“But God…”

“Bri needs her spontaneity, I need my schedule, and we need each other!” — Ben Frei

I always thought my husband said it best by describing us in this way.  I don’t do too well in boxes.  I like to wander.  I like midnight movies.  I like to feel freedom to make choices on a whim.  Ben likes to plan.  He enjoys knowing each step and what will be next.  We are a good balance to each other in this way–I keep his eye on the horizon and he keeps me grounded.  I’ve always thought that it would be someone like Ben that would do great with diabetes.  Someone who already has a set schedule and a routine way of proceeding through the day, they could just add a few extra steps and voila! diabetes managed.–but not a crazy like me!  In a way, I am more like a hurricane, flying through the house grabbing things, doing my makeup in the car (maybe), leaving the house with at least 3 bags in the morning (usually a cup of coffee too–it’s a balancing act for sure, I should charge admission for this show!) and still HOPING I have all the things I need.

Sometimes Christians like to say, “I can see now why God gave me (insert trial), because it has smoothed out my rough edges.”  I think that this is a true enough statement.  But I don’t believe that it is right to consider this the motivating factor for a trial.  Let me explain:  for a LONG time, I said, “I can see how having diabetes really works against my natural tendency to be unscheduled and under-planned.  God gave me diabetes to help me smooth out these rough edges.”  Which sounds nice enough.  What I was really thinking:  God doesn’t love me the way that I am so He gave me this stupid disease because I’m not scheduled enough!  This caused me to see my diabetes as a punishment for “the way I am.”  I truly did.  How could I, with a perspective like this ever think of diabetes as a gift? You know what, I didn’t.  It made me boil under the surface when people would suggest such a thing!  It even made me resent those who were able to joyfully embrace their difficulty as “a gift.”  “Pha!  That’s not how you really feel,”  I would think.  All the while I would struggle with my own guilt of not seeing my diabetes that way and not understanding why God saw fit to punish me in this way—especially since He is supposed to know what is best for ME!  This was not best for me–for the crazy, unscheduled girl!  It might be good for someone like Ben, but certainly not for me.

It is destructive for me to label my diabetes as God’s little sanding block in competition with my rough edges.   To be clear, it does do that.  Each step in our life is designed by God to make us more like Christ.  “And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:16).  We are meant to be growing to be more like Christ–and that takes a little elbow grease on the corners, but God’s disappointment with us does not send the sandpaper–what does?

His emphatic LOVE for us! 

It is not God’s disappointment in us that motivates Him to do anything; it is His compassion and love.  Changing our natural tendencies is a “fringe” benefit, not the spark that lights the fire, but a bystander receiving heat from the flames.  My misunderstanding of this truth gave me a warped, crooked view of God and His love.  He is not a heavenly “life coach” looking to help me make improvements.  He is no more in love with me as a hurricane-crazy than He would be if I were as scheduled as the orbiting planets–His love and approval do not hang on me.  His love and approval have already been purchased for me as Christ hung on the cross.  He died for me–not to make me a better person, but to demonstrate His eternal love for me, and for those that accept His death as payment for their sins.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us,

even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–

by grace you have been saved!

So that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:4-5; 7

Because of God’s LOVE He saved.  Because of God’s LOVE He “sands.”

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Scrutinized and/or Criticized? Part Two

(Continuation of the previous post..) 

After reading Part One a few times, I agree with my husband that it was quite an abrupt place to leave things.  I agree!  There was no strategy in that—I just had to run and was too impatient to not post.

What is the “big picture” here?

I’d like to state right here and right now that the goal is to not bemoan thoughtful inquiry of others regarding my diabetes or complain about the person who is quick to point out that they “brought sugar-free jello to the church potluck so I would have something to eat.”  When I really, (with the right attitude) think about these instances, it is simply overwhelming kindness from people in my life that care about me.  It is boggling to have so many caring friends in my life that actually think of me while making preparations for a meal or potluck.   Thank you, to each of you who have considered my diabetes in this way.  Thank you for asking how I’m doing and thank you for being concerned what is best for me!

Through these kindnesses, I have a heightened awareness that others do think about what I eat and what I should be eating.  As I said before, this causes me to think twice about what I put in my mouth while I’m out and about with the masses, which has caused a bit of a dichotomy between food choices while alone and food choices while with others.  Is food the big deal here?  No.

The need to hide is.

There is a group of masqueraders in the Bible known as the Pharisees.  They were concerned about how they appeared to others, not about the inside–even though located on the inside is all the important stuff, like motive, intent, genuineness, and spirit-given or spirit-quenching desires.  It’s like the Oreo cream-filling of a person; what’s on the inside truly counts.  When Jesus addressed the Pharisees he said that they “outwardly appear[ed] righteous to others, but within were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt. 23:28).  The comparison I want to apply to my own life is the lack of truthfulness that I evidence when I feel the urge or reserve the right to hide something.   Sometimes we intentionally hide, or practically hide.  For me this is less about intention to hide.  I want to appear to others as having it “all together,” but in my heart I do not have a true desire.

