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Staying Strong with Faith in My Diabetes Toolkit!

She's sharing about her faith?

My faith is an important part of my life. However, it isn't something I talk about openly with all of my friends or everyone I meet. Nor is it something I even write or share about publicly on either of my diabetes blogs as often as I might like. From what I have seen, it is rarely discussed in other parts of the DOC (diabetes online community) on diabetes blogs or websites either.

Writing about my personal faith experience and sharing about it here with you today takes a lot of courage.

Unfortunately, there can be a lot of judgment when others find out someone is a Christian (sometimes even from other Christians - crazy, right?). Judgment is something I have experienced personally because of my faith but also because of my health and other parts of my life as well. It hurts! It sucks. And it's stupid.

I wish there was not so much judgment in this world as it is not something we are called to do. Feeling judged by others is a terrible thing to experience. 

The sad thing is that I have quite possibly been judged the most by other Christians! Even once several years ago being told that it was my sin that caused my Type 1 diabetes. I am not joking!! I explained to her that I was only eleven and just a child when diagnosed but she pulled up verses out of her bible to quote to me. I was disgusted and felt terrible. Rather than be supported in the daily challenges I endure with my health, I was being told I caused my diabetes to happen. It's no wonder why many want nothing to do with the church or their own personal faith.

Here in this post, I am about to break free of feeling like I have to hide or only disclose in limited amounts this piece of my experience which is an important part of who I am and what helps keep me strong and grounded in peace.

I'm asking for your favor not to be judged in return for sharing so freely about this intimate part of my life. Through my personal beliefs and painful experiences of being judged, I am very conscious in my efforts to try my best not to judge others and to share acceptance and love.


Why faith for your diabetes??

Through faith I am able to manage and cope living with Type 1 diabetes for over 26 years as well as multiple other chronic health conditions. While this may not seem like a big deal to others, it is!

My health requires a lot of daily effort and sacrifice as well as motivation and control to help me succeed in the balancing act needed to feel well and thrive. It amounts to a full time job in the time, care and energy I must devote.

As those of you know who live with diabetes, it is not easy! A condition that despite one doing most everything right, can often, through no fault of your own, keep giving you disapproving glances and kicks in the shin (aka high blood sugars, low blood sugars, etc).

How do I keep on going another day when sometimes it would be easier to call it quits and throw in the towel?

My faith.

Although I spent some time in the church growing up, attending religion classes and going through communion and confirmation, my faith was not a very big part of my life outside of saying the "Our Father" prayer at bedtime each night.

My budding faith during the college years..

By the time I reached college I actually called myself an "undercover Christian" to others who asked about my faith. Why would I keep hidden this important part of my life, refusing to wear a necklace in the shape of a cross around my neck? Because some of the people I had been most hurt by in my life were Christians.

I did not want someone to fear being my friend because they too possibly had learned the hard way to be leery of Christians because of the judgment and critical eyes that may have been cast down on them. As an undercover Christian, my mission was to let my love and the love of Christ flow through me in my care and love of others. I still pray to have the right words and ways of being to share with others.

I graduated from a Catholic women's college, the largest in the country. St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. My grade school friend transferred there and I knew the moment I stepped on campus that it was the place for me.

It was here that my faith became a new lens for me in which to see the world. I was required to take one Theology class as part of my required classes to graduate. Reading and studying theological books and text, some written by ancient saints, I had never seen God in this way before. I began stopping by my professor's office in between classes just to ask questions as I tried to grasp my understanding of the unique new concepts I was learning.

My professor was an actual Sister (nun). While she did not wear the traditional clothing associated with a nun, I had never experienced before looking into someone's eyes and seeing God's very existence. Everything she shared was of love and made perfect sense to me. I told her all about my diabetes and the suffering I had endured. She helped me make sense of it-- how my faith could fit into the daily parts of my life and the ways I could use it to understood people, relationships and life rather than just a prayer I said before bed. Because of her, I decided to minor in Theology to learn all I could about this intriguing subject.

Our Lady of Victory Chapel - St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN (picture from Wikipedia).I became active in Campus Ministry, becoming a hospitality minister and reader. With a beautiful chapel right on campus (that is actually on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places - breathtaking!) I began attending church weekly which brought me much joy and hope and only increased my faith.

I was busted though once in a class. I was meeting with fellow students on a small group project in my communications class. One of my friends said to me, "So and so saw you praying during the church service and you were really intensely focused while you were praying. I guess you looked like you are really religious. Are you really religious?" I responded back how I usually did when asked about my faith, "No, I am just spiritual, not religious" and shared about my undercover Christian story.

Finding a new reason in my life for faith

Graduating college, I fell away from the church. It was hard going to church on my own. I would try out new churches but none seemed to be the right fit. One service at a church by my apartment lasted over two hours once - and I think I snuck out early! I would visit back at St. Kate's occasionally but it didn't quite feel the same after graduation. This is also the time when many health problems began in my life and I felt very lost.

It wasn't until I reached an all time low point in my young life that I entered the church again. I had been living with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis (hypothyroidism) for a short while and really struggled with it.

