Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior.
I began the day not unlike any other day. I woke up just before my 4:00 a.m. alarm sounded, trying to decide if I could trust myself to stay awake and go ahead and turn it off. Indeed, it was safe to do so, as I needed to get up anyway. In about an hour my husband Scot and I would be leaving our hotel to head to the start of the Ironman Wisconsin 2019. I had been thinking about and training for this day for one year, and yet it seemed like it had suddenly arrived.
I didn’t feel nervous or excited. I just felt ready to do this. I followed my typical morning routine including reading the page for the day (September 8th) from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Lately, I had been feeling a bit distant from God. I laughingly tell people that I talk with God every day, I just don’t give Him much opportunity to talk back. The whole, “Be still and know that I am God” verse (Psalm 46:10) escapes me way too often. Yet, in reality, I really do wish I heard back from God. Lately, my “conversations” with Him have been about my heath. About 30 years ago I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. It’s not unlike many other “unseen” diseases in that it causes way more grief and aggravation than can ever really be understood by those who do not have the disease. On the surface, it sounds simple. Take insulin, eat; repeat. Although the disease itself is not painful, if not managed well, it can lead to pain through loss of an organ, limb, sight, or even life.
Over the past 20 weeks of training, T1D had caused only a few minor complications throughout countless swims, bikes, and runs; but it had been pretty manageable. I was amazed at how many carbs I could eat on such a small amount of insulin. That is one of the big bonuses of a lot of training hours! In spite of this, I continued to pray for a miracle healing. I often thought how amazing it would be to just concentrate on the training, itself, and not have to factor in when to take insulin, how much insulin to take, and how many carbs to eat based on what training was happening that day.
Once my taper (a time of reduction in training to recover, rebuild and refresh) began, T1D issues roared back with a vengeance. During a time when many athletes delight in the rest and recovery of taper, I was so stressed, because it seemed insulin injections were pointless. My blood sugar rose so high, I would get pounding headaches. I wondered if suddenly I had become insulin resistant. I found myself double-checking my insulin pen to make sure it was working properly. I don’t know how many units of insulin got wasted because of this. I hesitated to eat, yet at the same time knew how important it was to take in enough nutrition so my muscles could repair and rebuild. Once again, I pleaded with God to heal me – or at the very least make my body respond better to the insulin injections.
I felt so out of control. Why was God allowing this? I do believe that God will make “all things work together for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28);” I had just hoped to see the good outcome of this disease a little sooner in my life. Feeling out of control, although incredibly unpleasant, is a great place to be. When I feel out of control, the only source of peace is knowing I can and must trust God. There really is no other option. Can I really trust God to protect me, care for me, love me, to use me for some purpose? Yes, I can. I reminded myself that I am in God’s hands and there is no better place to be.
Jesus Calling September 8th – “ACCEPT EACH DAY exactly as it comes to you. By that, I mean not only the circumstances of your day but also the condition of your body. Your assignment is to trust Me absolutely, resting in my sovereignty and faithfulness.”
Hmmmm….I thought to myself. How perfect is this?
It continued, “On some days, your circumstances and your physical condition feel out of balance: The demands on you seem far greater than your strength. Days like that present a choice between two alternatives – giving up or relying on Me . . . You can turn to Me at any point, and I will help you crawl out of the mire of discouragement. I will infuse my strength into you moment by moment, give you all that you need for this day. Trust me, by relying on My empowering Presence.” (p. 263)
God got the first word in today in our conversation. He always knows just what to say! Without question, I was encouraged and decided to take the day as it comes, knowing I was in God’s hands.
