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Abbey, Mim & Me – Our Special Words for 2014

M-A-M closeup bronze

January is a time every year that I start thinking about how I want this year to be different from previous years. Sometimes I make New Year resolutions. Some years I formulate specific goals. Every year I come up with an immediate to-do list. At a minimum I need to plan how I’m going to get caught up on the bookkeeping for the previous year so I can deliver our records to our accountant to figure our taxes.

To-Do ListI did my January to-do list last week, but I hadn’t thought much about any goals or resolutions for 2014. Then I happened to catch about a minute of an interview with a consultant on TV as I was switching channels. His advice was to pick a single word that would be my focus for the year. He recommended thinking about my needs and wants, praying about it, and then waiting for the word to come to me. It might take a few days or even weeks, but the consultant assured all viewers that just the right word would come for each of us. I thought about it for a few minutes, wondering what word could be my word for the year, but nothing came to me immediately. The next morning the word was in my mind. The word was JOY. That surprised me a little, but then I thought, I’ve been pretty serious in many of my blog posts and much of my ponderings over the past year. Maybe I need to focus more on some of the joyful things in life. Hmmm.

Mim headLater that day I mentioned it to Mim. She said, “We have a book about finding your special word for the year. I can’t remember the name of it, but the author is Debbie Macomber. I’ve already chosen my word for this year. It’s ENOUGH.”

“Enough?” I repeated. “That’s kind of an unusual word to choose. What made you choose that?”

“Oh, there’s a lot to that word. I need to think about what is enough – enough money, enough food, enough work, enough to give to others, enough to keep for myself, enough books to read – I need to know when MORE isn’t better, to recognize when ENOUGH is ENOUGH.”

Then Mim added, “JOY is a good word for you for this year. Did you notice that the quotation on the January page of the wall calendar in your office is about JOY?”

No, I hadn’t noticed. I went to check it out. It was a quotation from Buddha.

Joy comes not through possession or ownership
but through a wise and loving heart.

I think I’m going to learn a lot about JOY this year. By really pondering the word, the concept, of JOY for a whole year, I can’t even imagine some of the new insights I might gain.

Then I said to Mim, “I’m getting kind of excited about becoming more aware of JOY in life. It’s going to be fun to be on the lookout for appearances of JOY throughout the year.”

Abbey with toyShe smiled. During this conversation Abbey had come over to join us. She said, “I’ve been thinking about a word for myself for this year, too.”

“Really, Abbey. What’s your word?” I asked.

“PLAY,” she said. “Even though I’m well into my 80s in human years, I still like to play. I really liked that stuffed pig with a squeaker I got for Christmas. We all need to remember to play, even if we don’t jump quite as high and run quite as fast. By having PLAY as my word, I’m going to remember to focus on finding at least a little time to PLAY every day.”

Mim and I agreed that PLAY was a good word for Abbey for this year.

ENOUGH, JOY, and PLAY. Those are the words for the three of us this year. I’ll keep you posted as the year progresses with what it means to have these words as our focus.

One Perfect Word book coverI couldn’t put my fingers on the Debbie Macomber book, so I went to Amazon.com to find it. The title of the book is One Perfect Word: One Word Can Make All the Difference. As I explored the book online I decided to download a Kindle edition so that I could re-read the book as I’m beginning my own year with the perfect word of JOY.

From the back cover of the book –

Debbie Macomber reveals in inspiring, moving stories that the simplicity of one perfect word can become profound. When Debbie took the time to intentionally focus on a single word – such as prayer, trust, or surrender – for a whole year, this act changed not only herself, but those around her.

“The surprising thing is that when we decide to focus on one word for the year,” Debbie writes, “God takes part in the choosing. That’s why the word is perfect for us. We may not see it at the time, but as we look back we see that it all worked together – our word, our life, our journey.”

ENOUGH, JOY, and PLAY. Let the year begin!

Mim, Marian and Abbey wish you a Happy New Year!

ENOUGH, JOY, and PLAY. Let the year begin!

Transition Time

The winter wonderland surrounding the farmhouse

The winter wonderland surrounding the farmhouse

It’s official. Whispering Winds Retreat Haven is on break. As of the first of the year, the farmhouse will be home to another family for at least two years. In January of 2015, the farmhouse may reclaim the name of Whispering Winds and come back to life as a B&B-style retreat center again, or it may move ahead into a new stage of its life, possibly with a new owner. The farmhouse is for sale as soon as God sends the new owner our way.

