Emma, Type 1 Diabetes & the Gospel

Today, we are at the 5-year mark of our daughter Emma’s diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. So much has changed since that day. Sometimes it seems that day was a lifetime ago. Sometimes it still feels painfully fresh in my mind. I’d like to say it has gotten easier with time, that we’ve figured it all out and that diabetes is but a small speed bump in our day to day lives. But that isn’t the reality of our lives. The road hasn’t gotten easier but God also hasn’t deserted us. In his way, He is using this horrible disease to draw me closer to himself and to rescue me from myself.

Last year Emma made the decision that she was ready for a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) and an insulin pump. We always wanted it to be her decision. Personally, I was glad because her current therapy was beginning to wear on her and frankly, it wasn’t working anymore. These two devices have been such a tremendous blessing for Emma. No longer are her days filled with shots and her overall health is better. Her A1c dropped two points and for the first time, she was under the target for her age range. We can give her more freedom and make better-informed decisions for her treatment. We were and still are so very thankful for both devices.

However, things aren’t perfect. With tighter control comes more dangerously low blood sugars. We often treat lows multiple times per week. Most of these lows are at night. There is also the work of always changing a pod or putting on a sensor. Puberty and the natural process of growing require more insulin. With the benefits have come all new challenges. 

Emma was 6 years old at diagnosis. She was too young to really understand everything that was happening to her and what it would all mean for her life. Over the last year, she has begun to truly process her condition. She is tired and weary of the constant and unrelenting nature of her disease. She is weighed down by the reality of a lifetime of diabetes. She is aware of her mortality and each night is a struggle for her to go to sleep without fear. The pump site changes and the sensor changes have become more painful. The finger pricks are hurting more and more. She is tired of being strong and she is often angry. Dale and I have been watching this unfold with broken hearts. Recently, after a tear-filled sensor change, both of us realized that we had slipped back into a depression, having to watch Emma suffer and struggle so much.

The next night, after making sure that she was checking/calibrating before bed, tired and weary I fell asleep. Sometime around 2 am I unexpectedly awoke from a deep sleep. I looked over at my phone and realized her cgm had not been transmitting for hours and I hadn’t heard the alarms. I reluctantly got out of bed to go and fix the problem. For some unknown reason, her cgm was reporting a signal loss even though it was beside her. For the next twenty minutes, I did several things trying to solve the problem so I could go back to bed. Finally, her phone started reading her BG. It said 101 and going down. I debated whether to give her a snack or wait it out to see if she started to rise like normal. Before I could decide, her CGM said 111 and steady. I was satisfied with that number. However, I just didn’t feel released to go back to sleep until I checked her with the meter. The meter said 72. 72 is a low BG but not crazy low. I gave her a snack and waited for her BG to go back up. Instead, it went further down into the 50’s. Finally, after rechecking and suspending her pump, she was back into the 80’s and going up. I realized what had just happened. God had intervened to save Emma’s life. I wasn’t supposed to wake up. The CGM makes so many noises all the time and it is easy to become accustomed to them. The CGM didn’t see the low BG. Technology had failed us but God had not. 

One of the hardest things about being a parent of a child with diabetes is watching your child dying numerous times a week. Their BG is dropping and they are dying while you try desperately to do what you can to save their life. Over and over again. I know that sounds harsh. And for so long I downplayed the seriousness of our situation, of her disease to be able to manage our life each day. I had to make it seem like something I could handle. But God is trying to rescue me. I’m not meant to handle this disease on my own. This burden is too much for me to try and handle without his grace each day. The depression came about because I was slowly realizing that no matter what gadgets and treatments I get for Emma, I can’t fix it for her. I want so desperately to make it somehow better for her. I want to protect her heart from the hurt and suffering that she is feeling. My heart breaks every time I hurt her in order to treat her.

After that night, I realized that the only hope for Emma is the gospel. The Gospel is the only place where she is going to find grace and compassion. The Gospel is the only place where she can find healing and an answer to her suffering. Only the Gospel can redeem this disease for her and provide a purpose for her life. Only through the Gospel will she ultimately be cured of this disease through eternal life in Jesus.

I had unknowingly fallen into a trap. I had begun to put my faith into something else to save Emma. I had placed my faith in technology and in myself to save her life and her heart. Emma ultimately belongs to God. And he loves her more than I do. He has plans for her life. He desires his own relationship with her that will be hard fought and deepened by her suffering and his provision for her. In my Mom heart I tried to stand in the way of that. She is my beautiful girl and each day is hard fought for her life. But God is asking me to trust him with her physical life and her heart. He is also trying to rescue me from the way I have been harming myself spiritually, emotionally, and physically by trying to carry a load I was not meant to carry.

I don’t fully understand what this looks like day in and day out as I still perform my duties as her pancreas. And I know that Emma’s road is going to be hard and full of lots of gospel conversations. I know there will be tears, heartache, fears, pain and so many things I cannot fix or endure for her. I don’t yet have this perfected yet. I barely have a handle on it. There are many days with tears and some days where the little scraps of tape and glue I have holding it all together mercifully give way so that I can receive the grace that is being extended to me. This seems impossible to accomplish right now but I know that God will continue to patiently walk me through this. I know He will never give up on me.

