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Sugar, sugar

By Mike Ruffin Half a century or so ago, my father and I were in the car listening to a program on the Mighty 1090. It was a church program, and a lady was testifying. ’The Lord done cured me of my sugar,’ she said. ‘In fact, he done cured me of my sugar twice!’ Daddy chuckled and said, ‘The Lord must not have done too good a job the first time.’ I remembered that story from so long ago the other day when the nurse called to tell me the results of the blood work from my annual physical. ‘Everything looks good,’ she said as I half listened, expecting that to be the end of the sentence as it had been with every other blood work report I had ever received. But it wasn’t. ’Except your blood sugar,’ she continued, as I snapped to attention. ‘It was 229.’ ’What’s it supposed to be?’ I asked. I’d never cared before. ’80-100,’ she said. ’229 is really high.’ So later that day, I was back in the doctor’s office to have my blood checked again. I figured the earlier reading had been a fluke and my sugar level would be close to normal this time. This time it was 269. So they did an A1C test, which, as I understand it, determines how much glucose your blood has been storing over the last three months. It’s the test that determines if you have diabetes. The scale goes to 12. My number was 11.6. I always was a high achiever. My doctor said, ‘With a number that high, I should probably put you right on insulin. But I’m not going to. Let’s see what we can do with oral medication and diet.’ I’m happy to report that with oral medication and diet, my glucose level has already dropped to more acceptable levels. I have quickly learned to pay attention to how much sugar and how many carbs are in foods. I’ve been helped in my education by my Good Wife, who, upon hearing my diagnosis, instantaneously transformed into the cutest, sweetest and kindest sugar and carbs Nazi the world has ever seen. When we got home on the day of my diagnosis, I noticed we had a lot of bananas. My usual reaction to such a circumstance would be to ask for a banana pudding. But I didn’t. And I was crying inside. I’m not going to lie – I miss my Little Debbie Nutty Bars. And I had just fallen in love with these chocolate and marshmallow things sold at the Dollar General up the road – they taste like Pinwheels but cost twothirds less. Don’t even get me started on fried chicken. But it’s all right. And it’s going to be all right. I’ve eaten whatever I’ve wanted to eat for 57 years. I don’t mind having to do differently for the next 57. Besides, a funny thing is happening on the way to eating healthy: I’m finding there all kinds of interesting things to eat that I never would have eaten had I not suddenly paid the price for being too sweet. For example, I’ve been eating oatmeal for breakfast for years in the interest of heart and colon health (and because I like oatmeal). I used to put a little sugar and some 1% milk in it. Somewhere along the way, I started using artificial sweetener (Stevia, most recently) and milk. But I’ve been told to try to avoid artificial sweeteners because the body doesn’t know what to do with them. So I’ve been trying other things. And lo and behold, oatmeal tastes better and much more interesting with stuff like almonds, walnuts, raisins, unsweetened coconut and cinnamon in it (no, not all at once – not yet, anyway). Now don’t get me wrong. I didn’t want diabetes and I’m not glad I have it. If I’m not careful, it could lead to some pretty bad consequences down the road. But I’m choosing to look for the positives in my new situation, three of which I’ll point out. First, I live in a time when medical science can detect and treat diabetes. Second, I’ve never put sweetener in my coffee, I like unsweetened tea, I prefer sweet potatoes to white ones, and I love fish and chicken (even if they’re not fried). Third, there are a zillion delicious low-sugar and low-carb foods out there that I never would have tried had I not developed diabetes. I would have just kept on eating the some old (admittedly delicious) stuff I’ve always eaten. When life gives you high glucose levels, you make low-sugar and lowcarb deliciousness out of it. I choose to look at my new reality as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to expand my tastes, to explore new foods and to become healthier. You’ve heard it said that when God closes one door, God opens another one. Well, I don’t blame God for this. I don’t think God sits up in heaven and says, ‘Oh, today’s the day I give Mike diabetes.’ But I do think God has made us in such a way that we can and should look for ways to live creatively and positively with what our humanity throws at us. And so the door has closed on some of my favorite foods. I’ve been forced to accept that closed door. But there are lots of yummy things on the other side of this other door I’ve chosen to walk through. So I say, ‘Thanks be to God!’ Michael Ruffin is curriculum editor for Smyth and Helwys Christian publishers and a native of Lamar County. He has served Baptist churches in Fitzgerald, Adel and Augusta. Ruffin also has served as Associate Professor at the School of Religion at Belmont University. He preaches at The Rock Baptist Church at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

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