Our Chicago friend Ellen, the one who helped us turn our farmhouse into Whispering Winds Retreat Haven four years ago, was with us this past weekend. Ellen, Mim, and I got together in the living room of Whispering Winds to celebrate the blessings of these last four years and to pray for this time of transition. With the help of the book, For Everything a Season: 75 Blessings for Daily Life (written by the Nilsen Family for The Youth & Family Institute, Bloomington, MN, 1999), we created a special blessing ceremony for this occasion. Our opening prayer was:

Gracious God,
you gave us a home in which to grow and rest,
to find shelter and experience the many joys and sorrows of life.
Thank you for the blessings of this place
and what it has meant to all who have lived and visited here.
May this home be a blessing to those who come after us.
Amen

We spent some time remembering many of the blessings we have experienced at Whispering Winds, many of our guests, and some of the special occasions that have been celebrated here. We ended our short liturgy with the following blessing:

May God’s love fill our hearts with gratitude for our blessings
and help us treasure every new stage of life.

Abbey is the most popular caregiver at Country Comforts.

Abbey is the most popular caregiver at Country Comforts.

Now what? Several people have asked me what I’m going to be doing with all my time now that I’m no longer managing Whispering Winds. Mim is very quick to answer that for me. All the things I was supposed to be doing for our other business, Country Comforts Assisted Living, can now become the priorities. Most importantly, I need to spread the word that we have decided to specialize in providing end-of-life care in our condo. That has become the niche for Country Comforts Assisted Living.

When people draw near to the end of their life, often they choose to receive hospice care at home with their loved ones taking care of them. A hospice organization provides help, but the majority of caregiving is done by family members. Sometimes, family members are not able to give the care their loved one needs at home. That’s where Country Comforts can help. Their loved one can be moved into our home where we’ll provide attentive and loving care for them. Family members can be with their loved one as much as they want at Country Comforts, but they can rely on us (mostly Mim who is a registered nurse) to provide whatever physical, emotional, and spiritual support is needed – from medication management to prayer. We work together with a hospice organization and the loved one’s doctors, pastor, and family members to help the loved one peacefully live out their last months, weeks, or days on this earth.

What will I be doing? Whatever I can to spread the word about the end-of-life care we provide. That means updating our website, www.CountryComfortsAssistedLiving.com; meeting with social workers, doctors, pastors, and community leaders in the area; and starting another blog about “Creating Moments to Cherish” as loved ones draw near to the end of their life. (I’ll also continue to keep up this blog, www.WhisperingWindsBlog.com, which has evolved into reflections on hearing God speak to us through everyday activities.)

Another thing I’ll be doing is writing and publishing more. I’m going back to Christmas Mountain the second week in January to do the final editing of my book on hospitality, Come, Lord Jesus, Be Our Guest. I hope to have this book published by summer. Meanwhile, I’m reviewing the proofs of my first book, Listening for God: 52 Reflections on Everyday Life, and plan to finish that task this week. I’ll let you know when the book is available on Amazon.com. Soon, I hope. It will be available in both paperback and e-book formats.

December 31 is a good time to talk about transitions. Hope you are looking back at the blessings of the past year and looking forward to a wonderful New Year, too!

Happy New Year from Marian, Abbey, and Mim. Family portrait compliments of Kevin Korth.

Happy New Year from Marian, Abbey, and Mim. Family portrait compliments of Kevin Korth.

New Year’s Resolutions

A Conversation with Abbey

Well, Abbey, it’s already January 2, 2012, and time to continue our conversation from last week about the changes in our lives in 2011, and New Year’s Resolutions for 2012.

I’ve been thinking a lot about whether or not to make any New Year’s Resolutions this year, and I don’t think I will. I don’t like the whole idea of New Year’s Resolutions. It reminds me of Lent – giving up something I really like, you know, like sneaking food off the kitchen counter. Giving up that is giving up one of the special joys in life.

New Year’s Resolutions can be about more than just giving something up, Abbey. Think about something that would make your life better, and think about what could you do all by yourself to make that happen. You know what the ten most popular new year’s resolutions are according to About.com?

  1. Spend more time with family and friends.
  2. Fit in fitness.
  3. Tame the bulge.
  4. Quit smoking.
  5. Enjoy life more.
  6. Quit drinking.
  7. Get out of debt.
  8. Learn something new.
  9. Help others.
  10. Get organized.