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The Difference a Year Makes

We have had a long year. 2012 was by far one of the toughest years of my life.
Yet I can honestly say there is a certain beauty and clarity that came in the midst of our struggles. It has taken me a year to be ready to tell this story in words, to describe those first days and to record the emotions I felt when Emma, our six-year-old was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The day used to belong to just myself in our family, as I marked another year. Now every May third Emma and I will celebrate another year of survival and life together.We awoke early in the morning to get ready to take Emma to her pediatrician. Dale and I were both quiet and somber. We hadn’t slept well. Both of us were dreading the appointment. We both knew what the diagnosis would be but we also didn’t want to extinguish the last vestiges of hope that there might be something that could explain it all away. We have nurse friends who had already prepared us for what was to come. Her symptoms and the results of a urine test done the previous evening all pointed towards diabetes. Still, we couldn’t help but pray and plead and beg for a miracle.

We awoke early in the morning to get ready to take Emma to her pediatrician. Dale and I were both quiet and somber. We hadn’t slept well. Both of us were dreading the appointment. We both knew what the diagnosis would be but we also didn’t want to extinguish the last vestiges of hope that there might be something that could explain it all away. We have nurse friends who had already prepared us for what was to come. Her symptoms and the results of a urine test done the previous evening all pointed towards diabetes. Still, we couldn’t help but pray and plead and beg for a miracle. We waited in the doctor’s office. It didn’t take long to confirm what everybody seemed to already know. We were tearful and confused. I was scared and lost and shocked. I remember thinking for days afterward that it just seemed so random like a lightening strike or being run over by a semi truck. My phone kept alerting me to thoughtful birthday wishes from friends on Facebook all wishing me happiness and joy. Only a handful of people knew that we were actually living something akin to hell.

We waited in the doctor’s office. It didn’t take long to confirm what everybody seemed to already know. We were tearful and confused. I was scared and lost and shocked. I remember thinking for days afterward that it just seemed so random like a lightening strike or being run over by a semi truck. My phone kept alerting me to thoughtful birthday wishes from friends on Facebook all wishing me happiness and joy. Only a handful of people knew that we were actually living something akin to hell.We had to wait in the waiting room while the pediatrician got us in to see the endocrinologist. I remember thinking about how stricken we must have looked. There were other parents waiting with their children. The doctor spoke to us so kindly, gave us condolences and asked that we keep them informed. I was thinking about what the other parents were thinking. As a parent when you see or hear of the illness of another child you breathe a prayer and hug your kids a little tighter. Today we were the catalyst for all of that in the parents around us in that waiting room.

We had to wait in the waiting room while the pediatrician got us in to see the endocrinologist. I remember thinking about how stricken we must have looked. There were other parents waiting with their children. The doctor spoke to us so kindly, gave us condolences and asked that we keep them informed. I was thinking about what the other parents were thinking. As a parent when you see or hear of the illness of another child you breathe a prayer and hug your kids a little tighter. Today we were the catalyst for all of that in the parents around us in that waiting room.We made our way to a part of Shands we were unfamiliar with. We were just too shocked, too overwhelmed with fear and questions and grief to do anything but put one foot in front of the other. That day we spent hours talking to new doctors and nurses. And even in those moments of utter loss, God was still taking care of us. Our wonderful nurse who seemed to just love Emma instantly, who was not supposed to be our nurse that day was just one of the ways that God was loving us through this heartbreaking event. After conversations about A1C’s, Blood glucose, and ketones, Shannon told Emma that she too was diabetic and had been to many of the places that we had been, including Guatemala where our family had visited just six months before. Here was a ray of life. She told Emma that she could do anything she wanted too, that diabetes would not keep her from a full life.

We made our way to a part of Shands we were unfamiliar with. We were just too shocked, too overwhelmed with fear and questions and grief to do anything but put one foot in front of the other. That day we spent hours talking to new doctors and nurses. And even in those moments of utter loss, God was still taking care of us. Our wonderful nurse who seemed to just love Emma instantly, who was not supposed to be our nurse that day was just one of the ways that God was loving us through this heartbreaking event. After conversations about A1C’s, Blood glucose, and ketones, Shannon told Emma that she too was diabetic and had been to many of the places that we had been, including Guatemala where our family had visited just six months before. Here was a ray of life. She told Emma that she could do anything she wanted too, that diabetes would not keep her from a full life.There are a few things that stand out more than others in that day. The first being that we were very close to losing Emma. Her numbers were so high, she was passing large ketones- this had been going on for months now. We had noticed the changes in her but didn’t understand why. We were watching her but thought maybe it was a growth spurt, that she was growing up, more active, a phase. I didn’t want to be the hypochondriac mom that was googling things, making myself crazy. But a dear friend said the words that were running through my head. I had kept pushing the word diabetic away from my thoughts for a couple of weeks. I had been trying to explain other reasons for her increased thirst and hunger. My friend Tracy, another gift from God, helped me to know that I couldn’t ignore it any longer. Tracy is also a nurse and I had noticed Emma had a yeast infection the day before. I mentioned it and the other stuff to Tracy and she said another friend’s child had been diagnosed with diabetes With the same symptoms. And there it was. The word was out. The word I had been not letting myself say had just been said out loud. I called her pediatrician. If we hadn’t been out of town, they would have seen her that afternoon. I had a day of utter anxiety. I called and texted Dale, a few friends, and my mom- looking for comfort, prayers. And because of all of this waiting, hesitation, I now sat in the doctor’s office feeling a load of guilt and remorse. I had been watching my precious daughter slowly starve to death and struggle with the emotional and physical toll of this disease. We had been correcting and disciplining her mood swings and questioning her need to eat and drink so much. I had been thinking about the beautiful young lady she was becoming, losing the little kid weight, growing up. She was starving, dying in front of me and I couldn’t or didn’t protect her. They said that if we had not come that day, they would have seen us in the emergency room by the weekend. Every time I think about that, it scares me to realize that we were so close to losing her. To experiencing what some parents experience when their child collapses or becomes so sick that they are hospitalized. I am so thankful that God graciously spared us that. It took grace and some time to forgive myself for not understanding what was happening.

