Saturday, June 8, 2013

Ups & Downs...Literally

No matter how long I have diabetes, there are times when I simply don't understand it.  In particular, the past several weeks have been frustrating.  One week my blood sugar was low every night (morning) around 3am for five straight days (making getting a good night's rest pretty difficult).  Then the next week I experienced what I call the "ping-pong effect."  My blood sugars would just go back and forth between high and low.  Finding balance can be more difficult than it seems.

I love the commercials for blood glucose monitors (Contour, One Touch, etc) because every time someone checks their blood sugar, it pops up a perfect number.  Obviously, this is marketing genius!  Every person with diabetes needs this monitor because apparently, it fixes your blood sugars for you!

Living with diabetes is full of ups and downs (literally!).  Let me encourage you whether you have diabetes or not...

If you have diabetes...
*No matter how long you have diabetes, you will have weeks like this
This does not make you a bad person.  This does not mean you are not attempting to take care of yourself (although, you know whether or not you're putting in the effort to do so).  Know that you're not alone in this struggle.

*Know when to ask for help
I've mentioned this before: you are not meant to live in isolation.  You were created with this in your DNA.  Do the best you can to have balance and make proper adjustments to get through frustrating weeks, but when it continues and you're out of ideas, drop your pride and seek help.

If you do not have diabetes, but know someone who does...
*Don't pile on the guilt
Unless you have diabetes yourself, you don't understand what it's like to live with the disease.  So please, do everyone living with diabetes a favor and don't make your friend or loved one feel guilty if they are genuinely trying to take care of themselves.  (Obviously if they are not taking care of themselves, some type of intervention is important...but tread these waters carefully).

*Let the doctors be the doctors
It's easy to give opinions on blood sugars, diet/nutrition, and so forth based on commercials and what we read online.  It's another thing for a trained doctor or specialist to give their opinions based on years and years of training and education.  Need I say more?


Life itself is full of ups and downs at every stage of life, right?  We need people to encourage us, keep us accountable, and most importantly love us.  People living with diabetes need this as well as they strive to live with this disease.

Until next time...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Others Need To Know

I remember being diagnosed with diabetes when I was in the third grade.  I had a lot of new stuff to learn about shots, blood sugar checks, and so forth.  One thing I had to learn to be more and more comfortable with was informing others of my diabetes.  It was always awkward trying to explain what diabetes is to my friends in school because they didn't understand (and neither did I for that matter!).  As awkward as it was to tell my friends, I always hated the first day of the new school year.  Want to know why?  I always had to inform my teachers from day one about my diabetes.  (My parents did this at first, but as I got older I obviously had to take some responsibility and let others know)

This goes beyond my middle school and high school years.  When I started attending Gardner-Webb University in the Fall of 2001, I had a whole new batch of teachers.  So now I had a whole new group of people that I had to talk to about my diabetes.  "Hey, if I suddenly walk out of your class it's not because I think you are a horrible teacher..."  (Although this may have been true!  I wouldn't admit this to them in person!)  In addition, I met my wife Jamee during my freshman year.  Our relationship began to get serious and I knew she was the woman I was going to marry one day.  This being the case, having diabetes is not exactly something I could hide from her.  "Hey, if I suddenly fall over after you give me a kiss, don't flatter yourself!"        

This also goes beyond my college years.  When I began to attend Seminary/Divinity School, I had to have the same old discussion with a brand new group of professors.  "If I'm asleep for an extended period of time in your class, I may be in deep prayer, or I may have severe low blood sugar."  Beyond professors and teachers, there were others that needed to know:  co-workers when I began my youth ministry career, roommates in college, friends at church, and so forth.

So what's the point?  Why am I telling you this?
Let me answer these questions by asking you some questions...

In your life right now, do the necessary people that need to know you have diabetes, actually know?  In addition to simply knowing you have diabetes, do they know what to do in emergency situations?  Looking back at all of the "awkward" conversations I had with my teachers, professors, roommates, and so forth...I understand now why I had to have them.  It was my responsibility.  Think about it.  If I happened to have an incident where my blood sugar dropped severely low and I passed out, how would others around me react?  What would they have done?  If they didn't know I had diabetes, it could have been a matter of life and death.  Let that sink in for a minute.  I know it's not something we want to think about, but it's just the truth.