Okay. I choose number 5. I’m going to enjoy life more this year. Kitchen counter, beware!

Oh, Abbey. It’s fine to enjoy life more, as long as it’s not at the expense of someone else. You know how it upsets Mim when you take food off the counter.

You’re right. How about if I let the Grandmas sneak food to me. They love to do that, so that’s helping others as well as increasing the amount of joy in my life. How about you. Did you make any new year’s resolutions this year?

Yes. I made a couple. My first one is number 10 on the above list – to get organized. I know you think of me as pretty organized, and I am quite organized in lots of things. But keeping my office picked up is always on the bottom of my to-do list, and I seldom get that far on my list. I only get to it when my office is so cluttered I can’t work. This year, I’m making it a priority to clean up my office every Saturday, so I have a fresh start for the new week.

That’s a good one. Last night I could hardly find a spot to lie down near the patio door.

That should cease to be a problem in 2012.

You know, now that we’re talking seriously about some changes we’d like to make in our lives, there’s something else I’ve been thinking about. You talk a lot about going away on retreat to have some quiet time to reflect on the meaning of your life, about God, and about other things. I’ve never done that. I think I’d like to try it. Can I go to Whispering Winds sometime with you to experience a personal retreat? It’s hard to pray and meditate at home, without being distracted by something. Like last night, I was lying on the floor in the kitchen, thinking about this conversation we would be having this morning, but then I looked up and saw one of the grandmas sitting all by herself in her chair in the living room. I knew she needed to have me close to her, so I went over to her and sat next to her so she could pet me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I really liked doing that. But it distracted me from thinking about God-things.

Normally, we don’t allow dogs at Whispering Winds, but I think we could make an exception for you, considering the circumstances. I could let you stay in my room at Whispering Winds, so guests with allergies wouldn’t have problems. I’m glad you’re thinking about how important it is to have time to be still, away from distractions, to listen to God. Maybe your New Year’s Resolution could be to go to Whispering Winds for a day or two each quarter throughout the year.

That’s great. How about starting this Wednesday! I can hardly wait for some quiet time.

I’ll have to check the calendar, but I think that will work out okay.

By the way, speaking of finding time to listen to God, I also made a resolution related to that for 2012. You know how I read the book, Jesus Calling, almost every day last year. This year I’ve chosen another book to read every day. It’s called A Year with Jesus by Eugene H. Peterson. He’s the author of The Message, that very down-to-earth paraphrase of the Bible.  The foreword to the book begins with this paragraph.

The goal of spending a year with Jesus is to learn how to pray. Our prayers do not start with us. They start with Jesus. Before we ever open our mouths in prayer, Jesus is praying for us. Despite much talk to the contrary, there are no secrets to living the Christian life. No prerequisite attitudes. No conditions more or less favorable to pursuing the Way. Anyone can do this, from any place, starting at any time. But it is only possible through prayer. We can only pray our lives into the way of following Jesus.

I expect this book will be as helpful to me this year as Jesus Calling was last year.

That sounds good. So now we both have New Year’s Resolutions for 2012. Let the year begin!

A Year-End Conversation with My Dog, Abbey

[Copied from my first blog. Originally posted on December 26, 2011.]

So, Abbey, as you look back over 2011, have there been any significant changes in your life?

     I guess the most significant change in my life is that I’ve changed my attitude toward sneaking out for a walk. I know it makes you and Mim worry whenever I go out by myself, so I decided I don’t need to worry you. I can be just as happy inside with my Grandmas petting me as I can be outside following Gary Gopher’s scent to yet another gopher hole. Occasionally I lapse back into my old attitude and slip out the door, but not very often. How about you? Did you make any changes in your life in 2011?

     Well, yes, I did. I tried to make one significant change on January 1, 2011. I committed to read and write every day in the journaling version of the Jesus Calling devotional book by Sarah Young.

Were you successful? Did you read and write every day? And, did it make any difference in your life?

To answer your last question first, I’d say yes. The common theme of the daily devotions in Jesus Calling is to be constantly aware that God loves me and is right beside me every day. To be reminded of Jesus being right there to help me with whatever comes my way every single day was very helpful in increasing my awareness of God’s presence with me. It’s definitely an attitude changer. In answer to your other question, did I read and write every single day? Not quite. A few days I couldn’t get to it early in the morning, and sometimes I got to it later in the day, sometimes I didn’t. I also got tired of writing my thoughts in response to the reading for the day. I probably won’t do a journaling devotional again. But I’ll definitely commit to reading from another daily devotional book next year.