There are a few things that stand out more than others in that day. The first being that we were very close to losing Emma. Her numbers were so high, she was passing large ketones- this had been going on for months now. We had noticed the changes in her but didn’t understand why. We were watching her but thought maybe it was a growth spurt, that she was growing up, more active, a phase. I didn’t want to be the hypochondriac mom that was googling things, making myself crazy. But a dear friend said the words that were running through my head. I had kept pushing the word diabetic away from my thoughts for a couple of weeks. I had been trying to explain other reasons for her increased thirst and hunger. My friend Tracy, another gift from God, helped me to know that I couldn’t ignore it any longer. Tracy is also a nurse and I had noticed Emma had a yeast infection the day before. I mentioned it and the other stuff to Tracy and she said another friend’s child had been diagnosed with diabetes With the same symptoms. And there it was. The word was out. The word I had been not letting myself say had just been said out loud. I called her pediatrician. If we hadn’t been out of town, they would have seen her that afternoon. I had a day of utter anxiety. I called and texted Dale, a few friends, and my mom- looking for comfort, prayers. And because of all of this waiting, hesitation, I now sat in the doctor’s office feeling a load of guilt and remorse. I had been watching my precious daughter slowly starve to death and struggle with the emotional and physical toll of this disease. We had been correcting and disciplining her mood swings and questioning her need to eat and drink so much. I had been thinking about the beautiful young lady she was becoming, losing the little kid weight, growing up. She was starving, dying in front of me and I couldn’t or didn’t protect her. They said that if we had not come that day, they would have seen us in the emergency room by the weekend. Every time I think about that, it scares me to realize that we were so close to losing her. To experiencing what some parents experience when their child collapses or becomes so sick that they are hospitalized. I am so thankful that God graciously spared us that. It took grace and some time to forgive myself for not understanding what was happening.We took Emma to lunch and tried to explain what had just happened. Several blood tests and her first shot of insulin was so much for all of us. I remember us trying to explain to her that this wasn’t something we took medicine for and it would be cured or fixed. We had to tell our six-year-old that this would be for the rest of her life. We went back to the doctor’s office for more training, education on our new life. At one moment I remember thinking for the first of many times how surreal the whole situation was. I remember thinking, is this really happening to us? Are we really doing this? In my hand was a syringe. I was being taught how to roll and draw up insulin, how to mix Humalog and NPH. I was being taught how to give my daughter a shot. I was having to give myself a shot so that I would know I wasn’t hurting her. (It hurt a lot.) Our insurance wasn’t going to cover our $1000.00 pharmacy bill. There were schedules for eating, insulin that peaks, meters, lows, highs, ketones, carbs, snacks, lancets, testing sites, injection sites- I looked at Emma and just wanted to snatch her up and run away. I wanted to just hold her tight and leave it all behind.

We took Emma to lunch and tried to explain what had just happened. Several blood tests and her first shot of insulin was so much for all of us. I remember us trying to explain to her that this wasn’t something we took medicine for and it would be cured or fixed. We had to tell our six-year-old that this would be for the rest of her life. We went back to the doctor’s office for more training, education on our new life. At one moment I remember thinking for the first of many times how surreal the whole situation was. I remember thinking, is this really happening to us? Are we really doing this? In my hand was a syringe. I was being taught how to roll and draw up insulin, how to mix Humalog and NPH. I was being taught how to give my daughter a shot. I was having to give myself a shot so that I would know I wasn’t hurting her. (It hurt a lot.) Our insurance wasn’t going to cover our $1000.00 pharmacy bill. There were schedules for eating, insulin that peaks, meters, lows, highs, ketones, carbs, snacks, lancets, testing sites, injection sites- I looked at Emma and just wanted to snatch her up and run away. I wanted to just hold her tight and leave it all behind.And then they sent us home. Home with a head full of knowledge that I really didn’t have a handle on. A book, some phone numbers and two vials of insulin, a meter, some needles and the task of keeping Emma alive for another night. I felt so clumsy and lost and scared. We had gone to dinner with my family for my birthday. We were all physically and emotionally spent. We were all just hanging in the limbo of shock, grief and the unknown. What did this mean for us? How were all of the details going to work out? And at my core, could I do this? But I remember God coming to me in the night as I lay awake, my thoughts just churning. He began showing me how He had been at work in the situation, at work in me the years and months leading up to Emma’s diagnosis. It was so encouraging, gave me such comfort to know that even in such a dark hour, God was loving me and caring for me and my family.