I get it.  It's not always convenient and fun to have these conversations with others.  However, it is necessary to have them and you owe it to yourself and the others around you.

Who are the people in your life right now that need to know you have diabetes  (co-workers, roommates, professors/teachers)?  If something were to happen to you, would the people in your life currently know how to properly treat you?

You don't have to explain every little detail that goes along with diabetes, but at least them know enough to keep you safe.  Don't be ashamed of your diabetes.  Drop the pride you may carry in regards to may save your life.           

Friday, May 17, 2013

Taking My Diabetes Seriously

Recently I was at a leadership retreat with over 30 other adults and college students planning diligently for Camp Carolina Trails.  This is a camp that serves over 180 children and teenagers with diabetes.  (Trust me, I will mention it quite often)

It is one of the greatest weeks of my year.  Anyone who knows me has heard me talk about it at least ten times (ok...probably a lot more).  During this week, our goal is simple and complex at the same time.  We are trying to teach children and teenagers that they can accomplish their dreams despite living with diabetes.  It does not have to be a hindrance in their lives.  However, the challenge for myself and our staff during this week is to make sure we are taking care of ourselves and our own diabetes as well.  Unless you live with diabetes this may be hard for you to understand, but sometimes I tend to live with diabetes on autopilot.  I am not saying that I forget that I have it (how can I when I'm practically wearing my pancreas on my side?!?!)

I'm aware that this disease is not going anywhere (for the time being).  Here's my point: If I'm going to be honest, I often live as if I'm immortal.  I hear and read about stories where people living with diabetes have extreme complications and think to myself, "That will never be me."  I just assume that each day my diabetes will not get the best of me.  On one hand this is a healthy attitude (the key word being healthy).  However, if I practice unhealthy habits with diabetes and expect to never face the consequences, then I am blind.  

I think about this a lot more now that I am older.  I turned 30 this year.  My daughter recently turned four.  I want to watch Abby grow up and become an amazing young woman.  I want to celebrate many more anniversaries with my wife.  I want to continue to serve in the field of youth ministry or wherever God leads me for as long as I can.  In order for these things to happen, I have to take my diabetes seriously.  

If you're a person living with diabetes, never stop doing the basics:
-Keep a consistent check of your blood sugars (multiple times a day)
-Count the carbs you eat and attempt to take accurate amounts of insulin
-If you wear a pump, change your sites before they become infected 
-Have some type of regular exercise routine
-Consult doctors/nutritionists about how to take care of yourself

Here is the main advice I think more people living with diabetes need to take seriously:
ask for help.

No person is meant to live in isolation.  We are communal creatures.  We are meant to live in community with others.  We can't do life alone and expect to be satisfied.  When I run into snags with my diabetes, I seek help.  For instance, in the last few weeks I have really tried to take exercising and being on some type of meal plan more seriously.  I have been talking with two other friends of mine living with diabetes who work in nutrition and fitness.  They have been such an encouragement!  

Do yourself a your family and loved ones a favor...take your diabetes seriously...
Don't wait until tragedy strikes for your eyes to be your eyes and live your life to the fullest...but do so by taking this disease seriously.  It does not have to be a hindrance in your life, but if you're not going to take care of yourself, then it will.  

Until next time...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My Disease Does Not Define Me

"You know John, right?  He's the diabetic..."

I have lost count regarding how many times I have heard this statement.  In the last 22 years of living with diabetes, I am often referred to as "the diabetic."  I get it.  I understand no one means this in a derogatory sense.  I know this is not a personal jab.  Here's what I would like to clarify on behalf of all people living with type 1 diabetes (or any chronic disease for that matter):

I am more than my disease.  My disease does not define who I am.  I am not just a "diabetic."  
I am a person living with diabetes.

Yes as a type 1 diabetic, I must make healthy choices in order to live with this disease.  There are days when it is difficult.  I have days when it gets in the way of everyday life.  However, let me repeat myself in case you are a speed reader and missed it:

I am more than my disease.  My disease does not define who I am.  I am not just a "diabetic."  I am a person living with diabetes.

