Tag Archive | perfect word

Special Words for 2017

Floey sitting - profile croppedFloey came bounding down the stairs, ran over to my desk, and sat down on the floor right next to me. “Good morning, Floey,” I said.

“Good morning, Mom. Is it time yet?” Floey asked.

“Yes. I think the time has finally come, Floey. Are you ready to talk about our special words for next year?”

“I sure am. I’ve been thinking about this for months. I don’t think I chose a very good word to focus on for 2016. I want to do better this year. Do you remember what I chose last year?”

“I sure do, Floey. You chose MEOW. You wanted to learn to communicate better with the cats in the neighborhood, and you thought learning their language would help.”

cat talking and smiling“Yeah. But it didn’t work very well. The neighborhood cats all disappeared. I think they were afraid to come out in the cold last January, and then they just turned into lazy house cats, and they didn’t come out much in the nice weather either.”

“That’s right, and by August I think you decided to adopt my special word of KINDNESS to use as your special word for the rest of the year. Was that better?”

“It was better, but I never really felt committed to that word. That was your word, not mine. So I’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking to come up with a better word for 2017.”

“What did you come up with?”

fullsizeoutput_1929“I kept thinking about a rather unpleasant conversation we had one day last summer. You said I was stubborn. And you said it in such a way I knew you thought it wasn’t good to be stubborn. I think our disagreement was all about taking time to sit at a curb before crossing a street, and then to sit again on the other side. Sometimes, I just don’t want to take the time to sit down, and to do it twice at every intersection seems like overkill. I just don’t see the point. Anyway, during that conversation you called me stubborn and you suggested that I should find a word that’s the opposite of stubborn to have as my special word for next year. Do you remember that?”

“I kind of remember.”

“Well I remember the conversation very well. I don’t like us to have disagreements. So I’ve thought a lot about opposites of stubborn. I came up with words like compliant, submissive, weak, yielding, and complacent. Those aren’t inspiring words at all.”

“I can see that, Floey. But couldn’t you come up with anything more positive that’s an opposite of stubborn?” I asked.

“Well, it took a while, but I finally did. I thought about words like willing, flexible, broad-minded, giving, and kind. And then it hit me. I thought of the word FRIEND. I want to focus on being a FRIEND. A friend is someone who doesn’t insist on getting their own way. Sometimes they will get their own way, but more importantly, they will think about what’s best for everyone, which may or may not be their own way. They will do what’s best for the other person just as much, or maybe even more than what’s best for themselves. So, for 2017, my special word is FRIEND.”

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Doris and her caregiver Abbey were best friends.

“That’s a great word, Floey. And it’s so appropriate! Have you heard the old saying that ‘dog is man’s best friend’?  The language of the expression could be cleaned up a little to make it more gender neutral, but the sentiment is true.”

“I’m sure FRIEND is going to be a great word for me to think about all year. I think that by the end of the year I’ll know how to be the best FRIEND that anyone could possibly have. I’m so excited!”

“That’s wonderful, Floey.”

“How about you, Mom? What’s your new word going to be?”

“I’m pretty excited about my new word, too, Floey. It’s HOPE. My special word for 2017 is HOPE.”

“I guess that’s a good word, Mom. But what made you choose HOPE?”fullsizeoutput_1ffa

“I have a really good reason for choosing it, Floey. HOPE is probably what I will need more than anything else in 2017. You see, after the presidential election last November, I was depressed, and I was really scared. In the past, sometimes I’ve been disappointed with the results of a presidential election, but I’ve never been really afraid of what might happen under the charge of the new president. But this time is different. I have no confidence in his competence or his integrity. I am afraid that he might carelessly do something that will result in economic or physical harm or even death to millions of people – both in this country and around the globe. You and me included. Like I said, I’m really scared. I sure HOPE I’m wrong. I HOPE that he truly wants to lead the country in good ways that will benefit all Americans as well as the rest of the world. And I HOPE that his unorthodox ways will lead to positive results. I need to give him a chance to be successful. I need to have HOPE.”

“Wow, Mom. That’s pretty serious. I knew the election was a big deal, but I didn’t think it would affect us personally. That’s scary.”

320943“Yeah, I know. That’s why I need to have HOPE this year. Sarah Young (the writer of the daily devotional book Jesus Calling) has written several other books in the same style – as though Jesus is speaking to us directly. In one of these books, Young quotes Jesus as saying,

Though difficulties abound in this world, rejoice that I am ever present with you. I can enable you to cope with any and all circumstances, strengthening you as you look trustingly to Me. No matter how hopeless your situation may seem, I assure you that all things are possible with Me….  [Jesus Lives: Seeing His Love in Your Life, p. 102]

“Young then cites Psalm 46:2 as assurance that God is really with us, helping us.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

“Young went on to reference Mark 10:27:

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.