And then they sent us home. Home with a head full of knowledge that I really didn’t have a handle on. A book, some phone numbers and two vials of insulin, a meter, some needles and the task of keeping Emma alive for another night. I felt so clumsy and lost and scared. We had gone to dinner with my family for my birthday. We were all physically and emotionally spent. We were all just hanging in the limbo of shock, grief and the unknown. What did this mean for us? How were all of the details going to work out? And at my core, could I do this? But I remember God coming to me in the night as I lay awake, my thoughts just churning. He began showing me how He had been at work in the situation, at work in me the years and months leading up to Emma’s diagnosis. It was so encouraging, gave me such comfort to know that even in such a dark hour, God was loving me and caring for me and my family.We returned the next day for more education, both girls with us this time. I remember trying to wrap my head around it all, trust in God, breathe and love on my girls. So many people loved on us those first few days. So many people took care of us, provided and helped us with supplies, We returned the next day for more education, both girls with us this time. I remember trying to wrap my head around it all, trust in God, breathe and love on my girls. So many people loved on us those first few days. So many people took care of us, provided and helped us with supplies, prayers, and kind words. Sometimes people say things, good and bad that stick with you for a long time. I remember my friend Keryn texting me that she just wanted to give us all a hug. That just seemed like the sweetest expression of caring and something that ministered so deeply to me at that moment.

Those next few days held tears, anger, sadness and humbling love. Saturday morning as I gave Emma a shot, it hurt her, she cried and I laid my head down and cried right along with her, sobbing my apologies to her. It left a large bruise on her arm. Later she told everyone that it wasn’t my fault but the shot’s fault. That kid just blew me away with her graceful acceptance and compose, with her ability to love me through her suffering. Our church and several friends from other churches came and prayed over us. I felt so loved and so unworthy to be cared for in such a way. I can remember gaining perspective about life, the importance of forgiveness and understanding of grace in the moment, not thinking so far ahead that I began to drown.

Our first year has been filled with so many ups and downs. There have been so many instances of God redeeming this in our lives with new friends, miraculous provision, and a compassion and understanding that I would have never learned without this experience. I have seen and learned some things about myself that weren’t always beautiful- struggles with self-pity, entitlement, selfishness and pride. I’ve noticed that even now, our family is still struggling and trying to really absorb what has happened to us. Diabetes affects all of our family not just Emma. Realizing that we each have tried to deal with our new normal and that a year later we are just starting to deal with certain aspects of this diagnosis. We hit the ground running and became a nurse, caretaker, 24/7. Only now are we starting to see the past year in reflection and truly deal with what’s happened. Our journey is just beginning and there will be so many more ups and downs along the way. Sometimes this has felt like the longest year of my life. Sometimes I think it all just looks like a blur of numbers and doses and frustrations. But I know that I am so very thankful this year. I am thankful and at peace. I know that I am a different person and that this past has been a catalyst, boot camp and crash course all in one. There is a hope and a thankfulness each day that I might not have had before. There are many things I took for granted and struggled to understand that are a little clearer now. We aren’t there yet, God isn’t finished with us and I don’t know what’s in our future. But I know that we aren’t alone and that we never will be. Thank you to those that have loved us, prayed for us, listened and cared for us. Thank you to those that have learned about diabetes, loved on my girls and cared for them so that we could still do some of what we were called to do. Thank you for a fabulous medical team, for CMS who helps us take care of Emma. Thank you to our new friends who help us feel normal and not alone. Thank you, God for the medicines and technology, for researchers and advocates, for being able to live in a place where my child could receive care and live. Thank you, God, for loving us so much that you gave us all these things and that you cared for me and for Emma even when I know we don’t deserve any of it. Thank you, God, for the gospel that has made this last year a story of redemption, about your love for us and not a meaningless tragedy. You are a good God and always will be.
Thank you all so much. We love you.

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God’s Generous Grace and Emma

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.
Amen.
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In the Image of the Creator

In Genesis we are introduced to God as the creator. The scripture tells how the world and all living things came into existence.  As we were created in the image of God, some of that creativity was imparted to us.  As an artist and writer- a creative individual, I always feel connected to my Heavenly Father through using my talents. When I am sketching, painting a mural, creating a gift for another or expressing the deepest expressions of my heart, I feel a connection to God. I find that in His love and goodness, he often meets me in those moments. He speaks to me through my creations. Even when I am unaware and absently doodling, He speaks to me and my hand becomes and instrument to convey His individual message to me.
Recently I attended a conference where the theme was “make”. As a creator, I instantly connected with this idea of connecting to God with this shared identity and characteristic. To make and create is a precious gift given to each of us. We as people like to limit and define creation to art, music, dance and literature. But each of us can create something- food, photographs, journals, disciples, environments, a laugh, a feeling, a business, a ministry, a home, a family, a friend. Creativity should be redefined as an activity where we seek to create something that expresses our new identity as redeemed, as sons and daughters of God. Creativity should be how we connect with God through the things we make in order to share the love which we have been so graciously given. Our acts of creation should be to bring glory to the original creator, to bring Him pleasure.
I have been reading Bob Goff’s, Love Does. In his introduction, Bob asks what things I want to do or dream of doing that I haven’t done. And my answer was simply creating. I often dream and desire to create things just for the sake of creating. I often plan on writing and making and expressing and I tell myself that there is too much work to be done. I extinguish the creative passion I feel by worrying about how others will receive my creation, whether they will find it worthy. I have been convicted that I am forsaking one of the most precious avenues to intimacy with God that I have.
I am declaring this week a week in celebration of creation. The beginning to a renewed purpose in the act of identifying with my creator by expressing this inherited trait.  The art and writing I create this week will be not for the joy of and approval of others but solely to connect with and please Him. I want my creations to truly express the love, joy, rest, freedom and hope I have found in Jesus Christ. I encourage you to join me and find your way to connect with the creator.
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Confessions of Where I Live

