I have two beautiful daughters that I love so much. My oldest is Grace. She is unique and wonderful in so many ways. God often uses her to teach me about himself and unfortunately myself as well. However, this story is about my younger daughter, Emma and how she has been at the center of God’s generous grace in my life.
Emma is 7 and she is an amazing kid. She has these big brown eyes that she uses to make the best expressions. She has a quirky, dry sense of humor and delivers one-liners in a matter of fact way. She is very funny. She is intelligent. We often think she is evil genius smart. She looks at life differently and chooses to make her own way. She doesn’t ride the waves of life but parts them and makes waves of her own. She walks around with her hand on her hip and uses her hands to express her ideas. She is fiercely loyal and devoted. If you are lucky enough to be loved by Emma, then you are truly loved. Emma has been a joy and a challenge to parent. Emma also has type 1 diabetes.
Over the last eight months since Emma’s diagnosis, I can recount many examples of God’s grace, God’s provision and God’s protection demonstrated in the life of our family. But recently God has been using this horrible situation to redeem an area of my life that has been in desperate need of the gospel. My life has been transformed through this process. I have taken on the role of a nurse and constant caregiver to Emma. While I love my daughter and care for her willingly, it is not a role I feel qualified for or capable of sometimes. The responsibility and weight of my decisions and attentiveness to her is often overwhelming and exhausting. I often feel that I am responsible for her very survival. And while I am responsible for her care, ultimately God is sovereign over Emma’s life and it is in His purview to sustain her. In my love for her and also my foolishness and ultimate arrogance, I have forgotten this. I have tried to take on a job that was not intended for me and that was too big for me to manage. The weight has been crushing me.
Diabetes, I am learning, isn’t always a predictable disease. It is full of variables, differing ratios, timetables and other factors that can change how I treat Emma. It is a lot of mental figuring, measuring, calculating, planning and judgment calls which could mean a normal blood glucose for Emma or one of two perilous extremes. The high blood sugars bother me. Besides the fact that Emma can be irrational, emotional and hard to manage during these times, I am thinking about the damage being done to her body by these high blood sugars. But honestly, it is the lows that scare me. And specifically, the ones that happen at night when I not at my most vigilant. It is hard to sleep while the fear of finding your daughter unresponsive in the morning looms in the back or front of my mind. Often my husband and I will have to set an alarm to check her at two am. If she is low then we have to get her up to drink some juice or eat some candy, wait to ensure her blood glucose is up and then get our sleeping child to eat a snack.(Emma often has some of the same symptoms of being high but with lethargy and tingling extremities. Sometimes she doesn’t hear me. And I have to be very firm in order to get her let me treat her.) It becomes increasingly difficult to wake night after night and have your sleep interrupted. It affects all areas of your life. There have been several nights where I have slept through the alarm or have been so disoriented that I cannot remember whether I have checked Emma or not. I often make mistakes with her care- miscalculations, misfiguring or even forgetting her meter and insulin a few times when I am awake. And I punish myself and berate myself for my carelessness. The stakes are just too high in my mind for me to allow those kinds of mistakes.
But God has slowly been using these moments to apply the gospel to my heart. Last night I didn’t plan to check Emma at 2. I checked her before bed and she’d had a snack and no more insulin. At three a.m. I awoke and thought of Emma but decided she would be ok. I was very tired and still half asleep. I dozed back off and awoke again at four. I wrestled with the idea of getting up but instead tried to run her numbers and the logic in my head. I didn’t want to get up and I didn’t want to disturb her sleep if I didn’t have to. But I felt bothered. I prayed that if Emma needed me, that God would wake me. It was the kind of prayer that Paul describes as our uttering and groaning, that the spirit understands and he makes intercession based on what he knows we need. At five a.m. I was abruptly woken from a sound sleep and a dream. I jumped out of bed, grabbed a meter from the kitchen and made my way to Emma’s room. I quickly set everything up and had to rouse Emma so she wouldn’t move her hand away. The number was 55. Anything under 70 is low. I woke Emma to get her to drink some juice. I had to fix her a snack and recheck her. As I was waiting I began to think about the fact that had I not awoken and checked her, it would have been several hours before I would have checked her when she woke up. I didn’t want to think about what would have happened if her blood glucose had continued to drop unchecked for that long. I waited and rechecked Emma. Her level had actually gone down. I started to feel fear creep up on me. All I could think was that I would need to wake Dale and we would need to grab both of our children and head to Gainesville to the pediatric emergency room. A steadying voice urged me to check again. Finally, she was rising, slower than normal but her blood glucose was rising. I got her to eat and drink and got her back into my bed. There was no way I was letting her out of my arms for the rest of the night. I rechecked her for the fourth time and she was back into the 70’s, still low but hopefully moving up after she digested the snack.
I walked back into the kitchen to put the meter away and just slipped to the floor, completely broken and overwhelmed by the near crisis that happens too often at our house as we deal with diabetes. I had been looking back over her numbers, the doses, the carbs, my choices. I was looking for my mistake. I was blaming myself and berating myself for not checking and for delaying so long. But it was too much. I just wept and prayed out my fears of being inadequate and a failure to my poor child. I just let my frustrations and sadness come free. And then floating through my thoughts, clear and distinct was the unsolicited prayer of a friend at small group the night before. I wasn’t in the prayer requests spoken during the group but nevertheless, here was Kim praying for my strength and for grace as Emma’s mother and her nurse. It was so clear and beautiful as in that moment God revealed his grace and provision by prompting another to uphold me in prayer, by answering my semi-conscious groans for grace, by sovereignly bringing me to alertness when Emma needed me most.
God has been trying desperately for years to dismantle the lies that permeate my being telling me I am not good enough. He has been gently and beautifully showing me that He loves me and that his love and grace are always available to me, completely independent of my mistakes, failures, successes and accomplishments. He is showing me his love and care of Emma by using extraordinary methods to provide for her. God is so generous with his grace. He does not withhold it out of tough love. He does not pull it away when I seek solace in my own fallible efforts instead of relying on his unfailing grace.
I texted my friend the next morning to thank her and tell her that her prayers were used by God to get me through a very difficult experience. She was surprised and delighted. She hadn’t planned to pray for me but it had just come forth as a prompting from the spirit. God is amazing. The fingerprints of his grace and mercy sometimes can only be truly seen by looking backward as His gracious care for us is revealed through eyes that have been opened to his handiwork.
Continue to open my eyes Father. Continue to show me your grace and help me to fully trust and know your love for me. Amen.
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