“You know, Floey, I think the Bible has a lot to say about HOPE, and I plan to look into that this year, and hopefully I will become more hopeful about everything that’s going on in our world these days.”

Floey sighed and said, “Boy, Mom, we both have high expectations for our special words this year. Do you know what Mim’s new word is? I wonder if she’s decided on one yet.”

2015-floey-and-mim-on-couch-cropped“Here she comes, Floey. Let’s ask her. Hey, Mim, come join us. We’re talking about our special words for 2017. Have you chosen your new word yet?”

“I sure have. It’s HOPE,” she replied as she sat down with us.

“Hey, that’s my word,” I exclaimed. “You can’t have my word!”

“I certainly can! I’ve thought a lot about it, and I need to focus on HOPE this year. I’m going to turn 70 this summer, and I need to keep hoping that some of the changes I’m anticipating over the next few years will work out for the best. Even though I tend to worry, I need to remember that ultimately, God is in control. That gives me HOPE. That’s what I need to focus on – not worrying about the challenges and changes that are ahead in my life.”

Floey - thoughtful faceFloey looked from one mom to the other and said, “I can’t believe my moms are arguing over their special words for 2017!”

“You’re right, Floey. I guess I can share my word. Mim, I came across a benediction a few days ago that might be a good start for both of us in our focus on HOPE this year.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. [Romans 15:13 NIV]

“Hey, I like that. Thanks for sharing it,” Mim responded.

Floey jumped up and trotted over to the patio door. “I think we’re all set. I’m going to learn everything there is to know about becoming a true FRIEND this year, and both of you are going to learn how to be more HOPEFUL. So, we’re ready. Time to go for a walk.”

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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

Hurry Up!

Abbey Profile 2

Yesterday morning, after breakfast, Abbey and I went outside for our usual morning walk. The sun was shining in a clear blue sky, but the temperature was 8 below zero. I put on my winter boots, bundled up with my down-filled jacket and pulled the hood over my head. Abbey waited patiently while I slipped on her harness and clipped on the leash. We stepped out the door to begin what I saw as a quick 5-minute walk down our driveway and around the circular drive among the condos, giving Abbey a chance to “do her business.” Abbey saw it differently – another 15-minute adventure outside.

“Come on, Abbey. It’s cold outside. Let’s get this walk over with.” Abbey didn’t hear me. She walked about 10 steps, nose to the ground, and stopped to sniff one particular spot in the snow extra carefully. I continued down the driveway until I got to the end of the 25-foot extend-a-leash. I turned around. Abbey was still sniffing that spot. “Come on, Abbey,” I called. She still ignored me. I gave a slight tug on the leash. She looked up, and then pranced in my direction. She came about 20 feet, and then stopped to “do her business.”

2014 Abbey in Snow 3“Good girl, Abbey. Let’s keep going. Let’s walk around the whole circle. Then we can go back inside where it’s warm.” Abbey looked at me like I was crazy, took a few steps, and buried her nose in the snow.   Then she looked up at me and called out, “Just a minute, Mom. Someone’s been here. I haven’t figured out who it was yet.”  So I waited while she sniffed some more. Finally she took a couple steps, and stopped to eat some snow. “This is good, Mom. You should try it.”

“No, thanks, Abbey. Come on. Aren’t you cold?”

“Just a minute, Mom. This snow tastes so good.” I stopped when I reached the end of the 25-foot leash again. I looked back to see what Abbey was doing now. She was standing up tall, listening in the direction of Kitty and Mickey’s condo. Sometimes they come outside when she walks by and they always bring a handful of MilkBones.

2014 Abbey in snow 2“Oh, Abbey. They’re not coming out today. It’s too cold.” Reluctantly Abbey walked my direction. Then she picked up another scent to follow. After about 15 minutes of this pattern Abbey and I returned to our condo. I was freezing. She was invigorated. “Abbey, I think it’s time we need to talk about our walks.”

“I agree, Mom. You seem really frustrated. What’s wrong?”

“Yes, I am frustrated, Abbey. It’s cold outside, and you don’t seem to have a clue what the word ‘hurry’ means.”

“Oh, Mom, you’re always in such a hurry. You’re so busy you don’t take time to do anything fun – or to take time to enjoy anything you’re doing. I thought joy was supposed to be your ‘perfect word’ for this year. You’re in too much of a hurry to find joy.”