This is a picture of my home. I have lived here for most of my life and I love it. I never get tired of seeing the beauty that I get to live amongst. The creation around me always helps to connect me with the Creator. God has spoken to me so much here and in other places while I am absorbing my surroundings. No matter my location, he has always been able to draw me to himself by the colors and sensations of my environment.

For the past two years, I feel like God has been really teaching me and showing me so much about His character, who I am and how much I need Him. I continue to disciple others and teach these things but I know He has called me to write. However, in the past two years, I have not written much. I love journals and journaling but I have resisted that too. Sometimes my hesitancy is because at that moment my situation is overwhelming and my words seem inadequate to express what is happening inside of me. Sometimes the effort of unpacking all of the turmoil, confusion, and pain inside seems to exhaust me before I even start. It seems easier to numb myself and push it down with the shallow promise that I will tend to that later. And honestly, I fear my own motives. This fear is the biggest reason for my silence.

I care too much what people think about me. I care too much about my performance, appearance and just generally how I am perceived. I know this about myself and hate it. I am painfully aware of it and catch my thoughts and actions reflecting this more than I want to admit. It is a struggle and it grieves me. I feel that there is a struggle inside at every turn, with the very activity I undertake. Am I doing this, saying this, writing this in order to draw attention to myself? Am I seeking my own glory, my own validation in this moment? And while my self-monitoring is necessary and good, it stops me and holds me back. I had stopped showing outward worship and stopped writing all because I couldn’t guarantee that there wasn’t some part of myself with the wrong motives. I couldn’t say for certain that I wouldn’t check for comments or want to be seen as holy or Godly. I couldn’t squash that part of me that desperately needed validation and affirmation. But in talking with my husband, he pointed out that this was wrong, that I was not trusting that God could use my words, my obedience despite my imperfect motives. And yes, if my major motivation is to seek my own glory then I shouldn’t continue. However, there is always going to be a sinful part of me that wants to try and steal what is God’s and His alone. Dale showed me a quote from N.T. Wright later that evening that says we have to do what we know to be good because He is good and our faith needs to be in Him to bring about what needs to happen. Basically, I need to trust in His sovereignty and His promise to work out what needs to happen regardless of my imperfections. If I withhold his teachings to me, my experience with His love, goodness, and mercy because I can’t guarantee my own purity then I am wrong. I am only being selfish and showing my lack of faith in Him. I am in essence saying that I don’t believe He can do what He says He can. I am saying that “small me” can thwart all powerful God. Sometimes my arrogance and own sense of self-importance astounds me.

God has been teaching me these past two years about what faith really looks like, why I am so bad at having faith and about the sins that enslave me. He is fighting for me, my freedom and my life as He intends me to live it. I look forward to sharing more about what I have learned about the beautiful character of God in future writings. My prayer is that I am true to Him and write with an abandon that does not take into consideration how it will make me appear. I pray that I am able to bring him glory instead of trying to steal it for myself.

