Tag Archive | wisdom

A Word for the New Year

fullsizeoutput_2bc7Almost every day for at least the last ten years, I’ve started my morning in the comfortable sitting area of my downstairs office. I light the seasonal arrangement of candles on the coffee table, and settle into my Lazy Boy recliner. I spend from ten minutes to an hour quietly beginning the day.

Before I start reading, I mentally sing a hymn to focus my mind into a worshipful or meditative state. I don’t sing out loud, because hearing my voice would be an unwelcome distraction. I don’t play the piano because that’s about ten feet away from where I’ve already settled into my chair. Singing the hymn mentally is just the right way to get my soul ready.

The first few years I sang “Holy, Holy, Holy” for this centering exercise. Then I sang “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” for a few years. One year I took a brand new hymnal I’d just received, and mentally sang one or two hymns a day, from page one to the end of the hymnal. Last December I decided to use “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” to focus my mind throughout Advent. I sang one verse a day, until I came to verse 3.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high
and order all things far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show
and cause us in her ways to go. 

From that day on, I’ve mentally sung this verse every day. Even after Christmas. I’m still singing it every morning. I intend to use this song throughout 2020, and I’ve made WISDOM my special word for the year.

If you are a long-time reader of this blog, you know that I’ve been selecting a special word each year for the past seven years.

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  • JOY was the word for 2014. I delighted in looking for joy somewhere each day.
  • GRATITUDE was my word for 2015. Throughout that year I developed the habit of listing at least three things each day that I was especially grateful for as I went to bed each night. I still do it.
  • KINDNESS was the word for 2016. I learned to look for examples of kindness being exhibited by people I saw around me, and thought about new ways I could show kindness myself. I made up new words to use as a second verse to the song “This Is the Day that the Lord Hath Made” – “What can I do to reflect God’s Love? I can be kind to everyone…” I mentally sing these two verses at the end of my quiet time every morning.
  • HOPE was the word for 2017. That was a challenging year all around the world, and I tried to focus on being hopeful, despite how fearful I was of the political situation.
  • PEACE was the word for 2018. I looked for hymns about peace throughout the year, and I started to write my book Hymns of Peace and Comfort.  I published the book last year.
  • LOVE was my word for 2019. I chose that word because I realized that of the four Advent themes – Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, Love was the only word I hadn’t used yet as a “special word.” With the help of Mim and our dog Floey, I realized last year how much our home is filled with love. Our house may never become uncluttered, but anyone who comes to our door knows they are alway welcome. We’re truly thankful for the love God has shown us through friends, animals, and each other.

I expect 2020 will continue to be a year of transition for us, from full-time caregiving into gradual retirement, whatever that means. That’s what Mim and I need to learn. And that’s why WISDOM seems like the perfect word for me to focus on this year. And that’s why mentally singing the third verse of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is the perfect way for me to begin each day.

HAPPY NEW WORD!     HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Love from all three of us – Marian, Mim & Floey

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Mim sharing our love with Quincy, one of Floey’s best friends.

The Dogs in My Life

Family dogs out for a ride in my brother's car

Family dogs out for a ride in my brother’s car.

God so loved the world that she gave us dogs.

The first dog in my life was Teddy. He was a big brown and white collie mix that lived in the barn. He only came into the house occasionally to warm up, when it was really cold outside. My dad had trained him to be a faithful working dog. When it was time for the cows to come back to the barn for evening milking, my dad would yell as loud as he could, “Come, boss,” hoping that the cows would hear him and come home to the barn. Teddy would take that as his cue to run to the pasture or down the lane to the woods to get them. He would find them, gather them together by running around them and barking, and would herd them to the barn.

I couldn't find any of my own pictures of Teddy, but this what I remember him looking like.

I couldn’t find any of my own pictures of Teddy, but this what I remember him looking like.

I was a little afraid of Teddy. I liked to pet him and say, “Nice, Teddy,” but I never dared to give him a really big hug or play with him. He was a very big dog, and I was a very little girl. He died of old age when I was about 5.