 Motivation for healthy living CANNOT be pressure to perform for others or please others.   

Guilt manufactures compliance for a season, while conviction yields true transformation.

I must not, and cannot seek an outward change in how I manage diabetes–how exhausting!  This battle rages within the thick walls of my heart–fortified by stubbornness and cranky-ness, and selfishness!  I need to stop treating my outside like prime real estate and my inside like a closet that only needs cleaning on special occasions.  Only as my heart is fully invested in diabetic responsibility, in conjunction with my desire to serve God and bring Him glory, will those outward gestures be meaningful.  And only in God’s strength and grace will my heart be changed!

“Change my heart, O God!  Make it ever true! Change my heart, O God!  May I be like YOU!”

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

Psalm 51:10 ESV

Scrutinized and/or Criticized? Part 1

I started thinking about talking about this.  Then I decided it would be a bad idea—no need to be too transparent, even though that’s kinda what I’m going for here.  BUT then three different people on three separate occasions mentioned struggling in similar ways, so this is something that needs to be addressed, I think. Even bigger than addressing it, it is something that I need to be honest about.

The things that we hide evidence much about what we value, what we truly care about.  Let me put it this way, is there something you would NEVER even dream of doing if someone else were around, but enveloped in the safety of solitude, you constantly run to?  Details aside, this “something” could be anything.  What are they called?  Guilty pleasures?  Mine include actually enjoying “Zac and Cody” on the Disney Channel.  Would I ask a friend to stop on that show while channel surfing—No.  Would I secretly wish their kids would turn it on so I could ease drop?  YES.  Ben hates this one: I actually like to crack my knuckles.  I know, gross, right? I do.  He does not.

Anyway, I think we can all relate on some level…

…specifically, this is how I want to focus this concept of “guilty pleasures”

FOOD

There I said it.  I love food.  And I spend a LOT of time alone.  So I can basically eat any food I want without the shame of a witness.  Which is SWEET!  (literally and figuratively, people!)  As I have said from the beginning of blogging, guilt played (plays, sometimes) a big part in diabetes control.  From the beginning of my diagnosis, I have always felt that anywhere and everywhere I go people look at, study even, what I eat and comment, “Is that something a diabetic should be eating?”  “Can you have that?”  or even, “You can’t have that; YOU’RE DIABETIC!” At that time, I usually feel like, “Oh, thanks for reminding me that I’m not normal and automatically in need of your constant supervision now!”  GRRRR.  Other times, I am able to see those comments as what they truly are in most cases, love and concern.  People have not appointed themselves as my food-police, they are just concerned or curious about my health.  “Oh, I didn’t realize that you, as a diabetic, can eat that.”  Also, diabetes technology has come so far in the past 20 years that diabetics today can live a different lifestyle than those in the past. Then comes in the complication between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. (One day, I will try to clear up the confusion, but today is not that day!) So generally, people are not trying to condemn or shame me in comments about food, they are just curious.  I think.

Growing up “under the microscope” as a scientific specimen, a person with diabetes, I have come in ear shot of many comments regarding what I eat, what to eat, what NOT to eat; all the while feeling my food choices constantly scrutinized and most often criticized.

Hm… what does a person do in this situation?  This person just decided to not ever eat something in public that might be considered by some on-looker as inappropriate for someone “with my condition” to be eating.  Ideally, this would be the way I would always eat, making healthy choices, making diabetes-wise, nutritional choices.  Really, the choices that everyone should be making regardless of disease-label.  We all want to be healthy, right?  So I got in this mentality of eating one way in public and another way at Home, Alone. (I’m looking forward to watching this next week!)

A very anticlimactic place to leave it, but I need to get ready, and I want to keep you coming back.

(to be continued…soon, I promise!)

Resolved to a Relationship.

Have I bitten off more than I can chew?

You know all those “really fun” camp games where the announcer just asks for two volunteers and creates lots of hype surrounding the mystery activity–“someone is going to have more fun than a cat with a McDonald’s ball-place amount of yarn spheres, and it could be you who has all this fun!”  So you jump up and down and you cheer and you scream till your lungs shake and you try to contain your excitement when it is in fact you who is chosen?  There you are–up in front of everyone–ready to represent your team–anxious to find out what feat you must perform and be crowned victor for your team.  And suddenly, the stage hands bring out a circle of golden-crusted blueberries–a pie eating contest.  Yuck, you think to yourself.  I didn’t come to camp to snarf down baked goods.  It will be embarrassing to be up here in front of everyone devouring this lump of sugar and berries. I’m going to look ridiculous.  I do NOT want to do this and I DON’T want to be seen doing this.  Why did raise my hand again?  Why did I shout and jump up and down and draw attention to myself?  Why did I ask my friends to point at me and jump up and down and shout and draw attention to me?  Because now, here I am, all in front of everyone, on the brink of dashed expectations and disappointment.  Maybe I should have just sat in the crowd and let them choose someone else.  Someone more qualified and skilled at eating pie.  Someone who enjoys eating pie.  Someone who would not let the team down.  