For instance...I absolutely love playing the guitar.  I have been playing since I was 16 years old. Every week I have the privilege of playing guitar at Zoar (where I serve as the full-time youth minister).  Diabetes does not hinder me from doing this.  (Laziness and lack of practice hinder me from being better at times, but that's another blog post!)  Diabetes has nothing to do with my desire for playing the guitar.  It is simply a part of who I am. (FYI: below is my pedal board!  It's an addiction!)

I am a husband and father.  I am blessed beyond words with two of the most beautiful people I could ever have asked for.  Being a husband to my wife and a father to my daughter defines me much more than any disease ever could.  It does not take away the love and passion I have for them.

I am a Christian.  I personally believe in Jesus Christ and take my faith seriously.  My faith inspires me to serve others.  What I believe and how I serve others in this life defines me more than anything.  It certainly defines me more than any disease ever could. (below is a picture of me teaching my youth group at Zoar)

I do not want this post to paint the picture that I do not take my disease seriously.  I take it very seriously.  I know that it can interrupt my life at times.  For instance, if my blood sugar is low, it can have an interesting impact on my guitar playing!  I simply refuse to be defined by my disease.

I am more than my disease.  My disease does not define who I am.  I am not just a "diabetic."  I am a person living with diabetes.

I repeat this because so many diabetics let their disease define who they are.  So many kids and teenagers use diabetes as an excuse to hold back and not become the person they are meant to be (as I did when I was younger).  It's almost as if they've lost their sense of identity.  You are MORE than a diabetic.  You are MORE than someone defined by One Touch Commercials and Walt Brimely Commercials (who like Bret Michaels, can't even pronounce their own disease correctly!).

Don't let diabetes hold you back from chasing your dreams.
Don't let diabetes be an excuse for you to hold back.
Don't let diabetes define you.

YOU am more than your disease.  Your disease does not define who YOU are.  You are not just a "diabetic."  YOU are a person living with diabetes.

Until next time...



Thursday, May 2, 2013

Diabetes... (a fresh start in the blogosphere)

I have decided to take a new route with blogging.  For almost 22 years now I have lived with type 1 diabetes.  I have had the privilege of meeting many different people also living with this disease.  No two stories are the same.  There is so much that goes into living with diabetes (much more than the commercial let on!).  I have so many stories that are welling up inside of me and I have decided that it's time for me to share them:  this blog will be geared to doing just that.

Below is a post I wrote a while back and I thought it would be a great way to start off my new direction in the blogging world...enjoy!

Living With Type 1 Diabetes & Maintaining PMA
I'll never forget August 28, 1991.  This is the day when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.  I was so young and honestly did not understand what the doctors were telling me.  All I heard was that I could not have sugar and I would have to take shots for the rest of my life.  Seriously?!  I was pretty scared.  I was not willing to give myself my own shots at first.  Actually, my parents gave me my shots until I was 12 years old.

Diabetes changed my life.  It caused me to feel alone.  I felt like such an outcast.  I even had a few episodes in school that were very embarrassing (i.e. passing out in art class and waking up in the hallway being fed by a teacher).  However, there was another day in my life that changed my perspective.  It was in August of 1995 when my family took me to King, NC to a camp for diabetic children called Camp Carolina Trails.  I was not very excited about the idea of being at camp. What could I possibly get out of such an experience?

I do not have enough time or space to tell you all that happened during this week of camp.  All I know is that by the time the week was over I did not want to leave, I had given myself an injection for the first time ever, and I finally realized I was not alone.  There were over 100 other kids with diabetes at camp, and almost all of the staff had it as well (not to mention some of the female counselors who I had a mad crush on!).  This did not make the disease go away.  It did not mean I would not have to be responsible and take care of myself.  What changed was my attitude.  The motto of CCT is positive mental attitude.  As simple as this idea is, it is vital to the life I live with diabetes.  It is beyond easy to get discouraged living with this disease.  However, after being at this camp and seeing other kids and even adults living with it, I knew that I was not alone.  I knew that I could do anything that I wanted and diabetes did not have to be something that held me back.