Tippy

Tippy

Our next dog was Tippy, a mostly black collie mix puppy with white tips on his paws and tail. My dad had hopes of training him to be another cow dog, but my brother Danny and I had other ideas. We trained him to be a playmate. Although he still had to sleep in the barn, Tippy was at our side whenever Danny and I were outside. Unfortunately, after a couple years he was killed by a car speeding down our country road.

Rinny - c1955

Rinny

The next dog in our lives was Rinny, named after RinTinTin, the german shepherd on TV. Rinny didn’t look like RinTinTin – Rinny was another black and white collie mix. My dad still had hopes of training another cow dog, but Danny and I adopted him as our next playmate, and Rinny never paid much attention to my dad.

While Rinny was still in our lives, a stray german shepherd mix wandered onto the farm and decided to stay a while. I named him Bullet, after my other TV dog hero. Bullet became my dog and Rinny was Danny’s. While we were negotiating that deal, our mom told us about when she sold her dog Mollie for $2 to her brother Helmer. From a practical standpoint, Mollie was still the family dog, and Mom was $2 richer.

Bullet with me and my newest Kitten Useless.

Bullet with me and my kitten Useless.

After a couple years, Rinny suffered the same fate as Tippy. Left alone, Bullet must have been bored when Danny and I were away at school all day, and he wandered off to find another home that needed his love.

Danny and Mollie 2

Danny and Mollie

Our succession of dogs continued with our own Mollie, a brown collie mix, and Tammy, our first little dog, probably a beagle-terrier mix. By that time my dad was resigned to the fact that any dogs coming into our household would become playmates, not working dogs. That meant it was no longer necessary to get a dog with herding instincts.

Tammy

Tammy

As an adult, I lived without a dog in my life until I reached my early 40s. Mim had not grown up with dogs, so she didn’t know how much love they could bring into your life. I finally convinced her I needed a dog when she got a job working nights for the Night Ministry – I didn’t want to be home alone at night in Chicago without a dog. We made a visit to the Anti-Cruelty Society in downtown Chicago, and walked out with a 10-week old blonde collie-golden retriever mix puppy. I named her Megabyte. (I was a computer consultant at the time.) Megabyte was the perfect dog to turn Mim into a dog lover. I knew she was converted when she told me about the homeless man who told her one night that DOG was GOD, just spelled backwards.

Megabyte as puppy

Megabyte

Meg was a very affectionate and social dog. She loved to go for walks in the park and loved to play with all the dogs in the neighborhood. We even arranged play dates with Charlee, the puppy down the block who was about the same age. When Mim and I decided to move to Cambridge, we were concerned that Meg might be lonely without all her canine friends, so we made another trip to the Anti-Cruelty Society to adopt a sister for her. We were drawn to a 3-month-old black border collie-spaniel mix. Mim named her Maia. From day one, Maia tried to be the boss, but the two dogs quickly worked out their own rules for sharing the leadership role.

Megabyte and Maia with Marian in Chicago

Megabyte and Maia with Marian in Chicago

Both Meg and Maia lived well into their teens (their 90s in dog years).

Then came Abbey. You already know a lot about Abbey and all the love she has shared with us and the people who have lived with us. She’s been the perfect caregiver, with plenty of love, gentleness, kindness, and wisdom to share with everyone who has lived in our home.

Abbey head-on colorYesterday, Abbey went to meet all the rest of the dogs in our family – Teddy, Tippy, Rinny, Bullet, Mollie, Tammy, Megabyte, and Maia – plus many of her cousin dogs and people friends. For the last couple years Abbey has had a slow-growing mass in her brain that has been affecting her ability to walk. It finally got too much for her, and God invited her to come home to heaven. She had fulfilled her purpose on earth very well – teaching all of us more about God’s love than we ever could have imagined without knowing her.

Marian Korth Family Portrait - bronze 2

God loved us so much that she gave us Abbey for 8 years
to teach us more about God’s love.

Let the birthdays begin!

Annas 93rd BdayLet the birthdays begin! Anna, the first of our trio of 92-year-olds, celebrated her 93rd birthday on Sunday. I asked her how she felt about turning 93. Her response: “I don’t feel like I’m that old. It’s just a number. It doesn’t mean anything. Life is good.”