Admittedly, I had to remind myself of this throughout the race. Before the swim started, my blood sugar had risen to an alarming level of over 300 and it was rising. I didn’t dare take any additional insulin, because that could potentially send my blood sugar to a dangerous low level in the middle of the swim. With a carb-loaded gel tucked into my wet suit (just in case), I got into the water and started the most challenging swim of my life. By the time I started, the wind had picked up considerably and the waves were churning about to and fro on the water, increasing in intensity and randomness as more and more swimmers entered the water. I learned later that numerous swimmers turned right around and decided it wasn’t worth it. That never crossed my mind. I just kept swinging my arms hoping to make forward progress as much as possible with each stroke. I was grabbed, swum over, pulled, and hit so many times I was beginning to wonder if anyone was really interested in actually swimming this thing. Because the water, air and sky were dark for this time of the morning, it was difficult to see other swimmers. The waves made siting the buoys extra challenging and staying on course was a feat in and of itself. I found myself being tossed around – like I was out of control. That’s when a verse came to mind “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind…” (Ephesians 4:14). Now, I know that this verse is about standing strong in our faith and not being influenced by every kind of teaching and doctrine that is out there, but the verse meant a lot to me in the most literal sense at that moment. If I truly believe that I am in God’s hands, then why am I allowing myself to be tossed around by these waves and circumstances? I told myself I know how to swim strong, so get to swimming strong now. So, I did. I had to preach this to myself numerous times within the 2.4 mile swim, but by the time I exited Lake Monona, I felt victorious and humbled, knowing that God had given me strength in the swim, but I also had a long way to go in fully trusting Him. Thankfully, He never leaves me, even when I doubt Him . . .
Which happened just a little bit later. I checked my blood sugar when I got into transition and found that it was still very high. I took some insulin, packed my pockets with nutrition and headed out to the bike course. I waited for my blood sugar to start heading down so I could eat. I kept watching my continuous glucometer receiver to see when the insulin would start doing its thing, but instead of going down, my blood sugar was heading up again, and my stomach was growling. Maddening. I prayed and asked God for the insulin to start working. Nothing. I took a little bit more insulin. My blood sugar continued to rise as my aching head was throbbing against my skull. I waited and waited. One more time, I took a little bit more insulin and prayed for this to work soon. I told God I trusted Him, but the reality was that I needed to eat soon if I didn’t want to bonk in this race. The verse, “Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 and Deuteronomy 8:3), came to mind. I had to smile at that one. God was getting His word in in this conversation. I told God, OK. If I can’t eat, then I’m going to need You to help me do this race without “bread.” Of course I can’t say for certain, but it seemed to me He must have smiled in response, because sometime after that part of our conversation, my blood sugar began to slowly and reasonably drop. It finally got to a point where I knew I could eat and I stuffed a bar in my face and began drinking my endurance beverage. “Thank you, God!” I was happy to declare out loud.
I would like to say it all was well from this point on, but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. A few hours into the ride, my continuous glucometer showed an error message “No Readings Alert.” Crap! Talk about feeling vulnerable. I stared at the glucometer, trying to remember the last blood sugar I saw. “Please, God, I pray in the name of Jesus that my receiver work now.” Nothing. I think I prayed that prayer at least three times. I would press the button hoping to see where by blood sugar levels were with only the same message showing. Frustrated, I said, “OK, Lord, I’m just going to have to go by feel.” I’ve done it before, but I need Your help. Yep. You guessed it. Not long after this, my receiver screen lit up showing my blood sugar level. “Oh! Thank you, God!” I declared out loud again. I know there were other cyclists who heard some of my conversation with God, but I’m guessing they took it as the ramblings of a desperate rider.
After 112 incredibly hilly and challenging miles (more details on the bike course in a later post), I headed into the second transition, took a bit more insulin to take in some nutrition for the 26.2 mile run that was ahead. The run was God’s close to this day’s conversation. I was at peace, my blood sugar stayed in a good range, and I simply enjoyed this mighty slow, but consistent marathon. My favorite verse came to mind, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like an eagle. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31). That is exactly what I experienced within the final leg of this Ironman. I felt like nothing could stop me. Although my legs were tired and I was running the slowest marathon of my life, I felt confident, strong and happy. I crossed the finish line thrilled with the entire experience from beginning to end. God made it clear to me that He was with me the whole way, that He is sovereign as well as faithful, and that He always is available to have a conversation with me.