I sometimes wish I could read, especially when I see you and Mim get so excited about something you’re reading. But I guess God has given us different gifts. You don’t get to sit next to your favorite people and feel them petting you in silence for hours at a time.

I sometimes wish I could just sit still for a long time like you, but there seem to always be things I need to do. One of the new things I started doing in 2011 is playing the piano for the women’s worship service in the County Jail. In February I started playing the piano in jail twice a month. Last week when I was there, we had to wait about 15 minutes after the service was over before a guard came to escort the women back to their cell block. While we were waiting one of the women asked me if I knew the song, “Dona Nobis Pacem.” I said that I’d heard it, but I didn’t have the music for it. I suggested that we go to the piano together and I’d try to pick it out with her singing it. After we did that song, other women joined us and a spontaneous Christmas Carol Sing-along broke out. It was so much fun!

That sounds like fun. I wish I could have gone with you. I bet some of those women would have liked to pet me. We work together pretty well. Why don’t you ask the chaplain if I can come along next time?

     I don’t think that would be approved, Abbey. They’re pretty strict in the jail. I have a hard enough time getting a songbook past the guards. I’m sure I couldn’t bring a dog along. But you’re right, we do work together well. This blog is a perfect example of that. I started writing this blog in April. That’s one of the best new things I did in 2011. I have fun writing almost every Monday morning to share some reflections with all the friends of Whispering Winds Retreat Haven. But occasionally, I have a hard time figuring out what to write about. And without fail, whenever that happens, you jump right in and help me write it. Thanks, Abbey, I really appreciate your help.

     You’re welcome. I like to write, too. That’s one of my favorite new things of 2011. Do you think we should start any new things in 2012?

     I have a suggestion for you, Abbey. How would you like to commit to not stealing any more food off the kitchen counter? That kringle you stole from the counter yesterday was not good for you, and Mim and I and the Grandmas really wanted to eat it ourselves. We would have given you a taste. Why did you take the whole thing?

     Oh, was that kringle ever good! I couldn’t really help myself. Once I took the first bite, I knew I had to eat it all. I’m not sure I’m really sorry that I did it. I am sorry that there wasn’t any more for you, but I’m really glad I got to eat it, too. I’m not sure about making any New Year’s resolutions about something like that.

     Well, you have a few days before New Year’s Day. Just think about it… And, thanks again for your help in writing this blog.

You’re welcome. My pleasure. I’m glad we had this little talk. It’s good to think back over last year to think about the changes we’ve made in our lives. Maybe we should have another talk about things we might want do do next year. I’ll start thinking about that.

2 comments (0 new) | Add a New Comment
1. Diane Iverson | December 26, 2011 at 03:59 PM EST [ delete ]

What a great blog reminding us how special our nonhuman friends are to us! Abbey sounds alot like a dog we once had – his name was Toma and we got him as a puppy and he lived to be 18 1/2 years old. Toma got into everything, especially food, and after Toma was gone, I vowed that all dogs we adopted would have to be adult dogs and not puppies, who are much more mischiveous. Happy New Year to you both and Mim too. See you at church, Diane

2. Beth Mickelson | December 27, 2011 at 02:47 PM EST [ delete ]

Marian,

This is such a wonderful \”end of the year\” blog. Your blogs have meant so much and I continue to get such pleasure in reading them. Thank you so much for this gift. You have a God given talent in your desire and ability to write so very well. I will continue to look forward to you stories and thoughts in 2012.

A New Year – A New Blog

One of my goals for 2011 was to start a blog on the Whispering Winds website. Last April, I started a blog the easiest way I knew how, by using the blog add-on in Network Solutions’ website builder, the “easy-to-use” tool I had originally used to build my website. The blog worked, but not very well. My experience with using this very basic blogging software prompted me to set another goal – to come up with a better blogging solution before the end of 2011. With just a few days left in the year, I decided to jump into WordPress, a highly recommended blogging service.

This is it. I’m learning by trial and error, so I’m sure the appearance and functionality of the blog will change as I learn what I’m doing. If anyone has tips that might shorten my learning curve, please share them with me.

Meanwhile, here goes…