Carolyn will turn 93 in June, and Marty in July. Then we’ll have a trio of 93-year-olds that we get to assist day-by-day through their later years in life.

As I was thinking about birthdays, I remembered a conversation from forty years ago that several of my twenty-something-year-old friends in Chicago were having. Arden, a newly ordained Reverend, said “I look forward to getting older. Just think of all the wisdom I’ll gain with each year of life.” (Arden grew up to obtain a Ph.D. in theology a few years later, taught at a Christian University, and eventually became the visitation minister of a large Methodist church.)

Now that I’m 65 instead of 25, I kind of agree with Arden. But even better than all the wisdom Mim and I have accumulated over the past 40 years, just think of all the wisdom that resides in our home right now. Taking advantage of that wisdom, I asked Anna what she thought about Arden’s comment. She said, “He’s right. I’m still learning something new every single day.”

How does she still continue to accumulate wisdom day by day?

"Sparrow and Berries" as colored by Anna.

“Sparrow and Berries” as colored by Anna. Notice the subtle shading, especially all the different colors in each leaf.

Every Monday morning she gets up very early, between 5:00 and 6:00, to get ready to go to the East Madison Monona Coalition on Aging (EMMCA) Day Care program for the whole day. There she meets with several other elderly people to work in the kitchen, play games, watch a concert or a movie on a big TV screen, and just plain visit with whoever is there for the day.

On Tuesdays she goes to Deerfield to play Bingo and have lunch with some new friends she has made over the past couple years.

On Wednesdays she goes to Lake Mills for the day for a “Reaching Out Respite” program. Every week is something different there – sometimes they listen to guest speakers, sometimes they sing, sometimes they play games or do exercises. They always have a good time with their friends.

On Thursdays she stays home. She spends most of the day sitting in her chair next to the patio door that goes out to the deck. (In nice weather, she sits on the deck.) From her chair she can watch the birds and other wildlife on our back yard pond and in the adjacent wildlife preserve. She often wonders what the birds are thinking and saying to each other as they fly by the deck. Sitting in that chair is also where she uses her colored pencils to create beautiful pictures.

On Fridays she often goes back to Monona (EMMCA). On the weekends she usually stays home, and her daughter comes to visit for a few hours. As Anna says, “Life is good.”

American author Herman Melville wrote, “To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.” Mim and I are so fortunate to be able to learn from all these masters of wisdom that God has dropped into our lives.

Daisaku Ikeda, a Buddhist lay leader in Japan, has summed it up nicely,  “The wisdom and experience of older people is a resource of inestimable worth. Recognizing and treasuring the contributions of older people is essential to the long-term flourishing of any society.”

Let the birthdays begin – as we all continue on our journey to wisdom.

Anna has an amazing eye for detail when her hands are holding colored pencils.

Anna has an amazing eye for detail when her hands are holding colored pencils. She must have known a cat with those exact markings sometime in her life. She also must have remembered from her childhood on the farm that chicken feed attracts other birds, too.

A Christmas Letter from Abbey

Abbey-Marian

This morning as I was sitting at my desk Abbey came over to me and sat down. “Mom,” she said. “I have a favor to ask.”

“What’s that?” I responded.

“Will you help me write a Christmas letter to send to all my friends? I don’t have fingers like you have, and it’s really hard for me to type.”

“I guess I can help you, Abbey, but why do you want to write a Christmas letter?”

Edith and Abbey sharing a special moment together on the couch.

Edith and Abbey sharing a special moment together on the couch a few years ago.

“I want to keep in touch with my friends. I have some really good friends that I don’t see very often any more, and I want to let them know I still think about them, that I miss them, and that I’m thankful that they have been part of my life. You know, sometimes we see people all the time, and we become really close. And then, something changes, and we don’t see them very much any more. Remember when Edith used to live with us? Margaret and Don and Holly, Cammi and Lizzy came to see us a lot during those four years. When Mary lived with us, we saw a lot of Laura and Steve and some other wonderful relatives. I really want to keep in touch with all these friends and many more. Sending them a Christmas letter is a good way to do it – that is if you will help me.”