So here I am, 21 years after being diagnosed with diabetes and striving to live with this motto of PMA.  I am grateful for CCT in helping me discover this motto not just for diabetes, but for life.  I have not missed one summer of CCT since 1995 and now find myself with the awesome privilege of being the assistant camp director in just a few weeks!  I never imagined myself in a leadership position with anything diabetes related.  When I stepped foot on the campus of Camp Hanes (YMCA Camp that hosts our camp) as a teenager, I was so insecure and ashamed of having diabetes.  Now in 2012 I will step onto the campus of Camp Hanes full of confidence, excitement, and joy because I will get the chance to show other staff members and children that they are more than diabetics...they are actual people living with diabetes.  They are more than what this disease tells them they are.  They are more than tests doctors give them.  They are human beings God created.  They can live with diabetes and still have PMA.  

Until Next Time...

Monday, January 7, 2013

Apathy in the Local Church

It's been a few months since I've written a post.  As usual, I took a week off, which led to another...then get the drift.  However, I've got something on my mind that I need flesh out.  I figured this would be a good place to do it.

Every Monday from 3-5pm, I along with some great volunteers serve at a community center where we host a tutoring program for the community around it.  The number of kids and volunteers fluctuate from week to week.  Let's just say today, we did not have an ideal number of volunteers.  I admit, Mondays at 3pm is not the best time to get volunteers.  However, I wonder where the presence of the local church is within this community?  This is where I get flat out upset...angry...pissed off...frustrated...(insert your word here)

The church has gotten way too comfortable staying within their own walls.  Many expect the clergy/paid staff to be their representatives to the community so they don't have to go themselves.  There is something very wrong with this picture. Many have the belief that missions/service is optional.  I am not talking about going across the globe (though this can be one way to be missional).  I am talking about going into our local neighborhoods...within miles of our own homes...within miles of our own church.  I think "optional" is not the correct word...I am thinking the word "mandatory" fits better. It's mandatory that we are involved in missions.  It does not earn us salvation, and we don't get to use it on a resume to puff up our ego.  However, it's mandatory because it matters so much to the heart of God.

It's my personal belief that as we develop a heart that is more and more like Christ's, we will have a desire...a burden to go into the world around us and try to make it better.  The writer of Ephesians says we are to "imitate Christ."  (Ephesians 5:1)  What does it mean to imitate Christ?  When you read about Jesus in the Gospels, He is always on the move.  He devoted His life to honoring the Father as much as possible, and the primary way He did this was by serving the world around Him in love. 

So my question to you: what are you doing for the world around you?  Do you have a burden to serve or are you apathetic?  Are you looking for opportunities to serve or are you waiting on someone else to do it for you?  I long for the day when I have so many volunteers on Mondays, that we have to expand the tutoring program beyond one day a week!  I long for a heart more like the heart of Christ, to see those kids through His eyes instead of my own judgmental ones.

Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.  Do not say to your neighbor, "Come back later; I'll give it tomorrow"-- when you NOW have it with you (Proverbs 3:27, NIV)

Until next time...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

My (Personal) Struggle with the Scriptures

The Bible I was given in 2004 by my home church.

When I began to take my faith seriously going into my sophomore year in high school, I still felt intimidated by this book we call the Bible.  I figured it was enough if I paid attention to others who knew it better, instead of reading it for myself.  I would let them pass down the knowledge of this text since they had training and all.  Then my junior year came, and I noticed some of my friends were reading the Bible on a consistent basis without anyone's help to interpret it for them.  In particular, a girl I dated during my junior year was reading it and I began to ask myself, "What is going on with people reading the Bible outside of church?"  I realized that something was lacking in my walk with Christ.  So I began to read...and read...and read...I had a hunger for the Scriptures like never before.

Then I felt a calling in my life to work with teenagers.  I felt a calling to serve them and walk with them through life.   I also felt a calling to teach them about God's Word.  This has been on my mind over the past few weeks because I have been reading through the book of John during my personal devotion time, and I was reminded of my time at GWU as a sophomore in a class called "The Writings of John" with Dr. Williams.  I remember it as a time when my desire for reading the Bible was at its highest.   I could not get enough.  I had to read an exhaustive commentary on John's Gospel while I was in this class.  I noticed that I had highlighted all over this commentary and written notes about what I was discovering.  