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Orchids Are Easy

I am horrible with plants. I do not have a green thumb. It is kind of disappointing because I come from a long line of farmers and gardeners. I live in my grandparents’ old house. It is surrounded by the remains of their years of faithful gardening. I can remember this home being surrounded by beds of beautiful roses. I can remember the house being surrounded by lilies, daisies, and hibiscus. Gladiolas and hydrangeas were plentiful. My grandfather grew almost every kind of vegetable and many fruits as well. Field after field held rows and patches of beans, potatoes, corn, peanuts and so much more. My father is a wonderful gardener. Every year around May I begin to dream about the squash and tomatoes that will be arriving from his garden. Even my mom has flowers all around their house. I seem to only be able to grow a messy house. I enjoy the thought of helping something to grow and produce flowers or food. I have made many attempts and I just have never been successful. I could recount my many attempts at herbs, flowers, and even a garden once but everyone ends in failure.
On my birthday last year, a sweet friend brought me a beautiful present, an orchid. It was so perfect with its magenta blossoms and arching layers of green leaves. I had always wanted an orchid but they are so exotic and I just assumed that their care would be tremendously complicated. So as my friend hands me her generous gift I am just mentally apologizing to the poor plant. Here someone had grown it into a tall and beautiful flower and it now was being given to the worst caretaker. I said thank you and hoped my apprehension didn’t show on my face.
I was determined though to keep this flower alive. The card that came along with it said “Orchids are Easy” and listed three simple steps to take care of my orchid. I was very skeptical about the ease of maintaining such a fragile looking plant. However, I managed to keep my plant alive for several months. It survived the cat knocking it into the sink and other such perils of living in my home. I am sure it was not always watered in a timely manner, but I really worked at tending my plant.
We had to go away for a week. I neglected to ask my mom to water the plant. I just assumed she would when she came to care for the cat. I had confidence that she has plant growing skills and that its care would be instinctual to her. When I returned home, all of the flowers were withering and slowly dropping off of the stem. I tried to water it. The leaves were still green but there were now flowers, just a woody stem. I am ashamed to say that I was kind of devastated that I had killed another plant. (I think at this point that maybe I had attached a little bit of my validation to the plant’s survival.) I didn’t know what to do to help my orchid. But I kept caring for it. I figured the green leaves had to mean something was still alive there.
Months have passed and I have started to notice new leaves coming out and new runners sprouting and growing. I am beside myself. And to my amazement, a new stem has sprouted off of the old one. Buds are appearing and new flowers are on the way. I showed it to my husband it utter shock and excitement. Even in places where it looked like the plant had died, new life seems to be emerging. Beautiful green runners and a purple stem are growing so quickly now.
I was having a horrible few days this week. It seems like a life pattern for me. I get overwhelmed physically, spiritually and emotionally. It causes a lethargy and depression to come over me. I get irritable and withdrawn. And I have a hard time getting better. I was in the middle of one of these times. I had been trying hard to work my way out of it today by forcing myself to get on with things and tend to stuff I had neglected around the house. I caught a glimpse of my orchid as I was washing up the dishes. And anew I was struck by its amazing growth. It occurred to me that I am like the orchid. I am dead in places and it hurts and it’s ugly. I can see where it would be easy for anyone to look at me and feel disappointed and want to give up. Yet God doesn’t give up. He didn’t give up on the orchid and He didn’t give up on me either. The power to defeat the hopelessness that is overtaking me already lives within me. Just as the orchid still had the spark of life when it looked dead, Christ does the same for me and continues to do that for me over and over again. Even when on the outside I seem lost, miserable and unsalvageable, inside of me resides the power to resurrect the dead and bring new life.
Every day I wake up to that power, that love and I forget. I lose sight of what I have in Him. I am so thankful God places reminders for me. I am so glad He does not give up in frustration but instead loves me so much that He fights for me, tends to me. He is good at gardening. He is faithful to care for me. One day I will be adorned with beautiful flowers, even more, magnificent than the orchids. But for now its blossoms will serve as a reminder of the hope I have in the gospel and it’s restoring, regenerative and ultimately redeeming power in my life.

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Please God don’t let that be me…

So yesterday, I had a very nice and amazing experience with God. I felt like I truly understood something He had been trying to get me to see about myself and how to deal with others. It was quite wondrous and sad at the same time. I began to really see others more as God sees them and not as how they try to portray themselves to be. It was freeing and also a heavy feeling. I wanted to help, to give them what I have. I began to see their pressures and fears. I began to feel the panic and desperation of their insecurities and how to live, survive, be. I asked God to help me to be, not someone who is stuck in their own fears and insecurities. I want to be the person who can leave my wants and comforts and desires behind so that I can serve others without me and my need to be loved and validated and approved and liked getting in the way. I don’t want to be that person. I hate being that. And I cannot do anything about that. I am so naturally bound by these insecurities and desperations. I wake up and struggle to fight off the hurts and cries and pleas and lies that come from the depraved core of me. And some days it is all I can do to just cling to the knowledge that God can change me, that He can work through me and accomplish something of true love and service. I find myself lately just praying that I will be confident in Him. I find myself hungering for humility and selflessness. I find that I despise my sinful self more and more and hate the hold that it still seems to have on me at times. All I know is that my only hope, my only refuge is to cling to Him, submit, depend, surrender, rely….worship…serve.

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A Faithless Intro

I have been putting off new blogs because the next one I feel led to write is hard. And it has been a journey, a process for a few months. I haven’t exactly finished this journey either, and probably won’t this side of heaven. I have been reading a book about theology, Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Horger Alsup . My husband gifted it to me for mother’s day two years ago. And I am currently leading two ladies discipleship groups through it. So the discussion for us and for me at the beginning of the book is about faith. For me thus far it has been an exploration into my lack of faith.

Anyway, I know this is my next topic for hashing out on here but I really have felt like I needed to figure it out first. However, I see now that if I tarry, this blog will just never get written. Moreover, I think my next few posts will be about me figuring out why I don’t have faith. This is the journey that God and I have been on since August and subsequently all of the other issues that have come up as a result of this mucking around. Hopefully, I will do this justice.

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One Body

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. –1 Corinthians 12:12-26

My heart is heavy tonight. It is weighted down by the news of the tragedy. It seems that this kind of news has been coming too often these days. And it is unsettling to know that such horrors and sufferings go on in this world. But to then be brought nearer to it through the suffering of someone you know is hard to comprehend. My husband has been preaching through 1 Corinthians. We have been working through chapter 12 for two weeks now. Last night and today he spoke of us being one body in Christ. Unity is Paul’s theme all throughout this book but this particular passage is heady and full of strong implications for us as believers.Once we are Christ’s we become a part of the greater body that God is building and creating. We are joined not by church or denomination or race or wealth or poverty. We simply are one, joined by the shed blood of Christ and his love for us.

