Before our daughter started losing consciousness from low blood-sugar.
Before the torture of itchy, red, and oozing skin.
Before the pain of watching our child suffer for years.
Before the unexpected emergency that led to the strict diet that further frustrated our efforts to keep the blood-sugar episodes at bay.
Before the arrival of the severe seasonal and environmental allergies that kept our entire family largely indoors for the better part of 18 months...
You see, before the sleepless nights, the finger-sticks, the medications, the treatments, the special diets - before all of "this" - we were different. I notice this most obviously when I read my thoughts from those "before" years. My heart was not wrong - just, possibly, wrongly focused. But as the months turned into years of our daughter's, and subsequently our family's, suffering we began to change. And the Lord began turning us into these "after" people.
We have come to take nothing for granted.
Every smile - a gift.
Every single good day - a milestone worth acknowledging.
Every moment that we aren't crying (and maybe some that we are) - a good enough reason to celebrate.
We have been given a 'new lease' that probably seems odd to those who only know us in this after.
Who cries over their daughter making a friend?
A mother who thought her daughter would forever be isolated because she looked different.
Who cries and rejoices over their 7 year-old completing her first full-day of "school"?
A mother who thought her daughter would never be able to tolerate a day with no scratching or have consistent enough blood-sugars to make it all 6 1/2 hours away from home.
Who relishes every single family walk and visit to the zoo?
A mother who had to tell her daughter and sons "No." more times than she could count when asked if they were going to go outside today.
Who praises God for Monday night Basketball practices and dark-green basketball jerseys?
A mother who, at one time, wasn't sure her daughter would have the energy to get off of the couch much less run, jump, or play.
It's hard to understand why we treasure our "after" without knowing the "before". Isn't that the thing with those "Before and After" transformations? The "after" loses much of its significance when we miss the "before".
As I write these words I am celebrating another year of life. Today, I am 37 years-old. And the only thing I can think is: Man, it has been a good year.
We have been blessed beyond what we could ever have imagined. We are doing things today that a year ago we only dreamed of. But if there was one thing we learned from our suffering that I never want to forget, it's this:
God's goodness is never contingent on my circumstances.
You see, I spent far too much time suffering - apart from my God. I blamed and avoided Him because I could not comprehend a good God who would "agree" to let us suffer. And yet, as I sit here - overwhelmed by contentment and true joy... I kind of "get it". You see, with God, suffering is never wasted. Pain has the power to renew rather than destroy. Loss is redeemed and lives are transformed.
Today, I can see clearly that my praise should never be circumstantial. That even in my suffering there is the goodness of God.