Wednesday, April 03, 2013

D Is for Diabetes

Here we are on Day 4 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, my friends, and it's time for me to tell you about one of the most important (and hated) aspects of my life: diabetes. I have it.

And as we diabetics like to say, "But it doesn't have me."

Or does it?

Some days it really does feel as if diabetes has me by the throat. It chokes off the quick flow of thoughts, stifles creativity, and zaps my energy on those days.

Other days? My management of this chronic condition works as it's supposed to. Avoiding high-carbohydrate foods, drinking lots of liquids, checking my blood glucose levels throughout the day, moving around a bit more, and taking the right amount of insulin at the right time all add up to a day of feeling better and thinking well. That's definitely a day to celebrate!

Now before you tell me you've heard of this fantastic method for getting me off of insulin, I'll let ya in on an important fact: I have type 1 diabetes. And this "version" is quite different from the type 2 diabetes that your Granny Dolores or Great-uncle Delbert has. I didn't get diabetes because I ate too much candy or too many handfuls of potato chips. It didn't arrive in my life because I weighed too much. Nope. I developed diabetes at the tender age of almost 11 years old, and it happened because my body started attacking itself. Although researchers have found that there is likely a genetic component to some people's developing type 2 diabetes, I think it's almost definite that type 1 IS about one's genes — autoimmune diseases are like that.

Thus (and read this part several times if you need to) MY PANCREAS DOES NOT MAKE INSULIN; therefore, I have to take insulin to replace it. The good news is that in the 1920s Drs. Frederick Banting and Charles Best figured out how to extract insulin and make it into a form that diabetics can inject. From then on, diabetes didn't have to be a death sentence. So many developments have been made in the past 93 years, including the insulin pump and the continuous glucose monitor, both of which I have.

Of course, diabetes is not the worst condition to have -- it's not cancer. But it definitely is tough to have. At least I am not alone -- my family, friends, teachers, bosses, and coworkers through the years have been so supportive, plus I know that my Heavenly Father has purpose for all the things I go through, even if I don't always understand what that purpose is.

C Is for Community

Image Credit: Najac, rue et chateau, Aveyron;
Bibliothèque de Toulouse.
No, not the TV show. Sorry to disappoint you. ;)

I recently joined a Facebook (FB) group for writers. I wasn't sure exactly what I was getting into. But I was pleasantly surprised, even delighted, to discover that the group members encourage one another; help one another by offering advice, suggestions, and recommended reads or tools; and celebrate one another's victories and growth. Congenial, convivial company. (Truly, today's letter is C! Haha!)

I'm discovering that such community is crucial to surviving as any kind of artist. (Writers are artists too!) Knowing that you aren't alone in loving the aroma of a new paperback and dreaming of one day being the author of your own paperback can reinvigorate that flagging will-to-write (or paint, sculpt, stamp, sew, strum, yodel, belt, etc.). It helps to have a pal or a colleague who will tell you to "just do it" or who will check in with you and ask if you've made progress today on the goals you've set for yourself. Even your ideas get infusions of new life after sharing hopes, dreams, and frustrations with your fellow artists.
Image Credit: word cloud made by me
at Wordle™

So in that spirit, I'll share here some of the recent gems of advice from the Writers Unite FB group:
* "It's never too late to learn—you don't have to know everything when you first start." — Amy M.
* "Everything is a learning process, and the learning never ends." — Adrian S.
* "Keep writing until the words come." — Jamie K.
* "Don't be afraid to let your characters turn into who they want to be instead of who you planned for them to be." — Sirena R.
* "Find a community." — Susan K. H.
* "There's no such thing as 'writers ceiling.'" — Annette S.
* "Work at it even when you don't 'feel' inspired." — Michelle W.
* "Inspiration doesn't come unless you send it an invitation." — Adrian S.
* "Put writing on your calendar, and do it until it becomes a habit." — Laura R.
* "Quit waiting, and make it happen." — Sundi Jo G.
* "Writing is hard. Blocks are inevitable. Write through them." — Stephanie C.
* "Doing multiple rewrites doesn't mean you're a bad writer; it means you're a writer who wants to write something others will really enjoy reading." — Susie F.
* "No one will love your writing unless you love it first." — Gabriel Gadfly

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

B Is for Belief

Today's "A to Z Blogging Challenge" brings us to the letter B. And I knew I'd blog on belief, but this post has taken a bit different direction.

