the more we will want to worship.  The more we pray and listen to our Heavenly Father, the more we will desire His voice and His presence above all others.  The more growth and change we are open to, the more we will allow ourselves to be uncomfortable.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!  What do you think are some other things in the category of “Use it or Lose it”?  What ways have you found to foster growth or strength in your life?  I’m glad we’re in this together!  I may need 2 ibuprofen to get through my next workout, but I’m going to do it.  And I’ll keep worshipping.  And keep praying and listening.  And keep getting uncomfortable.  How about you?

Sometimes Sunday

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I have not blogged in such a long time that I’m finding it very difficult to get started. No joke, it has taken me weeks to simply pick out a blog theme and I’m still not sure its the right one for me, and I definitely don’t understand all the elements of it. (What exactly is a widget?) I have no idea what to call my blog, so I’m calling it “The Blog.” Maybe if I just start writing, everything else will fall into place. I hope.

Sometimes Sundays are restful days for us. We most often go to church on Sunday, but sometimes they are days of organizing, cleaning and shopping. Sometimes we get together with friends. Sometimes I use Sunday afternoons and evenings to prepare for the upcoming week. I tend to be a forward-thinking, goal-oriented person. I try to think ahead because I like the feeling of being prepared and organized. I enjoy dwelling on what is to come, not necessarily what was in the past.

This Sunday, today, wasn’t normal for me. I found myself thinking not about where I’m headed in life, but rather how far I have come. Actually that’s not exactly right. I should say: I’m thinking about how the Lord’s incredible grace, unfathomable love and kindness have carried me. He is continually molding me, changing me and enabling me to live this life. And sometimes I realize just how far of a journey that has been, and how far it yet continues.

His love broke down my walls of distrust and fear.
His kindness caused me to want to know Him.
His grace humbled me and enabled me to come to Him.

From insecure and controlling, to vulnerable and trusting.
From performing to please others, to quietly learning how to serve out of love.
From rough waters in marriage, to the stream of Living Water that has brought life and healing to every area of our relationship.
From barrenness to two miraculous children.
From 220 pounds, to (enter secret weight here) and healthier lifestyle.
From looking over my shoulder at where I might have lived, where my children might have grown up, who they would’ve grown up with…to truly desiring God’s will above my own selfish one.
From being in full-time ministry, to isolation.
From isolation, to healthy church community that has become our extended family.
From depression, to joy.

Sometimes Sunday can be a day to prepare for what’s ahead. But I’m grateful that this Sunday, I took a minute to remember the steps already taken. Sometimes I think I didn’t actually take all those steps…I think I was carried on the shoulder of my Shepherd, Jesus. Because that’s the kind of Savior He is.