My world fell apart when a nodule was found on my thyroid the day before my sister's wedding. I was told it could be cancer. The prospect of cancer is hard at anytime in one's life, but in your 20's when already dealing with a serious condition like Type 1 diabetes, it is one of the scariest things you can hear. Comments like, "Thyroid cancer is the least serious kind of cancer" and "It rarely kills" and "If you were to get cancer, thyroid cancer is the best kind to get" were not helpful either.

Not knowing during a period of 6 months or more if I had cancer while waiting for multiple biopsy results and the upcoming surgery, I returned in desperation back to my faith, but in a new way. I came to it because of need-- not because of anything I was being told to do or should do. It was something I needed to be able hang on another day through the many hardships and immense fear and pain I felt.

Driving to my parent's house on Saturdays became a weekly ritual. My mom and I would attend the 5:00 pm church service together (at the church I grew up at) before heading back to their house where we would eat a delicious homemade meal my mom cooked for dinner. She would even ask what I was hungry for that week and make my special request. It was always so delicious and nurturing to my soul.

Sounds simple, but it was these very things... church, a home cooked meal and time with my family that felt so very comforting. They are what got me through a difficult time of despair, loneliness, isolation and uncertainty.

Experiencing severe depression at this point too, I prayed to have the strength to endure just one more week and shared all of the fear I felt in those quiet moments with God. In these moments I was given just enough strength and grace to carry on one more week through a life that was so scary and unknown.

This time in my life through much hardship and trial is also what developed the personal faith practice I have carried with me in my daily life ever since.

Where my faith stands today

My faith is still an important part of my life. I attend church weekly and enjoy being a reader at church too. It is through attending church that I am able to let go of some of my disappointments, pray for myself and others in need and be filled with peace, strength and a renewed faith. The weeks I attend church I am able to stay more positive despite hardship than when I miss going for a week.

Sometimes when I'm lucky I get to experience grace, which is one of the most overwhelmingly positive feelings-- and one of the most reassuring ways I am reminded that I am loved and cared for.

I pray every day, not only a direct conversation with God about what I may be struggling with or concerned about but I pray for my friends and family too and my healthcare team that brings me so much hope, support and health. And I pray for the wonderful and supportive community that has formed around my blog whom I care about each member so much.

I also read several devotions each night before I go to bed, while saying prayers and positive affirmations too. I think it leaves our minds and thoughts in a good place to drift off into peaceful slumber. My husband and I also take this time to pray together for all of our loved ones, those in need and our upcoming week. 

My faith continues to be one of the most meaningful parts of my life and something that gives me the very strength, hope and encouragement I need to carry on in this life. No part of living with a handful of chronic health condtions is easy; I need my faith to get by. There are many stories and examples that I could share with you of the miraculous ways God has been present in my life, but for the sake of this post not being any longer, I must limit what I share. 

My faith is also the reason I write two blogs. DiabeticLifestyle and the blog I started a little over a year and a half ago, Diabetes Light: My holistic journey to health. I felt strongly led by God to start blogging and feel guided to share about the pain and struggles I have experienced and how I have worked through some of them to experience joy, peace and health in my life. Of course I still experience struggle and grief at times! The very times I have thought about backing off from my blog, I am given a fairly big nudge which I know comes from God to keep writing and sharing. So I listen. :) 

Although hesitant to share about this part of my life, I see faith as a critical component of living well with diabetes. To me, health is not just about good blood sugars or an acceptable A1c level. Someone may be miserable inside with little joy, peace or laughter in their life but have a great A1c. I see health from a holistic viewpoint which is about wellness in body, mind and spirit.

As a matter of fact, when I met with an integrative medicine doctor at a local hospital a few years ago, he not only asked about who I see for my general and diabetes care but also where I am getting emotional and spiritual support. Because that is what good health is all about! Not just what you ate for lunch or the amount of insulin you need to take with dinner, etc...

This week's healing church service

The healing service at my church (when I am a reader my face shows up on both of those screens!). The last year of my life has been difficult. I have been going through a lot with my health along with other stresses in my life. Lots of tears have fallen from my eyes and some days it feels like more than I can handle.

Of course when anything else is going on in our bodies or lives, it almost always negatively impacts our ability to keep our blood sugars in the range we desire. Dealing with multiple injuries has taken me away from my daily exercise causing me to have crazy blood sugars staying often in the 200-300's the last several months. They have left me feeling beat up and worn thin physically and emotionally.

When I learned about a special healing service offered this week at my church, I decided it was just what I needed. Although I wasn't feeling well and almost didn't make it, my husband fortunately was willing to come with.

I was anointed with oil on my forehead and each of my hands while a prayer was said over me. It was a powerful experience and Jaim said he could feel energy coming off of me after the blessing.

Picture of my hands after being anointed with oil.
Have any of you participated in a service like this? I guess they are just held once a year in August and open to all whether facing terminal, chronic, physical or emotional conditions and addictions as well.

What part does faith play in your life? How has it helped you better manage your diabetes and health overall?

I look forward to hearing your stories! And thanks for reading. I try not to write such long posts but it's hard to write in 500 words or less about one of the most important areas of my life that keeps me healthiest in mind, body and spirit. :)



In Peace & Wellness,

Cynthia

 

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