Sunday, September 16, 2018

Overcoming Brain Freeze


I had trouble thinking of a word this morning and fear of Alzheimer's attacked.  I then opened my devotional to find this Matthew Henry quote:
"The Lord shall prevent the evil thou fearest, and sanctify, remove, or lighten the evil thou feelest. He will preserve thy soul, that it be not defiled by sin, and disturbed by affliction; he will preserve it from perishing eternally.  He will keep thee in life and death; going out to thy labor in the morning of thy days, and coming home to thy rest when the evening of old age calls thee in.  It is a protection for life."  
Isn't that lovely?  It is from Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary, Psalm 121.

In prayer, I think the Lord provided me encouragement on how to handle those "brain freezes" that seem to happen more frequently for most of us as we age.  For me the first step is to remain calm, avoid the adrenalin surge of fear to which I'm prone, and if I'm writing and not speaking to come in the back door (I think when speaking it's best just to laugh and proceed with another workable term if possible, and please, do it quickly).

Now if you are interested in a kind of brain exercise that I believe is helpful in forming new pathways when age (or Lord help me, disease) has destroyed a connection, here is how I managed this morning.

I was making a list of things to do, and was reluctantly giving way to the nudge I feel to reactivate my Instagram account.  But the word "Instagram" would not come to my mind.  Brain freeze!  Here are the steps I followed: 

1.  Don't give way to fear, the Lord is with me (take it in stride).
2.  If speaking, find another term or laugh and change the subject--keep moving.
3.  When writing, take the time to go through these steps:
a.  Brainstorm.  Beware of similar terms that are inaccurate; they provide roadblocks that stop me cold. Ignore them.  
b.  Come in the back door, another way, through another connection.  Allow seemingly random words or thoughts to come to the fore
c.   When I reach the searched-for word by one of those random connections, find a way to remember it, forming a new connection.  
Here's how this looked for me this morning.

1.  Prayed
2.  Brainstormed:  image, snapchat, share, iMax.  I recognized snapchat and iMax as roadblocks and ignored them.
3.  Random term I allowed to come to the fore was "Kardashian."  I didn't take time to question this I just let it pop up.
4.  The correct word then popped into my head, "Instagram."
5.  I analyzed the new connection that had formed in my brain: when I read entertainment news it has often occurred to me that the Kardashians would be better off if Instagram were not so instant.  This was the connection that allowed the word "Instagram" to come to the fore.

The above process took about 30 seconds, time well spent because forming new connections in our brains as we age is important.  Those new connections can allow us to continue to function more or less normally for a longer period of time when old connections have, for some reason, stopped working for us.

Note:  whether I ought to waste my time reading entertainment news might be the subject of a future blogpost.  It pops up on internet news sources such as CNN, Fox News, etc., and a discipline we all need to cultivate in this day and age is knowing when and when not to click on a story!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Celebrating Your Loved One's Legacy

One of my favorites of Mom's paintings. 

After I left home, my mother took a class in oil painting and discovered an unexpected gift for painting skies and trees, crooked fenceposts and country scenes.  Her work was popular at local craft shows for a time, and she enjoyed it greatly.  Six of her paintings hang in my home, and it is not sentiment that causes me to grant them their places of honor; they are beautiful and I would love them even if the artist were not my mother.  One of the signs of Mom's approaching dementia was that she gave up this beloved hobby. 

Alzheimer's disease is categorized as a terminal illness, and I wish this designation would be changed. Many Alzheimer's patients have years of time remaining to enjoy life, and that word "terminal" can hang over the heads of caregivers, especially, as the grieving process is drawn out interminably.  I was helped by the realization that we are all terminal!  During the early years of my mom's diagnosis, especially, we proceeded with life as usual...yes, our "usual" had changed, but life does not remain stagnant no matter what one's circumstances.  Change is the norm.

Now, fifteen years into my mother's Alzheimer's diagnosis, she is 94 years old and has lived in a nursing home for two years. As has been characteristic of her disease, change has happened very slowly for her, but I am moving forward in my journey to release her into the Lord's loving arms as she draws irreversibly nearer to home.

