Tag Archive | enough

JOY – My Special Word for 2014

JOY Cross“Abbey, Mim & Me – Our Special Words for 2014” was the first blog post I wrote this year. I explained that rather than coming up with any New Year’s resolutions for 2014, I would spend the year focusing on JOY. The idea of choosing one special word to focus on for a whole year came from Debbie Macomber in her book, One Perfect Word: One Word Can Make All the Difference. The word I chose was JOY; Mim chose ENOUGH; and Abbey chose PLAY. To help me remember to think about my word, I bought an amber-colored glass cross with the words, “The JOY of the Lord is my strength” printed on it, and it hangs from a suction cup on my patio door. Every time I slide the door open, the JOY cross clinks on the glass door and I think about my word. Most nights I lay in bed before falling asleep and I think about the joy I have experienced that day.

I’m sure I’ve been more aware of joy in my life this year than any year in the past. The irony is that I’ve also experienced more than my usual share of sadness. Maybe that’s why God gave me the word JOY to focus on in 2014. I’ve been to lots of funerals for friends this year, and about half of them (4) have been for friends about my age – mid-sixties. But even at funerals, there can be joy, as we get together with old friends we haven’t seen in a long time and remember good times together with each other and with our friend who is no longer with us.

One of the biggest changes in our living situation happened early in 2014. For most of 2013 we had only one nonagenarian living with us. Before the end of January, another 92-year-old moved in. A couple weeks later a third 92-year-old moved in with a neighbor along with the understanding that she can rely on us for the general management of her care. Keeping up with three (now) 93-year-olds is keeping us very busy! All of them are very active. One is an avid reader and enjoys going out with friends and family. She has some kind of social engagement almost every week. The other two go to bingo once a week and have two or three other outings every week. All together, we have lots of good times together – a regularly recurring source of JOY.

The hidden JOY of being somewhat overwhelmed by all this added caregiving responsibility is that we now have six independent caregivers who help us out several hours a week so that Mim and I can take two afternoons off almost every week to do fun things – like going to movies and shopping at resale shops. (The best of many good movies we saw this year was “The Theory of Everything.” We both highly recommend it.) Mim and I were also able to get away for four quick mini-vacations – a first in many years. We visited friends in Wausau for a Wisconsin-style lobster fest. We went to Minnesota for the 150th anniversary of Gol Lutheran Church, Mim’s family church. And we went to our Christmas Mountain timeshare a couple times – once to celebrate our first wedding anniversary and once to just relax for a few days. We had lots of JOY to celebrate with each getaway.

Abbey head-on colorJOY would have been a good name for our dog Abbey. She brought an incredible amount of JOY to Mim and me and to everyone who lived with us during the eight years she was with us. When she had to leave us in November, there was a great big hole in our home. One of the 93-year-olds said the same thing every time she came into the house from one of her outings, “I miss Abbey so much.” Abbey would always be at the door to meet us. All three nonagenarians and Mim and me quickly agreed we wanted to get another dog to love us and be loved by us as soon as we could.

Within a couple weeks, Floey (short for Florence Nightingale, caregiver in training) joined our family. She’s been with us just over a month now, and already she’s taken on the role of bringing each one of us a daily dose of JOY.

Floey sittingJOY definitely was “the perfect word” for me for 2014. Focusing my attention on that special word helped me find and recognize and appreciate how much joy is in my life.

Which leads me to what I think will be my word for 2015 – GRATITUDE. That word keeps coming to mind whenever I try to think of what will be a good word to focus my attention on next year. I’ll decide for sure by January 1 – but I think GRATITUDE will be the word.

JOY Cross and Pond - closer

ENOUGH

Last December when I told Mim about the idea of selecting a special word for the New Year instead of making any New Year’s resolutions, she caught my enthusiasm and decided to select a word for herself, too, a word that would help her keep focused on one particular area for spiritual enrichment throughout the year. As you may recall, my special word for 2014 is JOY. I’m having a great time keeping my eyes and ears alert to detecting moments of joy, day by day, and being thankful for all the joy in my life.

Mim headThe word Mim chose is ENOUGH. When she told me her word choice, I seriously wondered if she really understood the concept underlying having a special word for the year. ENOUGH didn’t seem like a very inspiring word to me. But after eight months, I’m beginning to understand why Mim chose that word. What’s happened to me by Mim’s word choice is that while finding moments of JOY is the primary theme of my day-to-day living this year, the word ENOUGH has become the secondary theme. I sometimes catch myself thinking about what’s ENOUGH – enough money to pay the bills as well as think about retirement; enough food to feed everyone in our household, but not too much of anything that might spoil; enough time to get my work done, or at least the really important things on my to-do list…

Fruit StallImagine my surprise when I saw that the theme of Joan Chittister’s Monastic Way pamphlet for the month of August (Mim’s birthday month) is ENOUGHNESS. The painting Chittister selected to illustrate ENOUGHNESS is A Fruit Stall by 19th century English painter, Helen Allingham. The proprietress of the fruit stand is surrounded by dozens of baskets of different kinds of fruits with some fruits piled high against a wall. A woman carrying a small basket is looking at all the fruits to make her selection.

Chittister started her month’s reflections on enoughness with:

In our world, we are at the point in the West where consumption has come to trump need. So now almost no one knows what they really need anymore. But we are wizards at knowing what we want. It’s a universal disease. And it can be fatal.

Throughout the month, Chittister reflected on some of the wide-ranging consequences of not recognizing when you have enough and should stop accumulating more and more and more. On August 12, Chittister wrote:

It is neither abundance nor acquisition that will save the world. It is the simple virtue of enoughness, of knowing that what I have is sufficient for me, of knowing that what I give will end the destitution of others.

Later in the month, Chittister’s reflections became a little more political sounding. On August 27 she quoted Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little.” On August 30 Chittister added, “What does it say about a society that can produce multiple billionaires, hundreds of millionaires, but cannot educate its students or pay enough to feed its workers? It says our time of greatness is running out.” Her tone actually reminded me of the Old Testament prophets who criticized the people from turning away from God’s laws.

Yesterday I asked Mim how it was going with ENOUGH being her word for the year, now that she’s been focusing on it for eight months.  She replied, “ENOUGH concentrates on today – not the future. There is enough food, time, energy, etc. for today. I don’t know the future. ENOUGH helps me concentrate on today.” Then she pulled out an email that a friend had sent her. Her friend quoted a paragraph from the May 28, 2014 issue of The Christian Century magazine.

JUST ENOUGH:  Marilyn McEntyre was at first wary when congregants were asked in a worship service to “write your spiritual autobiography in six words.” Then these words came to her:

“Eat the manna. More will come.”

To McEntyre this was an expression of her ongoing anxieties about “saving and spending, keeping and letting go, prudent stewardship and the practice of generosity.” Her six-word autobiography reminded her of the way her mother lived – not far from poverty yet “rich in trust and stories about just the right amount of food, money, help showing up just when it was needed.”

Mim said she keeps the email with her devotional books and re-reads it frequently. It reminds her to trust God to provide for all her needs.

ENOUGH is a word that can be pondered from opposite directions, from:

  • not having enough and trusting that needs will somehow be met, and
  • having too much and figuring out how to share rather than over-consume or accumulate.

Or, as Joan Chittister put it, “the simple virtue of enoughness [is] knowing that what I have is sufficient for me, … and knowing that what I give will end the destitution of others.”

enough

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!