Once we are Christ’s we become a part of the greater body that God is building and creating. We are joined not by church or denomination or race or wealth or poverty. We simply are one, joined by the shed blood of Christ and his love for us. In turn we are called to love each other. We are called to love each other as we love ourselves. I don’t think we truly understand or practice that. My husband asked each person to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the petty opinions and divisions that were keeping them from being unified with each other and with God. That was enough in and of itself to think on for weeks but there was still more and this is what I have been thinking on for some time and yet here it is again.Verse 26 says that if one of this body suffers we all suffer together. I feel that our natural response is to think

Verse 26 says that if one of this body suffers we all suffer together. I feel that our natural response is to think within our local church body. And that is most certainly true as our church has found out recently. But I think this is deeper and needs to go out beyond the scope of the people we worship with but also with all believers everywhere. There is too much at stake and too much suffering to allow ourselves to be isolated and self-centered. I think about our city and the people here that are hurting. There have been divorces, a murder, a suicide, a car accident, cancers and heart attacks and so much more just in our community. I am not the nexus but just one of the many in a body that is suffering because others around us are suffering. And there is more, so much more hurting and needing to be loved by a body of believers who loves them.But even as I am heavy with sadness, there is also

But even as I am heavy with sadness, there is also a celebration. The rest of the verse says if one member is honored, we all rejoice together. For while there has been a tragedy, there has also been miraculous healing, reconciliations, salvation and provision. Our hearts can celebrate with each other when good things happen to a member of the body. We have had tears twice at our house tonight. One was death and sadness. The other was death and happiness. Our church has partnered with a missionary in Guatemala. They will soon be taking their second trip to minister to the impoverished people and bring supplies and money to build new homes. The missionary wrote today of a little boy who had become ill many years ago and was unable to stand or walk or even lift his head for many years. Today this boy died. But the missionary wrote about a boy who loved Jesus and called out to God to take him to be with him. The missionary told of a family who loved God and were sad to lose their child but knew who he was with tonight. The missionary spoke of the child now being whole and healthy and able to run as he hadn’t in many years. This boy’s life and death is a story of celebration. Something else occurs to me now. I know that all things in this life- good and bad exist to show the glory of God. And sometimes that takes much faith to remember. But in this instance, we get to see how God is glorified in suffering. How this small child loved and believed even in the midst of his suffering. His parents displayed God’s glory in their loss. God’s love for us is so clear as we know that He took this little boy out of his suffering and restored him in heaven. The glory of God is great and as a body, we also exist to bring God glory. It is imperative whether through shared suffering or shared celebration that we remember to be one body unified through one spirit, one God.

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“For the good..”

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. –Romans 8:28-29

Sometimes things just have a way of sticking with you. A thought will hang around you like a gnat that just buzzes and buzzes in your ear. My mind can be like a dog with a bone, just determined to gnaw its way through until the entire thing is devoured. I became reacquainted with Romans 8:28 a few months ago. It came up during a conversation with God about fear of the hard things in life. This conversation was leftover from some dealings that God and I had around Christmas time where I had to ask myself if I really trusted Him no matter what happened to me or those that I care about. And now I warn you that the rest of this post is going to go in a direction that most people are uncomfortable with. I am going to talk about some things that do not conform to the image of God we create for ourselves. (Reference the blog on God’s Prerogative.) And I will admit that at first, I was a little uncomfortable with this as well. However, I am very loyal to God. Sometimes I am loyal to being loyal if I am being honest. But I have yielded enough to the Holy Spirit so that he has grown me to the place where when faced with something that doesn’t fit into what I think I know about God, I will listen and admit that the error in understanding is probably on my part and not some flaw of God’s.So here in lies Romans 8:28 and 29. God works all things in our lives for good. That is a fabulous verse to cling to. It is like peace and comfort and sunshine and rainbows all right there. (John Owen would have many things to say about this, but that is for another time.) It’s like here is the go to verse when life is hard. But in our own ignorance, we don’t read and fully understand this verse. We can get a clue in verse 29. We are supposed to look like Jesus and not ourselves. We are wicked and self-loving through and through. There is nothing innocent or pure or good about us. (If that statement is troubling you 1.You are not alone but 2.you should address why that is bothering you with God.) And