Experts in nutrition tell us that we are what we eat. But do we realize that also we are what we believe?

Image Credit: U. S. National Archives
Through most of my preteen and teenage years, I rejected the compliments I received. And I didn't realize the damage I was doing to myself. It's only now as an adult that I know I have reaped as I have sown — I long watered the seeds of negativity spoken into my life or the weeds of self-deprecation that I had allowed to creep into my thinking. I have had an entire garden of weeds to pull up; some of those negativity-plants have had long, stubborn roots that required more than just a quick jerk to pull up out of the soil of my thinking.

Image Credit: U. S. National Archives
I'm not sure why believing compliments that others have given me through the years has been so hard for me. Am I too sensitive? Perhaps so.

Do I consider those who have complimented me to be liars? Well, no, I don't. Do I think they're deluded about me? Not exactly. Then if they are telling the truth about what they see in me, why don't I believe those statements? Why don't I let them take root in my life?

Even more important to ask: why do I more readily believe criticism, especially the discouraging kind?

It's as if one takes the comments — whether merely offhand or intentional — and nourishes them as gardener would do with a cherished plant, hoping for a beautiful bloom to burst forth in the spring. But those criticisms do not produce beautiful blossoms, especially when magnified beyond whatever aspect was meant as constructive feedback. Ugly comments spoken in mean tones can become weeds — even invasive species — to the person who is too apt to believe them.

Image Credit: National Agricultural Library, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture

Nurturing negativity in your own life is all about what you're choosing to believe. That's one of the numerous truths I've learned since becoming a Christian.* And the good news (other than Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection and what all those events mean for humankind) is that I now know I have freedom — to believe that I have worth... and a worth that I don't have to drum up from inside. I don't have to try to manufacture it on my own. That sense of worth comes from knowing that not only am I a cherished creation of my Heavenly Father but also that I am His child.

His love frees up me up to believe what He says about me, and He gives me not only the will to pull up the lie-weeds in my mental garden but also the strength to do so. And the perseverance to keep going back to His Word and sowing those truth-seeds and watering them in my life.

* I have a blog post drafted in which I tell my story. When I publish it, I'll link to it here on this one.

Monday, April 01, 2013

A Is for Ardent

Have you ever tried to learn the names of a group of people within about 10 to 15 minutes? Well, my friends over at the Nashville Rescue Mission and I have done so, several times over the past almost 12 years that I've been volunteering there monthly with the Christ-centered addiction-recovery program.

Image Credit: Jeremy [Retro-Zombie]
I plan the ice-breaker activities each month and play "emcee." And one of my favorite games to pull out of my planning toolkit is the one in which each person chooses an adjective to describe himself and the word must begin with the same letter as his first name. So, since my first name actually is Andrea (I go by Andi a lot), my word needed to begin with A. And you would think that after several years of using this ice-breaker activity, I'd come up with another word to describe myself, but I haven't. My word is ardent.

Webster's defines ardent as "characterized by warmth of feeling expressed in eager zealous support or activity." Initially, I've considered my describing myself as ardent to be more about how passionate I can be about different things. Anyone who knows me will will attest to my passion for well-proofread writing (grammar, spelling, and punctuation are important, people!), my daily dosages of coffee, dark chocolate, and the use of the indicator signal (when driving). But I realize now (as in - as of writing this blog post!) that ardent really applies even more to the way I enjoy encouraging others — becoming someone's ardent supporter, even if it's for the few moments that I get to talk to the person.

Philippians 4:13 plaque
Image Credit: WallBling (Etsy store)

The richest times spent at the mission among the men who are working so hard to put their lives back together (and learning that it's more about surrender than it is about control) are those when one listens to their stories, whether of their current struggles or their recent victories. And in those moments, I most enjoy speaking encouragement and truth into the person's life — those messages of "You can trust that God has good plans for you" or "I can tell that you have a love for ______ and a gift in ______. I could see you as doing {this job} or having {that vocation}." I love shining a light on the possibilities for the future that God has for the person I'm speaking to, weaving together the Scripture(s) that come to mind and the observations I've made about him throughout the evening and encouraging him to believe that God will use the gifts and talents and passions He's placed in that person's design, to His glory.

So since the word ardent applies to me so well (I can be rather demonstrative or dramatic in the right contexts), I'll keep using it each time I have the men and my fellow ministry team members participate in this game/activity. It's such a great word!