A Diagnosis and its Lesson

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Disclaimer: I’m sharing this for a few reasons. One, to extend the same transparency and vulnerability I encourage others to have. Two, to get out of my comfort zone, just as God has called me. Three, to raise awareness about a condition that doesn’t necessarily deserve a negative stigma.

“We have your results, and your numbers were high.”

“I’m afraid this means you have gestational diabetes.”

“It just happens sometimes, it was nothing you did.”

“You’ll need to see a nutritionist and check your levels four times a day.”

My head was spinning after I got the call. Even in the midst of the news, I understood the diagnosis wasn’t earth-shattering. After all, it’s not a terminal disease. I wasn’t living my last days. I was still carrying a precious baby boy.

But still, I was devastated. I felt like my body failed me.

The tears came. And then they came again. And again after that. I didn’t understand how a person who eats well and exercises regularly could be plagued with the dreaded “d word.” Diabetes. Here’s an unfiltered glimpse into how I’ve felt the last couple weeks:

  • Confused – I’m a healthy person. I eat real food most of the time, and I’m active nearly every day. This just doesn’t make sense.
  • Embarrassed – People will think I’m a fraud. There’s such a stigma around gestational diabetes, so everyone will assume I lie about what I eat.
  • Overwhelmed – How is a formerly anorexic girl going to cope with a set of rules and restrictions around food? I’ve come so far, but the emotional scars are still there. I’m worried I’ll spiral back into those old habits.
  • Angry – I’ve seen sample gestational diabetes nutrition plans, and they recommend things like 100-calorie snack packs and Ritz crackers. In what universe is that an improvement?
  • Scared – Am I hurting my baby? Was it something I did? What’s going to happen?

Now here we are. Still wondering how this is possible, but trying to comprehend it all.

Making Sense of the Diagnosis

It’s taken lots of work to accept all of this. And some days are better than others. Truthfully, my heart doesn’t exactly feel “ready” to share this with all of you. But I’ve learned my heart isn’t a great compass. So here I am. Standing, a little shaky, outside my comfort zone.

I feel I need to go a little in-depth about what gestational diabetes is, and my particular diagnosis, so please bear with me as I explain. Slowly, I’m coming to grips with the fact that having gestational diabetes (GD) has nothing to do with how you eat or how much you work out, but has everything to do with how your pancreas handles carbohydrates during pregnancy. The fittest, healthiest people can fail the glucose tolerance test. Likewise, the mom who has fast food and soda every day can pass the test with flying colors.

There are risk factors, of which I fall under three: I’m over 25, I’m not Caucasian, and I have an existing autoimmune condition. It’s also worth noting that years of learning to eat intuitively have led me to discover that my body thrives on a higher fat/protein, lower carb way of eating. Please know this is not the right nutrition protocol for everyone, but it works well for my body. While I no longer track my food in a journal, I do know that I regularly consume anywhere from 60-80 grams of carbohydrates per day when I’m not training heavily (i.e., during pregnancy). There are exceptions of course. For example, I spent much of the first trimester only able to stomach simple carbs like saltine crackers or toast. And I don’t hide the fact that I indulge occasionally – a quick look at my Instagram feed shows transparency in the form of oatmeal cookie sandwiches, churros, and donuts from time to time. But for the most part, my day-to-day meals are made up of real food that I take the time to prepare and savor because it’s important to me.

After doing some research, I’ve discovered that during the glucose tolerance test, the physiological insulin resistance response from a lower carb way of eating is very real. In other words: give a lower-carb/real food eater a neon syrupy orange drink with 100 grams of glucose in it, and of course their body isn’t going to know how to handle all of that sugar. Their body is used to seeing a fraction of those carbohydrates…not in concentrated form…with meals…spread out over the course of an entire day. My personal experience with the drink wasn’t positive – it made me nauseous and lightheaded. In fact, they put me in a separate waiting area and kept an eye on me so I wouldn’t throw up. Glamorous, I know.

Could it be a misdiagnosis? Possibly. I won’t know until I get my glucometer this week (to test my blood sugar after each meal). I plan to share these numbers.

Could it be that I was consuming too few carbs for a pregnant woman, thus affecting my test results? Possibly. I do feel great and my weight gain is right on target, but perhaps the way of eating that made me thrive as a “regular person” has proved ineffective to me as a pregnant woman. I’m learning as I go.

