Thursday morning, I push a table knife right through the bottom of a glass jelly jar.
Nothing shatters. Nothing cracks. The knife jabs in more deeply than it should. And turning the jar upward on a diagonal, I see the flat, silver, jelly-smeared tip of my knife jutting messy through a rounded, toothless gape, all bruised purple-black with fruit.
This is the way things are going lately.
I look down at Adam’s sandwich—the one I forgot I needed to make, the one his teacher called about just five minutes ago—on the paper towel in front of me. I sigh, scooping it up, throwing away the pieces, starting again. On the counter, I find the round button of glass, smooth at the edges like a coin. I toss it aside, fitting the halves of a new sandwich together, scribbling a carb count on the Ziploc from memory. I reach up on top of the refrigerator, to that place where things get stashed even though I hate them being there, even though I love flat, uncluttered spaces, and I grab a juice pouch from an open box. I count out crackers, pull a pudding from the refrigerator, a plastic spoon from the drawer. Marker uncapped, I scribble more numbers, always with a little “g” behind them. 17g…18g…13.
I shake my head at myself, refusing grace for the mistake. Five minutes before, I walked in the house and sighed, relieved to have everyone delivered on time with insulin, book bags, jackets.
Then she called, Adam’s teacher, always gracious. “Umm, Adam has a field trip today, and he has no lunch.”
Adam has been eating lunch in the cafeteria, something remarkable. My texture-phobic boy has grown past eating six foods to selecting from a variety every day at school, and this because his teacher knew when to nudge, would not give up. I have become so used to not making him a lunch for school anymore. And lately things have been such a mess. It didn’t even click when I read the note on the newsletter Adam brought home: Thursday…Special Olympics Basketball. Of course, he’d need a lunch. And Adam is diabetic. Forgetting his lunch is a bit like forgetting to breathe.
This, at least, makes me laugh. Earlier in the week, after a dear friend asked me what I had on my agenda, she’d said, “Don’t forget to breathe.” Inhale…exhale…inhale. Every breath still whispers the truth, YHWH, YHWH, as the breath He gives rushes in, travels through, rushes out, filling every part.
I pack the food into Adam’s green, camouflage lunch box and head back out the door, back to the car, back to school. One of the teaching assistants greets me when I walk in. “It’s so nice to see you,” she says, patting the lunch box, setting it carefully down in front of her. I smile, standing there in my exercise clothes, plain-faced, my hair swept back by my sunglasses. I wave to Adam across the room, watch “Hi, Mommy” form on his lips. He listens to an audio book at a table, distracted, only half-interested in my appearance there. Is he worth it? All the mess, the chaos, the bruised knife jutting through? Yes, he is.
“Well, thanks. You guys have a great day,” I say, moving back out the door, back on my way, thinking of the full day scheduled out for me in an Evernote file on my phone. I’ll have to look at that list again, the times by which it all has to be done, when I get back home.
And that’s the way things are going here lately. Nothing shattering. No warning cracks. Just sudden, gaping holes in the smooth I long for, the brokenness flat around the edges like a plan.
So I get home and put away my purse, and I grab my keys, and I walk outside the front door and begin again. I walk instead of run, because my training calls for it today, but I lock it all in the house behind me. God and I go together, everywhere, on this walk too, and I tell Him what He already knows, that it’s all His, I am all His, time is all His. Show me, I say to Him, and that’s all, because He already knows what I wish to be shown: the how, the when, the how much—all the things that He can see, that He authors, well out of my range of sight.
And lately, we have so many of these conversations, because lately every day feels like too much. Riley has played basketball in January and February for the last four years, and this year, Zoe plays too. Zoe participated as a cheerleader in years past, but this year, ironically the year she manages her own diabetes, she found the courage to get out on the court. I am so proud of both of them. They’re doing so well, improving, learning, growing. Zoe has confidence and ability I’ve only dreamed of having. She scored sixteen points in her very first game. She runs the entire time she’s on the court. She pursues the ball, the rebounds, understanding the transitions naturally. She counts the days until her next game, the next opportunity to practice. Watching her out there has been sheer joy.
But for two full months, the multiple practices and games each week mean that we only have one evening not to be somewhere by a certain time, and everyday has a do this by then. I survive using a specific plan. Lunch for the field trip wasn’t on the plan.
And other things, things that land on the plan because it would be so nice if I could—like helping the kids prepare seven Valentines a day for their classmates; and things that should be done, need to be done—like scheduling appointments, and working on our budget, never quite come to fruition, because time never unfolds neatly.
Zoe has noticed this too. Wednesday morning, on our way back from the endocrinologist, she says, “But Mom, how in the world will you get all of your work done today?”
I look at her in the rear view mirror and smile. I don’t know.
The appointment has taken longer than I expected. Zoe wants to get a pump, and we have to go to class, and sales rep pump night, and training. They want to screen Riley, Kevin, and me for high risk for diabetes as part of a study because we are a multi-diabetic family. The endocrinologist thinks maybe Adam’s a good candidate for a continuous glucose monitor, because it will be a long time yet before we can trust him to tell us when he feels like his blood sugar is low, when we can know he’ll test and get a snack when he needs one. I spent a while there gathering information, a while standing with the nurse practitioner puzzling over glucose patterns, the two of us bent over computer print outs.