Here I am, 10 years later, and if I'm going to be honest, my desire to read the Scripture has been...well, lacking.  I remember the passion I had while in Dr. Williams class because I was reading and researching the Scriptures in a way like never before.   Then I naturally began to ask some questions about the Bible:

How did we actually get the Bible?
Who wrote these books?
How were they copied down through history?
Is the Bible meant to be taken literally?  Every word?
(If so, some of these commands are a little far-fetched!)
If the original text was written in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, then does something get lost in translation since we have so many now?  (NIV, ESV, NLT, KJV, NKJV, etc)
What about some of the controversial themes we like to avoid in the "church?" 
(Holy War in the OT, Violence versus Jesus seeming to be a total pacifist)
Why does the Bible say something in one part of the text, but seems to say something completely different in another part?

I hate to disappoint you, but I do not have the answer to many of these questions.  I often feel guilt for even asking some of these questions.  Then I begin to ask myself something:  Perhaps I'm not the only one struggling with these questions?  Maybe, I'm not the only "minister" who even struggles with them (if ministers will drop some arrogance and be honest with themselves)

Over the past several years, I have come to some personal conclusions about the Scriptures.   You may not agree with all of them, and that's ok.  Here are some observations I have made:

*It is not the Bible's job to answer all of our questions
The Bible does not answer every single one of our questions in a nice, neat, and orderly fashion.  The Bible tells us a story.  One of the many stories it tells us is how God from the very beginning of time, has invested Himself into Creation, which includes us.  He is the One who not only created us, but took great risk in doing so.  In any love relationship, rejection is possible.  God over and over in the Old Testament puts Himself out there for His people to accept or reject Him.  God is the One who literally gives up a part of Himself to redeem us (through His Son, Jesus Christ).  The Bible may not answer ALL of our questions, but it does show us one thing---a personal and loving God who is willing to give it all, including Himself,  to show His love for us.

*It is dangerous to take the all of the Scriptures literally and legalistically
I believe God played an integral part in the development of the Bible.  However, it is important to remember that specific people wrote these letters to other specific people, during a specific time period, for a specific purpose.  To read the Bible like it was written to us and us alone is to rob it of its beauty.  For instance, did God create the world in seven literal days?  I don't know.  The author of Genesis was not there when it all went down, right?  He/she wasn't there when God formed everything together.  What is a "day" to God anyways?  Here is the point:  God initiated Himself into our world by creating creating humanity...and by engaging Himself in relationship with us.  The Bible is a beautiful and yet complex text.  I believe it is inspired by God and we can learn so much from it.  However, I also believe it can be used to do great harm in God's name if we are not careful in our interpretation of the text.

*The Bible itself is a pure miracle
I do not have the time to get into all of the details of how we got the Bible (honestly, I am not the best person to even TRY to explain it!).  However, the fact that we even have  the text before us today is nothing short of a miracle.  Oral tradition (stories passed down), leading to others copying down the text (via manuscripts, codex, papyrus, etc), leading to the canon/compiling of our Bible (finalized around 367), leading all the way to the printing press (1456), which led to the mass production of the Scriptures, and here we are today with copies everywhere.  That's a crazy summary of how we got it, but for me, the key dates are 367-1456.  Once the Bible was canonized (compiled), it still made it all the way to 1456 when Gutenberg invented the printing press...over 1000 years.  This tells me there is something very unique and amazing about this text.  Say what you do not even have to believe The Scriptures if you so's a personal choice.  However, you can not deny that there is something special about this text since it has lasted all this time.  There is no getting around it...

Even though I struggle with the Scriptures, I find myself coming back to it to learn more about the story of God.  There are parts of the story (in the Bible, and in my own life) that make absolutely no sense at all.  However, the story continues on.  I pray that I can continue to develop a hunger for the Scriptures for as long as I live.  To me, the Bible is not just another book...

For the word of God is living & active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul & spirit, joints & marrow; it judges the thoughts & attitudes of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12--NIV)

I once heard a pastor say, "When I read the also reads me."  I've always remembered that.  Something amazing happens when I read the Scriptures...God can use them to open my eyes so that I may learn more about Him...there is nothing I long for more than to know my God better...
So...what about you?  What struggles do you have with the Bible? 
I pray that no matter what they are, that you will find yourself digging into it and wrestling with its content.
I pray that by the next time I write a blog post, that I have read it and learned more about God's story...

Until next time...