A fellow mama-to-be reminded me of an important point: Gestational diabetes does not deserve the stigma it has. Consider what a strain pregnancy is on the body. While we’re indeed designed to carry babies and give birth, it’s not the gentlest process. Think about how the organs, ligaments, and bones must be squished and rearranged to accommodate a new life. Hormones wreak havoc simply by doing what they’re supposed to. All women have different struggles during pregnancy – some experience debilitating ligament pain, some have severe nausea/vomiting throughout their entire pregnancy, some struggle with depression, some have difficulty regulating blood sugar, some have preeclampsia, and the list goes on. Every single body has different strengths and weaknesses.

At the end of the day, it is what it is. My pancreas just can’t seem to keep up. So I digress. If you’re interested in some accounts of otherwise healthy women who have failed the gestational diabetes test, I’ll include some links in the Resources section at the end of this post.

Painting a Bigger Picture

But here’s why no amount of explaining, researching, or reasoning matters:

We are not called to lie down, defeated and distracted. We are called to get up. To move forward. To walk in victory.

I thought of John 5:1-9 as I wrote that. When you get bad news, it’s easy to internalize everything and throw a pity party because that’s what feels right in the moment. And boy do I know how to throw a good pity party. My husband can probably attest to that.

Here’s what I need to consistently try to understand: the end result of my unexpected, beautiful mess is parenthood. It’s a baby. It’s a family. It’s life. It’s LOVE. And that’s easier to accept when I realize just how intricately God is involved in my process of becoming a woman after his own heart. That includes shifting my perspective and embracing my facets like the gem that I am.

To many of you, this probably isn’t a big deal. You might be thinking, she has gestational diabetes – so what? But for me, accepting the diagnosis represents so much more: It’s the often forgotten lesson that not everything goes according to plan. It’s the fight between my flesh and my spirit. It’s the decision to let go of fear. It’s the absolute need to erase unhealthy shame from my life. It’s a way to remember that I’m not the one in control here. It’s a reminder that we all have our issues.

So what are your issues teaching you?

 


Resources:

 

What To Do When You Feel Stuck

The rainbow lit up my hand and lingered there for a moment. I had been so immersed in a deadline for work that I didn’t realize sunlight was streaming through the window, making the hanging prisms scatter tiny rainbows across the room. As I typed, the colorful streak kept traveling back to my hand — its placement a beautiful reminder that these hands are made to write. It was the slightest inkling that God’s calling me into a new season and a new promise. The little rainbow tattooed itself to my hand every few seconds as if to whisper, “There is fire here. There is color. There is life. Share it.”

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For what seems to be the better part of a year, I’ve had writer’s block. Not for lack of ideas, but for lack of confidence and grace for myself. While many things were going “right” in my life, I, as a person, still felt like one big question mark — a mystery I just couldn’t solve. There are so many many many things I wanted to say about health and food and image and mindset and life, but I didn’t know how to say them. Or if I’d change my mind. Or if I wasn’t qualified enough. Or if I would embarrass myself. And now I find myself slowly digging my way out of this very deep rubble of doubt and discontentment. Because I need to move forward, but first I must make my way up and out.

In this time of excavation, I thought I’d share ways to make the most of what you think may be a lackluster time in your life. Because the more I think about the rainbow on my hand, the more I understand how my season of silence equipped me for what’s to come. Here’s what I’ve done in seasons when I feel blocked or stuck:

I pray as much as I can. When I wake up, in the shower, while I cook dinner, while I sit in my backyard, while I drive, while I fall asleep. Some days are better than others. It’s never very eloquent, but it changes me.

I enjoy eating good food. I often choose food that nourishes my body — colorful, real, satisfying food that makes me feel vibrant from the inside. And sometimes I choose food that may not be “healthy,” but really nourishes my heart. Either way, I make sure I enjoy the process and really savor whatever I eat. If it’s not incredibly delicious, it’s not worth it.

I walk every day. Such a simple thing has such a huge impact on my day. On days I’m not able to fit in at least a 20-minute walk, I feel restless and underwhelmed. Walking in silence can be freeing some days, but most of the time I use that time to learn. Which leads me to my next tip…

I listen to podcasts. Anything and everything goes. I search iTunes and cherry-pick free podcasts or I get recommendations from friends. At the moment, my go-tos are The Jillian Michaels Show, The City Church with Judah Smith, The Birthful Podcast, and The Nourished Podcast.