Have I bitten off more that I can chew? 

      Well team, this is where I’m at (minus like everything involving camp). I’m feeling like I can’t do it.  And  now I have to fail in front of everyone!  I’m feeling like, “why did I draw attention to this?”  “Why didn’t I just keep my head down and try to figure this out on my own?”  In some ways, I love the pressure of people knowing about my diabetes and where I’m at.  I love the prayers and encouragement when I go to an appointment or as I’m trying out some new equipment.  But here, up in front of everyone, (the whole virtual world–theoretically, though I know just a little corner of my world reads this) I don’t want to let the team down!  By this, I don’t mean that I have thrown in the towel and I’m “NOT DOING THIS ANYMORE!”  I do mean that I feel very exposed and aware that others want me to be successful–“eat the pie, so we can win, Briana!  We’re all watching!”

My expectations of myself have been rather high.  I thought, go see a good doctor, have some accountability, (this blog, for instance) and a good attitude, and you’ll beat this thing!  I do have a systematic plan to work through, but I feel like I’m caught on number 3 in a list of 50!  I still hold on to this mentality that I need to balance all of it in perfect harmony (meal plans, diet, exercise, schedule, carb counting)  or I can do none of it.  My all-or-nothing personality and great if I’m in ALL mode.  It is so difficult for me to be satisfied with some success.  I haven’t let on how difficult the nutritionists’ suggestions have been to follow through and do!  I have only been successful to eat 45 carb meals at breakfast.  I have eaten a few lunches and dinners with a conscious effort to count carbs, but for most others I have been on the run or just not in the mood to eat and/or count!  Ugh.  So, I find myself wondering, do I need, like, smaller goals?  Do I just need to suck it up and DO IT?

I want to take some time to think about this.  I just wanted to let you know where I am at.

Meanwhile, my goal for tomorrow is to check before and after each meal and eat 45 carbs at 2 meals (at least).

Please don’t get the idea that I am super discouraged.  I’m not.

I just wish it were as easy as starting a blog and seeing a good doctor.

This can only be accomplished in a strength that is not my own.

A commitment that seeks for more than good health, but also obedience.

And a resolve to a relationship, not merely a “better living” resolution.

Wait a minute, I know JUST where to find those things! 

Get in a Row, Little Ducks!

As I have been testing over the past few days (yes 7+ times!) I have noticed a change in the way that I process my blood sugar readings.  I have been working hard to count carbs and know what I eat so I can cover for what I eat—and even still, sometimes the numbers aren’t exactly where they should be.  In the past, that would be so discouraging for me because I would think, “I did everything perfectly, how could this not be perfect??”  But now, when I have seen a high reading I think, “Well that wasn’t the right amount of insulin for that food–let’s make a note so I can change that next time.” (of course there are factors other than food like stress or illness or unknowns to take into account too!)   I see unexplained blood sugar readings as more of a problem for my doctor to help me solve or something that I can learn from instead of a personal judgment.

For many, many long years, I have struggled with thinking that a “good” number reading made me a good person and means that I did everything right that day; whereas a “bad” number made me feel guilty, frustrated, discouraged, and sad.  When honestly, blood sugar readings are fairly predictable with a fair amount of certainty, but there are unexplained, uncontrollable highs and lows.  I am not saying that highs and lows are outside of my control, because to a large degree, they are tethered to the decisions that I make with food and insulin coverage.  What I am saying is, I cannot get caught up in the few readings that are wandering off somewhere in no-man’s land.  In the myriad of times I have started again (or dreaded starting AGAIN) to really seriously control my diabetes, I thought that I needed to have every “plate” spinning perfectly: exercise, meal planning, testing blood sugar, doctor’s visits, eating healthy (and loving it!), sleep schedule (does this mean no sleeping in??  Gasp!) — and if I’m going to do all these things, I might as well do everything else in life right too like sending birthday cards to my relations, entertaining regularly, brushing and flossing 2x’s a day, keeping my nails painted, making meals for the sick, volunteering at church, etc… I mean, if I’m going to figure out diabetes, I probably need to figure out EVERYTHING while I’m at it.   It goes with out saying that I barely made it twenty minutes before I decided it was impossible.  I’m exaggerating slightly about all the things I try to figure out at once, but truly, only slightly.  For some reason, in my mind, everything will run together smoothly and fit, or out of frustration, I will ignore it and complete and under chaos will ensue.  Those seem to be the only choices.  If I’m going to do one thing right, I need to do ALL things right, or what’s the point?–that’s how I think.  That’s how my flesh thinks.  God says that I cannot, no matter how many ducks I get in a row, attain perfection.  In fact, He says the good I can do is like a “polluted garment”  (Isaiah 63:6).  And His love for me is not tied in any way to my performance.  He chose to love me while I was “dead in my sin” (Ephesians 2:5) knowing fully who I am from toe to tousle.  He didn’t choose me because of my goodness or despite my badness–He chose me because He wanted to!