So here in lies Romans 8:28 and 29. God works all things in our lives for good. That is a fabulous verse to cling to. It is like peace and comfort and sunshine and rainbows all right there. (John Owen would have many things to say about this, but that is for another time.) It’s like here is the go to verse when life is hard. But in our own ignorance, we don’t read and fully understand this verse. We can get a clue in verse 29. We are supposed to look like Jesus and not ourselves. We are wicked and self-loving through and through. There is nothing innocent or pure or good about us. (If that statement is troubling you 1. You are not alone but 2. you should address why that is bothering you with God.) And unfortunately, we are stubborn and hardheaded on the best of days. But most of the time we are rebellious, defiant and insisting on our ways. So the hope that we will conform to Christ’s image simply because we will completely surrender to God when faced with our sinfulness is pretty much just that…a hope. In reality, it takes the careful molding of God to change us into anything remotely resembling Christ. And He does this through the events of our life. Sometimes it’s little mundane things. Other times He orchestrates monumental happenings in our lives. Sometimes we are changed by God’s glorious provision and blessing. Yet other times, tragedy reshapes us into something beautiful as we learn the true character of God in our hours of greatest need. God is sovereign and His love is unconditional. “For those called according to His purpose”, He is not swayed by anything that we do or do not do. His aim is still the same. He continues to do what is best for us. And what is best for us is to grow increasingly more like Christ. It is best for us to become even more dependent on and trusting of Him. We like to think that Romans 8:28 means that God is going to handle every bad thing and turn it around for us. God will handle everything but He may allow it to be “bad” for awhile or even a lifetime in order to refine us and conform us to the image of His son.And this is where we tune out. We are guilty of creating extremes. Everyone knows someone or has seen someone who is out there on the fringe, real zealots who have perverted the Bible to fit their hatred filled, legalistic agenda. It’s why you see people who murder others in the name of God. That is wrong. However, it is just as wrong to create teddy bear version of God who does nothing but hand out blessings and favor. It is idolatry to create and worship a version of God who never chastens, never rebukes, never does anything to which you don’t agree. God is loving and gracious and merciful for sure. But do not allow those precious gifts to cause you to forget the very awesome and powerful God we serve. Do not castrate God and render Him impotent in your thinking. The Bible speaks to Him being a jealous God, one that will do what it takes to rescue us from the hands of sin and death. Do we honestly think that a God who would sacrifice His own son for the worthless bits of dust we are would just hang around and allow us to continue on in our sinfulness? Do we honestly think it is all peace and prosperity from here on out?

And this is where we tune out. We are guilty of creating extremes. Everyone knows someone or has seen someone who is out there on the fringe, real zealots who have perverted the Bible to fit their hatred filled, legalistic agenda. It’s why you see people who murder others in the name of God. That is wrong. However, it is just as wrong to create teddy bear version of God who does nothing but hand out blessings and favor. It is idolatry to create and worship a version of God who never chastens, never rebukes, never does anything to which you don’t agree. God is loving and gracious and merciful for sure. But do not allow those precious gifts to cause you to forget the very awesome and powerful God we serve. Do not castrate God and render Him impotent in your thinking. The Bible speaks to Him being a jealous God, one that will do what it takes to rescue us from the hands of sin and death. Do we honestly think that a God who would sacrifice His own son for the worthless bits of dust we are would just hang around and allow us to continue on in our sinfulness? Do we honestly think it is all peace and prosperity from here on out?

Paul was one of the most devoted servants of God. He understood so much more of God than most of us ever will (by of our choice, not God’s). And yet God rewarded His total devotion and sacrifice with suffering and trials. Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, jailed and ultimately killed for preaching the gospel, for being obedient. And this has happened since that time and continues to happen today. If this is what happens to Paul, one of God’s most devoted, why do we assume our lives should be any different? What prideful people we are! We live in this amazing country where God is so readily accessible to us. We can show up at church anytime we want. And not just any church, but the one of our choice. We are not beaten. We are not arrested and tortured until we recant. We are not killed or made to face any kind of recrimination for our faith. But millions of Christians in other parts of the world face this scenario every day of their lives. And we have the audacity to relish in our luxuries, our freedoms, our opportunities and then resist God? Why is it millions of others will risk their life to attend a secret church and yet we are afraid to share our faith for fear that someone will look at us funny? Where did we find this idea that life as a Christian is supposed to be easy, pain-free and glamorous? Where did this notion that real Christianity included materialism and status and comfort come from? Since when did loving and serving God become about being safe? Why has Christianity in America become equivalent with pursuing the American dream?

Christ suffered. He was beaten and tortured. His flesh was ripped from his body. He was mocked and spit upon. And the Bible says that we should not expect to be treated any better. Yet we do. As Christians, we are going to struggle. If God is going to work things out for our good, we are going to suffer. And it is foolish of us to look at those suffering elsewhere and think we know anything about it. I know people in this country who have had some very bad things happen to them. They have suffered and continue to face hardships greater than I have ever known. Yet even these people have been spared the horrors and continued suffering of the majority of people in this world. And knowing how fortunate we are should drive us into the arms of God with such shame and humility that the floor will not be low enough for us. But it doesn’t. And please know that I am guilty as well, that I preach this reminder to myself as well. We don’t have any place, any right to expect anything less than what others face. If we do not yield, if we do not welcome and embrace the trials, the sufferings God’s puts in our life in order to conform us to Christ’s image, then we really do not love God. We love ourselves and our idols. We have to trust and believe in the sovereignty of God. We have to live lives that demonstrate our complete faith by loving and serving even in the midst of circumstances- no matter how bad they may become. He cannot just be God when things are good. We cannot only praise Him when there is money in the bank and we have our health. He cannot be our genie of blessing. We have to allow ourselves to truly know Him and the beauty that comes from a life that is refined and purified by the refiner’s fire or else we will have missed everything and end this life with nothing. We cannot continue to preach that to accept Christ is to sign up for a life of prosperity and ease. We have to have compassion for those who are suffering. We have to love them and share their burdens and not look on them as if we are better than they or that we do not deserve the same. We have to welcome the workings of God without fear, without contempt, and truly trust that He is in control and knows better than we what is best for us. It is not an easy task that is set before us but it is one that is imperative that we complete.

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