I’m gentle with myself. I don’t respond well to tough love (whether self or otherwise inflicted), so this one is so important to me. And it’s crucial for you too because only you know the best ways to be gentle with yourself. For me right now it means being OK with silence, letting my body wake up without an alarm clock (I realize this is a privilege), empowering myself to choose balance/moderation when it comes to food and fitness, and letting go of preconceived notions about what my body should look like.

I look for and make beauty. This is one of those “make or break” things for me because much of my livelihood is caught up in noticing and appreciating my surroundings. I love hanging crystal prisms in a window that gets a lot of sun so that the room is flooded with rainbows every day at a certain time. Or taking a million pictures of the sunset with no intention of ever sharing on social media. Or making sure my bedroom is clean enough so that it can become a sleepy, wonderful haven of soft blankets and squishy pillows. Or concentrating on how comforting my husband’s laughter sounds at the end of a long day. Or realizing how much friendships can teach you about grace and God.

If you’re in a season of silence like I’ve been, know that it will pass eventually. And know you’re allowed to enjoy the silence because the “block” you feel might not be the concrete barricade you’ve dreamt up after all. You’re likely being prepped and primed in a way that’s unique to you. Because somebody, somewhere will need your words. Somebody will need your art. Somebody will need your knack for listening or leadership or loving others. This is your invitation to stay sane in whatever season of life you’re in, and to be OK with a little mystery.

Your Life in Six Words

I was browsing Pinterest when I saw it: “Write your life story in six words.” It was a writing prompt, something meant to spark creativity. Six words? I thought, baffled at how that was possible. I think six separate things in a matter of seconds. Surely, my life story should be novel-ish in length. Right? Crickets…

Then I thought about it. I’ve had writer’s block for what feels like decades, so maybe this was worth a shot. I grabbed a pen, and with surprising ease, scribbled out:

I'm messy, but creatively equipped now

Woah. Ouch. Ok.

It was painfully accurate – a six-word life story that unearthed the truth of who I am, where I’m headed, and how I’m getting there.

I’m messy: I don’t have it all together. I’m imperfect.
But: Wait, it’s OK. There’s good news.
Creatively Equipped: I have what I need to fulfill my calling. And on top of that, the tools I’ve been given are ORIGINAL – direct from a truly creative Creator. Use them.
NOW: I’m ready to do this, one step at a time. It will be difficult, but my excuses don’t matter. I can start making my dreams happen this very moment.

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Ever since I wrote those six little words, I’ve wavered between wildly enthusiastic and totally freaked out. Because here’s the truth: there are a lot of days where I feel so knocked down that I don’t have the will to do anything beyond the basics: eat, work, sleep. Over and over and over again – a schedule so lackluster that it’s strangely addictive. And with this monotonous routine comes negativity, sweeping in like a dust storm. Suffocating. Settling in the corners.

And suddenly all I can think about are the things going “wrong” in my life. Like, boo-hoo, selfish, woe-is-me stuff. I focus on the fact that I can’t afford to take my health coach certification exam. That I can’t muster up the energy to work full time and keep my house clean. That my heart is bursting to travel, but now is not the time. That I can’t quiet the skeptic in me. That I don’t have many friends. That I feel so small and unimpactful. That I’m not qualified enough or spiritual enough to dole out advice about wellness. That I’m desperately trying to fulfill my dreams, but it feels a bit…messy.

And just like that, I forget.

I forget that there are parts of my life going gloriously, impressively right. That the messy stuff – no matter how fragmented – is piecing together. I see it. It’s slow, but I’d see it if  I’d  just  remember  to  look. I forget that it’s OK to feel small. That small is good. Inviting. Growing.

“Small is the size of a seed — wet, and hard, and ready all at once. Small is a violet diamond. Sometimes, small is all you have. The response to feeling small in the face of something big can be an invitation to your purity — your pure, honest truth.” Danielle LaPorte

The truth is I am equipped. By a Creator who makes exquisite, glorious things. By a Creator who is creative, and has gifted me with specific, useful abilities of my very own. Suddenly, the credentials and adventure and community seem less far away.