Then she sends us to the hospital to get some lab work done for Zoe. Four tubes of blood they collect from Zoe’s tiny arm, and she’s so brave, not even making a sound when the needle goes in, watching as the blood drips and collects in the tubes. Zoe stands up when it’s done, ready to go. And then she whimpers, looking at me.
“Mom, my head and my ears hurt. My ears hurt.”
I study her face, assessing. “Sit back down. What do you mean by hurt? Is it a pulsing, a pounding, or a sharp pain?” If this were Adam, he’d have already fainted, I’m thinking, thankful for Zoe’s ability to understand.
The phlebotomist reaches for the phone, watching us, calling a nurse.
“It’s pounding. It really hurts. My head hurts too.”
I turn to the phlebotomist. “She’s not diabetic, is she?” She says, quickly.
“Yes, she is diabetic, that’s why we’re here,” I say, nodding.
“Can I get you crackers? Juice? A wash cloth?”
“The juice is too much,” I say, watching Zoe’s face closely. “Crackers would be good.”
Another technician comes back with graham crackers, four packs stacked together. “Give those to her mother,” the phlebotomist orders, pointing at me.
One cracker eaten and half way through another and the nurse finds us sitting there. The wash cloth someone handed me hangs limp against Zoe’s forehead.
“I think I’m feeling better now,” Zoe says, touching the cloth. “It’s starting to go away.”
The nurse nods, pulling a blood pressure cuff from her arm. “Your blood pressure is normal.”
He turns to me. “I’d like to test her blood sugar before she leaves, just to be sure.”
The phlebotomist, who has been watching, comes to life. “We can’t test her blood sugar without a doctor’s order.”
The supervisor comes around the corner, as though she has been lingering there, listening. She looks at the nurse. “You can test it, but you just have to be sure to back that up by calling the doctor and getting an order. Then you have to let the doctor know the reading.”
“I have glucose meters of our own in the car,” I say, amazed that this has caused such a stir, “but I’m not really concerned about her blood sugar since she’s been eating graham crackers.”
The nurse turns his attention back to me, says kindly, “Would you get one of your meters so we can test, just to be sure? It would be easier.”
So I run out the door, back across the street, up the elevator, to the van, where I’ve left the meters. I grab the diabetes bag off the passenger seat and race back down to the hospital, through the doors, back to my kids.
By the time I reach her, Zoe says she’s feeling normal again, just a tiny headache left. She unzips the black pouch that hides her meter, presses the lancet against her finger. 179. The nurse looks at me, nods. “You okay?” He asks Zoe, touching her arm lightly, and then at last we are walking together back out the doors, across the street.
Four times on the way home she mentions that tiny headache. So just before we get to school, I turn off, curving our way toward home, telling her we’ll stop for some Tylenol. And that’s when she asks. “Mom, how in the world will you get all your work done today?”
And I smile. I don’t know. And I tell her not to worry. Is she worth it? All this mess, this never-stopping, this chasing health with my heart splayed open? Oh, yes.
And when we get to school, we leave her diabetes bag on the passenger seat. Before I drive away, I take it inside, handing it to her in the classroom.
And that day, I run through the neighborhood, breathing hard, begging Him show me, and while I’m running, I realize Riley forgot to take her medicine at breakfast, that I forgot to make sure, and the sweat drips, and I plead how.
Last night, Riley had a thirty-second seizure at basketball practice. She stood there a little too long not answering, staring at nothing. But finally, before she couldn’t stand, before bubbles formed on her lips, her coach asked her if she knew his name and she answered. And when I hear, I wonder if the reason is me, me forgetting to ask her about the pills, me jabbing a knife right through the side of a jelly jar.
Sometimes, out there running, I laugh out loud with Him, His name rushing hard from my lips—YHWH, YHWH. I am never enough for any of this, and I think it’s funny that He chose me. I laugh when He helps me see that all my inability is the very thing He multiplies to show His strength. How can it be that He is ever mindful of me, that He loves me enough to allow me to participate in displaying His vast, shining wealth?
And on the phone, one of my best friends tells me that her day started rough, in tears. She ran to God with her wet cheeks. She set aside life, asking Him to redeem her eyes, stopping everything apart from breathing His name. Inhale, exhale…YHWH. And the verse she remembered, the one He washed over her, all fresh, is one we have loved together.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
She says what I have been thinking, what I live every day. “I need Him so much. I just can’t do it apart from Him, but in Him—only there—I have peace.”
And that, of course, is the difference.
A knife jabbed too far, pushed deep into the side of the God-man, became life redeemed, everything new, grace gleaming crimson from a knife tip colored—bruised—by death. The Enemy thought maybe he’d won something. But in Him, in the Christ-abiding, there’s always another way to see. And next came earth trembling, and everything separating us from YHWH ripped top to bottom, by the power of perfect love. Never again would we have to walk—run, breath coming heavy, His name rushing in and out—without Him, His strength, His grace.
And every day I breathe with Him, every day I cling to Him–inadequate, messy, forgetting, I know that He looked at me at the moment of greatest sacrifice and thought,
Is she worth it? All this?