Abbey Snowman and Tree 2“Okay, Abbey. I’ll help you. How should we do this?”

“I’ll dictate, and you type. You can be my secretary, Mom.”

“Okay. Dictate away…”

Dear Friends,

It’s here! Time to get ready for Christmas! On Thanksgiving I spent the morning going through my mom’s address book, thinking about each one of my friends, and thanking God for bringing each dog, person, and even cat friend into my life. On Friday, I jumped into the Christmas Spirit along with everyone else.I didn’t go out shopping, but I studied my favorite catalogs over and over again – the World Vision and Heifer International catalogs. I’d love to pick out ducks and chicks and rabbits and goats and even cows to give to people who need them, and buy these gifts in the names of each of my friends. But unfortunately, I’m mostly dreaming about it. My allowance doesn’t add up fast enough to be as generous as I’d like.

Christmas music is filling the house, and I love it. When my moms aren’t singing and playing the piano, the seasonal music channel on TV is on to be sure we don’t forget that Christmas is coming. Our Christmas tree isn’t up yet, but I heard my moms talking about when to decorate. AND they also talked about baking cookies! I can hardly wait for those smells to begin!

Abbey Profile 2As I look back over last year to bring you all up to date on my life, I think my biggest news is that my moms got married. That may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but to me, and to them, it’s important. Some of the other dogs in the neighborhood make fun of me for not having a real family. I know that’s not true. My family is just as real as their family, and it always has been. Now I can prove it. I can show my moms’ marriage certificate to the other dogs. I know it’s all about love, but it’s nice to have proof that our family is just as legal as theirs.

The other big news is that I am finally starting to look like an older dog. My hair is graying, and getting thinner, and I stumble sometimes when I walk. If I had only two legs, like some of you, I’d probably use a cane, but with four legs I do pretty well. Whenever I lay down, I move slowly so I don’t jar my hips too much. It hurts to get old, no matter what your species. But the good part of aging is making good use of all the wisdom I’ve learned from my life experiences. I try to act humbly, but I know I’m the wisest dog in the neighborhood.

Some of my wisdom comes from music, and thinking about the words of some beautiful songs. My mom got another new hymnal this year, and I discovered this song in it. I just love the images. It’s such a comforting song. That’s why I want to share it with you. It’s my Christmas present to you (along with perhaps a couple ducks given in your name to World Vision.) Merry Christmas!

IF I FLY AS BIRDS AT DAWNING

If I fly as birds at dawning, travel to the farthest sea,
You are there, my God, my Refuge, there to hold me lovingly.
In my time of desolation help me feel Your presence near.
Send a light amid the darkness, bringing hope to calm my fear.

In my mother’s womb You formed me, piece by piece with tender care.
Secretly You placed within me words of life for me to share.
God, Your thoughts for me are boundless, more than I can ever know.
They will comfort me forever. What a debt to You I owe!

Keep me faithful, full of wonder, as my days on earth unroll.
Walk beside me, and protect me from those who would wound my soul.
Search me, test my inmost being, Root out all my selfish ways.
Lead me on to life eternal. I will praise you all my days.

Words by Edith Sinclair Downing. ©2009 Wayne Leupold Editions, Inc.

Merry Christmas and Lots of Love and Joy!

Abbey

P.S.  On a somewhat lighter note, one of my God-given responsibilities as a canine is to be a guardian of comfort and joy. With that in mind, I also want to share another hymn. This is from my own hymnal, HOLIDAY HOUNDS by Laurie Loughlin, © 1996.

Thanks, Mom!

Thanks, Mom!

DOG, REST YE MERRY, GENTLE ONE

Dog, rest ye merry, gentle one,
And when you wake, we’ll play.
Then you can jump on all the guests
Who come for Christmas Day,
And save us all from feeling sad
If our thoughts go astray,
Oooh, guardian of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy,
Oooh, guardian of comfort and joy.

(Tune: “ God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”)