And just like that, I remember.

psalm183235I remember to ask myself whether I’ve been responsible with the resources I’ve been given. Whether my mission is to serve people wholeheartedly. Whether I’ve been a good steward of my money. Whether my time management skills are conducive to my goals. Whether I’ve been consistently praying for God’s will. Whether I’ve extended the same grace to others I so desperately crave myself.

Perhaps your story is similar. I want you to know you are capable of moving forward, no matter how small your stride. You are capable of making plans and of being flexible. Of listening, learning, speaking, teaching. There are times we wait and there are times we move. It’s all part of the story anyway.

So those are my six words – each letter wrapped in its own delicate string of thoughts, emotions, prayers, and tenacity. And when I forget it (because I will), I’ll work hard to remember that my mess is part of the adventure.

What’s your six-word life story? How long did it take you to write? Did it open your eyes to anything you need to do or think or say?

 

 

 

 

The Struggle IS Real.

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{Guest post by Sarah Yanagi. Original post appeared at bit.ly/thestruggleisreal.}

To put the content of this blog post, and how incredibly important I think it is for today’s culture, into greater context, I feel it necessary to tell you this:

What you are currently reading is my fifth or sixth attempt to craft/convey these ideas.

The most significant pursuit of my life is figuring out how to put action to faith. I come from a Church culture that, to be very honest, is EXCEEDINGLY good at talking. Prior to my divorce-and subsequent leave from vocational ministry, I put a lot of blood and tears into attempts to convey this idea: talking isn’t worth much.

Because I have to write to process through things, I wrote this several years ago, in a season of deep frustration over all of the ‘talking’ that surrounded me:

“And the

Cruelest torture

Is that words are Nothing.

And words are Everything.”

What you say to your grieving loved ones IS very important (and especially valuable if delivered with thoughtful timing, using great discernment). But what you DO is worth FAR more, especially in the lives of people who are struggling.

In 2010, I entered a season of intense grief: my divorce. Everything I had planned for my life to be was now a vapor; now just an dream that eluded me. In the wake of the separation, many people wanted to get together with me; most of them had very good intentions…some of them just wanted the scoop (given the public nature of my marriage). But I can tell you with an ardent conviction (and I wish that a stronger word than ‘conviction’ came to mind) that the people who were the greatest conductors of healing; who elucidated Hope in my heart, were the ones who sat Shiva with me.

(A little background on the Jewish custom of Shiva, from our trusty friend, wikipedia) 😛

Shiva is a week-long mourning period in Judaism. Traditionally, no greetings are exchanged and visitors wait for the mourners to initiate conversation, or remain silent if the mourners do not do so, out of respect for their bereavement. Once engaged in conversation by the mourners, it is appropriate for visitors to talk about the deceased, sharing stories of his or her life. Some mourners use the shiva as a distraction from their loss, other mourners prefer to openly experience their grief together with friends and family.

In Shiva, fellow grievers let the bereaved person lead. If they want to talk, then they talk..If they want to sit in silence, then they sit in silence…but WHATEVER they do, they do it TOGETHER. They do not face the deepest, most intense sadness of their life ALONE.

I, like many folks I know, spend a good deal of time trying to articulate my concern with the way that technology is robbing us of richness and depth in our relationships. Where I believe that the church should be stepping in with methods that encourage vulnerability and richness and depth in relationships, often times events and programs and general busy-ness and a lot of talking are a substitute for them. I don’t say this to point fingers or in bitterness or anger at all; more as a request for a change of priorities. Of course, church-culture is not the ONLY culprit that is perpetrating the problem of loneliness and shallow relationships: I think as a culture, in general, we are headed in a direction that isolates those among us who are grieving. People whose struggles ARE real.

The good news is that without one single doubt, there is a solution to this cultural plight.

It’s you.

As I say that, I am pointing four fingers back at myself. I’m the solution; you’re the solution. We can spend time praying and asking for opportunities to illuminate Hope to those in our respective spheres of influence (a fancy way of saying ‘our friends and families’). Can we pray that God will refine our approach with people? That He with impart creativity when it counts; slow us down when thoughtfulness is necessary? My prayer lately; the deepest desire of my heart, is that I will take opportunities that arise and be a good steward of my relationships…that I will learn to strike the delicate balance between deep empathy and piercing honesty…that I will learn what it truly means to speak the truth in love. Beyond that, I hope to learn the sacrifice of sitting Shiva with the ones I love when they grieve, resisting the urge to throw tired cliches (no matter HOW true) at them, or to judge when I may not understand. Grief, more often than not, takes time and requires thoughtful discernment.

