Finally finished

Have you ever noticed that the longer something takes to complete, the less likely it gets accomplished? I am a project person. Perhaps I get bored easily, but it seems to me that I always have something I’m working on. I can usually finish my short-term projects before I run out of steam or interest, but those that take longer….well, all kinds of things can crop up to interfere with my best intentions.

There are a host of reasons for not completing a task. Plans get canceled, seasons change and people pass away. I’ve begun some things (usually a craft project) only to  discover that I don’t have quite enough talent or ability.

So it came as a nice surprise, that I happen to come across a notebook– my ‘Grateful Journal’ that I had begun keeping back in 2012. It was in response to a book I had just finished reading titled: “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are” By Ann Voskampfinishing_well-in-life-1000

According to her website, Ann Voskamp’s story is not happily ever after. As a child, her sister was crushed under a truck in front of her and her mother. Consequently, her mother checked herself into a psychiatric hospital and her father couldn’t find God. As an adult, she stood beside her brother-in-law as he buried his first two sons. Voskamp is a wife and mother who does not grin through the pain but battles to believe that in God is joy, and that there are as many gifts amid the grittiness of life as in the moments of celebration.

It’s a compelling narrative that challenged me to develop a more grateful heart in my everyday life. I began keeping a journal to create a list of 1000 things on my own journey towards a more grateful heart. Somewhere along the way life got busy, the journal got misplaced, and I didn’t even notice.

So as mentioned, I came across my journal. I sat down and began a trip back through time by way of short numbered entries:

  1. A warm shower
  2. Putting Aria’s letter in the mailbox
  3. Playing chess with Bambi

….there were also entries that had a star scribbled on the line, those were the ones where I chose to be grateful:

  1. Brian’s funeral *
  2. Didn’t get to Skype with Lillie & Zuri*
  3. Found lots of tomato worms*

As I read through the entries and scribbles, my heart began to melt. I remembered the various moments of joy, gratefulness and sorrow. Reading on, I realized that through it all, a picture was emerging from these pages – a picture of God’s faithfulness. It struck me that I needed to pick it back up and finish – all the way to 1000 entries.

Many, many months later, I’m happy to report that I have finally arrived at number 1000! Interesting thing though – now that I’m there, I can’t stop. I have discovered that life will move on with or without our noting, but the simple act of recording moments of gratefulness does something to our hearts as we move on with life.

Give it a try. Either read the book first to get a better idea, or grab a notebook and begin your own journey of gratefulness.

How Grace remembers

While visiting with a friend the other day, she shared with me about how hard it was taking care of her Mother because she had so little grace for her. It seems that she and her Mom were never close, but due to circumstances of life, it fell to her to be the caregiver as her Mother developed dementia and grew increasingly less able to care for herself.  At first, she kept contact by phone, and then one day when there was no answer, she frantically raced over to her house to discover that her Mother had fallen and hurt herself.

Memories can be filtered by grace
Memories can be filtered by grace

After a knee-replacement surgery, my friend brought her Mom home to live with her. My friend confided in me how distressing it was for her to see her Mother in such a helpless state. She said that looking back, she realized there was more she could have done to ensure her mother’s well-being – but she didn’t realize the severity of her condition. Her Mother passed away not too long afterward.  She carried a quite a few regrets and was consumed with guilt. My heart broke for my friend as I assured her that I too am no stranger to guilt and regrets.

A picture of grace

The next day, as I was spending some quiet time with the Lord and reading the bible, I came across a passage in Psalm 105 where God seems to be reminiscing a bit about Israel. There is one particular part describing how He delivered them from Egypt and cared for them in the desert. Verse 40 tells us, “They asked and He brought quail, and satisfied them with the bread of heaven.” As I was reading I thought, wow, what a picture of grace! See, the account back in Exodus 16 shows us a fuller picture of what a bunch of whiny grumblers they were. It is interesting that Psalm 105 doesn’t mention anything about their grumbling, just that He provided quail and bread. It’s clear that God remembered their actions, but He chose to focus on the good.

Thinking about His grace, I realized that perhaps this could be a key for my friend to heal from some of her guilt and regrets. Since her Mother has already passed away, she won’t be able to ask her for forgiveness, but she could begin by confessing her regrets to the Lord and asking Him to forgive her and help her find peace. Moving forward, she could do as the Lord did in Psalm 105, and focus on the good. Let the sad, bad and ugly memories be replaced by the better ones.

A second witness is found in Hebrews 6:10 where the Lord assures us that He is still looking back over our past and remembering the love and kindness we have shown to others.

We can follow His example by doing the very same thing for ourselves. It’s never too late to change our focus.


Enough to give you heartburn…

I enjoy reading dementia-related news reports and research publications from a variety of sources trying to learn as much as I can about this devastating disease.  Of course, I am always hoping that someone will discover either the definitive cause or a promising cure. Until then, we keep moving forward as best as we can.

It was with a bit of alarm, then that I began seeing a slew of articles recently regarding the correlation between heartburn medicine and dementia. It seems that there was a German study reported recently with results suggesting that there might be an association between PPIs (Proton Pump Inhibitors) and an elevated risk of developing dementia.finishing_well-in-life-heartburn

That really bothered me, as I get the occasional bout of heartburn and enjoy quick relief with an over the counter product. Wow, what a dilemma. Making a decision about whether to take a medicine now to prevent misery may cause a new type of misery later in life. That’s enough to cause anyone heartburn.

I did some more research. It turns out that even though a tremendous amount of attention has been given to this news report – to my relief – it seems that many of the headlines do not tell the entire story.

For one thing, it was a small study based on the follow-up of a smaller cohort study that had been reported in 2015.  A much larger and longer study will need to be conducted in order to provide a better picture.

David A. Johnson, MD writing for New England Journal of Medicine’s ‘Journal Watch’ advises a cautious approach.

Thankfully, at least one doctor, Dr. Valerie Thompson adds that there’s a variety of other medications available that haven’t been linked to dementia, and that  antacids were not used in the study, so that’s a relief.

Other studies have disagreed. I believe that the bottom line here is to stay as informed as possible, and if you do experience heartburn, try to take the smallest dose possible to get relief. In the meantime, here is a link to a slide show that provides tips to help avoid heartburn in the first place “Heartburn, Foods to What, Foods to Avoid” 

Undoubtedly, more studies will emerge as time goes on…stay tuned.