Abbey’s rather harsh observation startled me. Am I really that busy? Every morning this year, I start my devotional time by reading a reflection by Sarah Young from her book, Jesus Calling. In this reflection, Jesus says, “Sit quietly in my presence while I bless you. Make your mind like a still pool of water, ready to receive whatever thoughts I drop into it.” A few sentences later, Jesus says, “Keep looking to Me and communicating with Me as we walk through this day together. Take time to rest by the wayside, for I am not in a hurry. A leisurely pace accomplishes more than hurried striving.” I have read these words 62 times so far this year. Apparently, I’m not heeding what Jesus says about not hurrying. I guess Abbey’s right.

An Unhurried LifeI’m going to try something new for Lent this year. I’m going to try to fast from hurry. It’s not an original idea. A few days ago I read about someone else who’s planning to do this. Linda Swanson has a blog called “Journey in Process.”  In her blog, she mentioned a book she’s reading, An Unhurried Life by Alan Fadling.

I looked up the book on Amazon.com and was tempted to download a Kindle version to quickly skim the book for key ideas to help me before Lent starts tomorrow.  Then I realized, hurrying to get ready for Lent so that I can give up hurrying for Lent, doesn’t make too much sense. I think I’ll still buy the book, but I’ll order it as a paperback that Mim can read, too. (She’s technology resistant.) Then, maybe during Lent I can spend time studying the book at a more leisurely pace, and Mim and I can talk about it as we try to break the habit of hurrying.

Another Anniversary. Another Time of Joy.

Brides Basket - squareThis week, 25 years ago – 1989, was a pretty spectacular week. It was a week of beautiful weather, a January thaw. Mim and I were living in Chicago, on the second floor of a two-flat. Mim was teaching nursing at North Park College, and I was self-employed as a business systems consultant. But neither of us worked too hard that week.

I remember putting on just a light spring jacket when we drove to a flower shop to pick up a dozen yellow roses, yellow freesia, white mini-carnations, baby’s breath, and greens. Then we drove to a liquor store to pick out special champagne. The wine expert in the store convinced us to get Moet & Chandon for $26 a bottle, the most we had ever spent on a bottle of anything. But this was for a very special occasion. Six friends were coming over to our home for dinner.

When we got home from our errands, Mim arranged the flowers into several bouquets, and I placed them throughout the house. I set up the CD player with Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite” for background music, and made sure the house was ready for company. Mim worked in the kitchen, preparing a curried chicken-broccoli casserole. By the time our guests arrived, the house looked and smelled wonderful.

But before our guests could eat, we had a special event that we all participated in – our Blessing Ceremony. Two of our guests, Steve and Craig, were pastors from our Lutheran church. Another guest was Craig’s partner, Frank, an accomplished organist who served as our pianist. Our best friend, Mark, was the lector and photographer. Our attorney, Sandra, officiated the signing of the wills and other legal documents to make our commitment ceremony resemble a legal marriage to the greatest extent possible in 1989. Our sixth friend was Lenie, our “antique lady friend,” a local shopkeeper who had become a close friend and who served as a legal witness for us.

BC-1 Marian reading vows

It was a perfect evening. The Blessing Ceremony was a full liturgy with communion, a service that we had customized from a variety of sources. Our opening hymn was “Now Thank We All Our God.” Our closing hymn was “O God, Eternal Source of Love beyond Our Knowing.” The prayers that our friends prayed for us that night are still being answered.

Faithful Lord, source of love, pour down your grace upon Mim and Marian, that they may fulfill the vows they have made this day and reflect your steadfast love in their life-long faithfulness to each other. As members with them of the body of Christ, use us to support their life together; and from your great store of strength give them power and patience, affection and understanding, courage, and love toward you, toward each other, and toward the world, that they may continue together in mutual growth according to your will in Jesus Christ our Lord.

After the formal ceremony, Mim took the casserole out of the oven. Frank and Craig thought we shouldn’t be the ones to serve our guests dinner on our special day, so they became our waiters. The eight of us sat around the dining room table for a couple hours, enjoying the dinner, the friendship, and the excitement of the evening. And the expensive champagne, too.

BC-1 Dinner Guests

But the enjoyment isn’t over yet. Every year we remember this special evening. This Friday night Mim and I plan to go out to celebrate our Blessing Ceremony for the 25th time.

champagneAs you may recall, my “perfect word” to focus on for 2014 is JOY. One of the special joys that Mim and I have is the opportunity to enjoy three anniversaries every year. On January 24, we’ll celebrate the 25th anniversary of our Blessing Ceremony. On February 1, we’ll celebrate the 41st anniversary of living together. And on September 15, we’ll celebrate the first anniversary of our legal wedding.

I guess having several anniversaries is one of the special joys reserved for gay couples.

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Mim and Marian – January 24, 1989.