Though it’s been messy, and there was absolutely no road-map through my grief, I am more hopeful in life (and more equipped for whatever may be ahead) than I have ever been. My friends have been instrumental in this. Here is how my friends contributed: they brought me movies, and pizza, and wine. They went to concerts and on great adventures with me…they took me to breakfast, listened to my stories and made me laugh…they held me while I cried. Sprinkled throughout were many conversations; important conversations containing seeds of great truth and real hope…action and empathy watered those seeds. They prayed for me, I’m sure of it; but usually in secret, where God heard their prayers and delivered strength to me. Most often, the strength of their prayers was delivered in the form of their kindness and unconditional, loving actions and support.

Your words are important. Of course they are…but take your words first to prayer, and then ask for strength in your hands; in your arms; in your commitment and resolve. Our decision to act in the lives of our friends and loved ones is one of the most important one we ever make.

A note from Ness: Sarah is one of the most kindred spirits I’ve ever known. I’ve looked up to her for years, and have always been awestruck by the way she speaks so eloquently about the things that are on my heart — the things I struggle to articulate myself. You can find more of Sarah’s writing on her blog, The Saturated Life.

4 Thoughts For Finding the Gold in People

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{Guest post by Jeanne Takenaka. Original post appeared at bit.ly/findingthegold.}

As a girl, I found some pyrite while on a family hike. It sparkled like gold in my little-girl mind, and I was beyond excited. I showed my father, and he patiently explained that what I’d found was fool’s gold, or pyrite. Disappointed, I set it back on the ground.

Since then, I’ve wondered about pyrite. When Hubby took me away for a weekend to celebrate our anniversary, we stayed in Cripple Creek, a mining town here in Colorado (no, we didn’t drop coins in any slot machines). We spent one afternoon visiting museums. One museum showed miner’s equipment and many displays of various minerals excavated in the area. The pyrite caught my eye. But so did the gold, and this is why.

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Pyrite is shiny. It has the appearance of being valuable. Gold, in it’s raw form, runs as a small vein on common rocks. It’s not always shiny, and could be missed by an untrained eye. Yet, it holds great value. Appearances rarely tell the entire story.

How often have I been drawn to to a person or a situation because it was shiny on the outside? Maybe it was a person who seemed to have it all together. Or someone who was really good at something I couldn’t do. Or someone who was polished in how she handled situations. Maybe the person fit my personal definition of attractive. Something in the appearance looked shiny to me. I wanted it!

Or, I wanted to be like them.

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How many times do we chase after something because it is attractive to the eyes, but it has no internal value? One way people tell the difference between pyrite and gold is by drawing with it. Pyrite will leave lines of black or gray, but gold leaves lines of, well, gold. Their internal properties are intrinsically different. One is common, one is valuable.

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I’m choosing to look beyond the shiny in someone’s appearance and search for the authentic. What’s on the inside of a person—how he or she responds in tough situations, how he or she treats other people—shows if they are pyrite or gold on the inside.

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Appearances only tell us so much about a person. They tell us what that person hopes to convey to their world. It doesn’t necessarily reveal to us who they really are. Taking the time to look for the gold can be one of the best investments we make.

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Here are four things we can do to discover the gold hidden beneath the shiny:

  1. Draw others out with thoughtful questions, and hear them without formulating our response while they answer
  2. Take time to really listen to others—hearing not just their words, but their heart
  3. Grow in a relationship with them
  4. Ask God to give us eyes to see the value beyond the appearance (attractive or not) of a person

I’m training my eyes—my heart—to look beyond the shiny surface of a person to the authenticity of the gold beneath.

What about you? How do you find the gold in those around you? What helps you look beyond appearances?

A note from Ness: Jeanne Takenaka writes beautifully about real-life issues, and has a heart to draw women closer to God and to those around them. Please check out her work at http://www.jeannetakenaka.wordpress.com.