 I've had a more difficult time with grief since Mom's nursing home placement.  You would think 15 years would've given me time to accept and adapt, but the reality of caregiving is such that we are often too busy with current loads of care to be able to process the grief that is headed our way.  I also have my doubts about the veracity of preemptory grief; I'm not certain we can do "grief work" for a sorrow that has not yet arrived.

I read an article today at caring.com that gave ideas about celebrating the legacy of a loved one who is dying.  The activities outlined in the article seem helpful to me; memorializing our loved ones with a quilt, a scrapbook, or a box of memories gives us a sense of...oh, if not closure, then the feeling that we have preserved their legacy and honored who they were.  I especially liked the idea of taking a class to gain a skill our loved one possessed, and then using their materials to create a work of our own.  This would preserve a visible "passing of the torch" and provide a continuation of a legacy that brought joy.

I don't know whether I'll ever take a class in oil painting, but my mom's legacy will continue through me in my writing and teaching, and most especially through my faith in the Lord, which grew from seeds she planted in my heart by her words and example through all my growing up years.

You can find the caring.com article of ways to preserve a loved one's legacy here:  5 Creative Ways You Can Celebrate a Dying Loved One's Legacy.  


Details from paintings by my mom. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Trust


"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen" Ephesians 3:20-21.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Comfort


Isn't it a comforting thought that the Lord is responsible for us?  Like a shepherd watches over his flock, He keeps us under His care.  What a relief!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

God Will Provide


I used to read a Russian folktale to my first grade students in which the main character says repeatedly, "God will provide."  In the face of hopeless circumstances, when there is no food on the table much less food to share, Tante Golda refuses to give up her plan to carry through with her traditional potato latke party, even though she has no potatoes at all.  If you love children's books and stories about miracles (along with a really good recipe for latkes) this book can still be found from third party sellers at Amazon, here:  Miracle of the Potato Latkes, by Malka Penn.

During this summer's drought in Kansas, I've thought about Tante Golda and her confidence that the Lord would provide for her needs.  I've clung to the certainty that God, who did not withhold His only Son as the provision for our greatest need of all, would not fail to provide for us whether fields provide grass or ponds continue to provide water for our cattle...or not.

During our 45 years on this farm there have been years when we had complete crop failures, the most notable being the year our daughter was born, when the corn crop failed so badly that we walked through a field carrying laundry baskets and picked up dried nubbins of corn from the ground to feed to the pigs we raised back then.  That was 1980.  It did not rain that summer, but in the fall we received a bountiful gift nonetheless: our sweet little girl.  And God did provide for our material needs as well.

But this year, it has finally rained. And miraculously, during the driest July in recent memory, we received perfectly timed, tiny rains that were just enough to keep our soybeans alive, if not thriving. And then, at the beginning of this week, we received a glorious, soaking rain that has caused green to return to lawns and pastures (I think of Tante Golda's one potato that somehow multiplied to many). A pond that we had feared would go dry has received enough runoff to keep us from having to haul water to cattle.

Whether through years of disease, as my mother has faced since her Alzheimer's diagnosis in 2004, or seasons of plenty, God does provide for our needs. I've found this to be so time and again, in good times and bad. Blessed be His Name! 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

His Enabling Presence


I snapped the photo above at sunset last evening.  I brightened it just a bit, but the pink rays of light were present in the original photo.  While trying to crop the picture I became frustrated that the light rays seemed to shine directly on an unattractive, grass-free patch, and there was no way to crop the rough portion away without losing the impact of the photo.

The thought came that light pouring onto an ugly part of a road is symbolic. Although I've certainly not enjoyed the grief of watching Mom fade into Alzheimer's disease, I've never been so aware of the Lord's enabling presence.  My mother often states the same sentiment; in the fourteenth year since her Alzheimer's diagnosis, she says,  "God is with me!  Jesus is right here in my heart!  I'm never alone!" Her anthem is the Gaither song Something About That Name so that she brings smiles to many faces as she is being wheeled down the hallway to meals, singing, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there's just something about that Name!" 

Here is a youtube link to my mom's current favorite song, with an invitation to praise the Name of the One who sees us safely through every life challenge: 




Monday, August 13, 2018

Trust


God is the only one in possession of all the facts in any given situation. We can trust in His good intentions toward us and in His ability to make us a way through.