“He predestined [chose] us for the adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.”

(Ephesians 1:5 ESV)

It doesn’t stop there—God doesn’t just choose me and leave me be. He also promises to finish the good work He has begun in me.  (Philippians 1:6) Meanwhile, I need to remember that He will be the one that accomplishes it–not me and my mile-high recipe-for-discouragement checklists!

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News…

As I sat in the waiting room, I began to rifle through stacks of “Diabetes and You” pamphlets.  “The New You!,” “Controlling Diabetes!” –emphatic declarations of hope like that.  And I started to shrink just a bit. I’ve sat in waiting rooms like this before; I’ve read stuff like this before; AND I’ve walked out discouraged.  Why should today be different?  Because I have a diabetes blog? Because now I have an audience that can be disappointed in me?  NO! NO! NO!  Something I realized more clearly today is that I attach a fair share of guilt to my diabetes.  Many of the resolutions I have made to “Do Better–or else!” have been because of a tremendous weight of guilt.   I have not resolved because it is the best decision, or the right thing to do, but because I feel guilty.  But really, is any resolution made out of guilt going to stick or be accomplished joyfully?  “Motivated by guilt, that person accomplished great things!” —said nobody. EVER.  So, motivation is the problem, eh?  What is proper motivation for diabetes management?  I have “fringe” motivations: energy, quality sleep, avoidance of future complications, future additions to the Frei house (doesn’t the whole world want a little Benny Jr.?), to prove to myself that it can be done.   But, my chief motivation must be a love for God that compels me to obey Him.  Notice the BIG difference between a love that obeys v. a guilt that reacts.

“For the love of Christ controls us because we have concluded this: that One has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”

 (I Corinthians 5:14-15 ESV)

So, I can’t live for myself. I can’t live to fulfill that burning desire in me to “do this perfectly, or ignore it, so you don’t have to face the guilt of imperfections.”   I can’t do it to satisfy any selfish desire.  Because I can’t do it. I am incapable of it.  I think at the beginning of a journey like this, I have lots of steam–the Briana’s-motivated-and-gonna-do-this-thing train pulls into the station and chug-a-lugs into the future–until I get derailed.  It doesn’t take much when you’re going off of a self-motivated desire to improve.   God doesn’t bless a self-proclaimed, self-energized search for improvement.  He does promise to satisfy those who “hunger and thirst” to be more like Himself (Matt. 5:6).  So, the question is, if I am not satisfied–in my pursuit of anything–am I looking to be more like Him in the outcome?

This will serve as the excellent transition from “journaling Briana” to “here’s what happened at the appointment…”  

I started trying to schedule this appointment last July.  (As I was informed today, that’s a shortage of endocrinologists in PA.)  Finally, in October, they were able to “squeeze” me in!  I must say, it was well worth the wait!  I have had a variety of personalities care for me over the years, everything from a sympathetic, but mostly unhelpful grandfather type, to a militaristic “if you don’t take care of yourself you’ll go blind, lose your eye sight and your limbs and die” type.  This fella was a “let’s figure this out” type.  I told him that I think one of the reasons I have struggled in the past is because of attaching personal guilt to it and he said, “Diabetes is a disease–you can’t cure it, but you can control it.”  He encouraged me to not think of blood sugar readings as “good” and “bad” but as information.  He said that my body won’t always be perfect and I can’t tie myself to perfection.  I’m sure I’ve been told that before, but today, I heard it.

Okay team, here’s the game plan:

* Give the process a chance–Keep with it! (Dr’s orders!)

* Go for blood work (fasting–yikes!) on Saturday

* Test 7 times a day

*Write everything down for the first month or so

* Meet with a nutritionist (TBA)

* New Dexcom Insulin Pump (Dr said it’s worlds above Minimed)

“For it is God who works in [me!] both to will and to work for His good pleasure!” 

(Philippians 2:13)

My doctor also made some big changes to my insulin pump today.  He said that  many of my settings were too complicated.  He wants to simplify, and I’m all for it, but I’m wondering how my body will react.  The biggest struggle for me personally in this will be the need to write everything down and test 7 times.  I consider it an accomplishment when I test 4 times.   I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

This was a long one, if you made it to the end, I commend you! Thanks for all the encouragement.  It’s a huge blessing to me!