Flunking the Test

I failed it, I’m sure.

And I hate failing tests—especially this one. You would too if you were me.

If you are genetically tied to someone with Alzheimer’s like I am, you’re already on to me. You know what test I’m talking about. It was all over Facebook several months back. Maybe you’ve tried it too. Have you heard about it? It’s the Peanut Butter Test, a new way to predict if you’re likely to get Alzheimer’s. Lovely. Just what I want to know.

It’s something about not being able to smell peanut butter out of your left nostril as well as you are able to with your right nostril.  The instructions directed the test-taker to open a jar of Skippy, close his eyes, his mouth, and one side of his nose then sniff away. After 90 seconds, he repeats it with the other nostril. Apparently, whichever one smells the peanut butter better quite accurately indicates one’s destiny. Skeptical but curious, I grabbed the jar and gave it a shot.

I couldn’t smell anything with either! What on earth does that mean?

Now, of course, I have thought of every reasonable explanation for this failure. It’s my spring allergy time. My peanut butter is old. I’m nervous and trying too hard. I should try Jif instead of my cheap generic brand. Maybe I didn’t do the test just right. Maybe I’m catching a cold. Maybe it’s true. I’m doomed.

But isn’t that what you think anyway? Isn’t that paralyzing fear lurking at the fringe of your consciousness every waking moment of your day? It is a nagging dread, a strange heaviness, a dark shadow, a threatening cloud that clings to you, smothers you, and never ever goes away. You might call it the elephant in the room. You know. The ugly beast you try to shove in the closet; the one everyone else gingerly tiptoes around. You watch them avert their eyes when you repeat a story. You see them glance quickly and knowingly at each other when you can’t find your keys or forget something they insist they told you. You see the elephant grin yourself when you walk in a room and can’t remember why. You want to kick him. Sometimes you just want to cry.

Oh, I have explanations for all those things too. Medications, busyness, being blonde, lack of sleep, preoccupation, my thyroid, menopause…you name it, I’ve grasped the excuse. My Mama used to say she had just lived too long and her brain was full. I’m starting to think that makes a lot of sense. Deep inside, though, I really think I will be next. I will have Alzheimer’s. If you also have a parent with it—or a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or sibling—I’m sure you think you will too. It comes with the territory.

So what can you do? That elephant is quite the hefty burden to bear. He crowds out joy. He tramples peace. He’s messy and greedy and demanding and BIG. He has to go. Maybe if I would stop feeding him, he’d move on. But it seems every single day something happens that makes me suspicious that I am losing it. I can’t find the remote, I miss somebody’s birthday, I don’t remember I already put the books where they belong…feed for that smirking elephant!

I’m a huge proponent of living my life one day at a time. I can’t worry about what tomorrow will bring. I need to focus on what I need to do today, to be fully present in these circumstances, to accomplish the tasks at hand. Dwelling on and wrangling over fears and concerns about the future simply sap me of the strength and energy I desperately need for today. I must not entertain the beast. I can’t afford to.

Instead of feeding my fear of Alzheimer’s, I need to feed my heart and mind. Preach truth to myself, the facts I know. In Jesus Calling, a little devotional by Sarah Young, I read this. It is written as if Jesus is speaking directly to me. I love that.

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Hear Me saying Peace, be still to your restless heart. No matter what happens, I will never leave you or forsake you. Let this assurance soak into your mind and heart, until you overflow with Joy. Though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, you need not fear!

“…tune in to the living Word—the One who is always the same. Let Scripture saturate your mind and heart, and you will walk steadily along the path of Life. Even though you don’t know what will happen tomorrow, you can be absolutely sure of your ultimate destination. I hold you by your right hand, and afterward I will take you into Glory.”

The truth I need to embrace is this: I am not alone. Jesus is with me. And because He is, everything in my life is different—no matter what happens. Wayward kids, financial debacles, marriage woes, relational nightmares, miserable bosses, failing businesses, church crises, frightening medical reports, unwelcome life changes, parenting parents, achy joints, unexpected deaths, an Alzheimer’s diagnosis…no matter what I am facing, I am not facing it alone. Life is filled with uncertainties, problems, and needs. My Jesus is holding my hand.

Jesus’s nearness lifts the heaviness and uncertainty from my heart as I rest in His care, guidance, and strength. He encourages me to transfer all my fears and worries to Him because He loves me (1 Peter 5:6-7). In another part of my Bible where He reminds me not to be anxious and give Him ALL my requests, He says He will give me His peace to guard my heart and mind from those insidious fears that creep in (Philippians 4:6-7). He was with me every day as I cared for my Mama. I can gratefully attest to that fact. I am certain He is with me now. And I trust His promise that He will be with me then…whatever the then means. I can rely on Him.

That’s a great truth to feed on, isn’t it? It’s for you too.

So what do I do with that elephant? I think I’ll give him my peanut butter.

Let him fail the stupid test.