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Archive for April, 2011

 

Easter was special this year!  Just as Joe and I spent last Thanksgiving and Christmas at Aurora Summit Hospital, we spent our Easter there as well.  We have nick-named our hospital, “Holiday Inn”. 

Joe’s leg pain augmented to a point where it was impossible for him to be at home with only 110 pound me to help him get around.  Last Tuesday Joe was admitted to the hospital Inpatient Rehab Unit for medical care and the assistance he needed.

The leg pain was baffling.  Joe’s 4th degree burn from the October accident had healed beautifully.  His post-op rotator cuff healing was progressing well—and the pain was in a leg, not in the shoulder.  Why the severe pain?  Joe’s physiatrist (pain management doctor) puzzled over the enigma, ordered an ultra-sound, and discovered a large Baker’s cyst.  Once the cyst was dealt with the leg improved daily, and now—although with great effort—Joe can walk with considerably diminished pain.

Joe was hospitalized in the rehab unit for 7 nights.  I stayed there with him for 6 of those nights.  As before when I have “vacationed” with Joe at our Holiday Inn, I cannot thank God enough for the care and comfort received in this hospital.

I’ve learned so much over the last 6 months, it would take a large book to even begin to tell it all!  I’ve grown to love many of the individuals who have tended Joe’s needs (and mine, when I was a surgery patient there over Christmas).  We are amazed at the personal care and compassion of our doctors, and many of the nurses and aides.

Often, when going through a crisis, we are tempted to ask, “Why, Lord?”  That question has been answered for me, again and again, before I even bother to ask!  I’m certain that more answers will be unveiled as time passes. 

Over the 3 holidays, as well as during our 9 other hospital sessions in the last 6 months, I’ve had many opportunities to share God’s grace.  God fills us with His joy and peace, as we focus on Him.  We were thankful on Thanksgiving.  Christmas was still very much Christmas, our surgeries notwithstanding.  

And Easter was Easter!  Christ is risen!  The joy of the resurrection superceded any inconvenience or potential regrets we might have had over being away from our home and the “normal” holiday routine.

Visits from family members have been wonderful.  One day I heard the chatter of children down the hall.  I knew they would be some of our great-grandchildren, as Joe was the only patient in the unit during our stay.  Sure enough, a group of our treasures popped into the room bringing their freshness and excitement! 

I always bring arts and crafts with me, to keep my hands and imagination fulfilled during hospital “vacations”.  Nurses and aides often pause to visit, and frequently they are curious about my knitting projects and amateurish forays into sketching and painting.  They are fascinated when I show them my homemade soap, and they enjoy the music from our IPOD.  These women share their interests with me as well, and the social time is rich!

Last Saturday one of the aides asked me (2 times!) if she could bring her boy friend into the room to meet us before they left the hospital for their dinner date that evening.  I was touched and absolutely thrilled (almost to tears!), and of course I said “Yes”! 

What a treat it was to be included for a few moments in a young couple’s life.  I reflected over the many years of welcoming the friends of our 6 children, and sharing our home and dinner table with them.  Sharing our hospital room was a small scale replay of those delightful years! 

Perhaps the highlight (if I can single out only 1) of our most recent hospital stay happened in the “dead of the night”.  The aide who came into the room to check Joe’s blood pressure suddenly noticed my Star of David earrings.  She gasped, and said, “You are wearing Star of David earrings.  Where did you get those?” 

I told her about my favorite Hebrew jewelry website, and then she asked, “Are you Jewish?” 

I gave my favorite reply to anyone who asks about my Jewish jewelry:  “I’m a Christian with a Jewish heart!”* 

The aide was thrilled.  She said, “I am Jewish.  Oh, I love you!”

Then I showed her my ring with 12 glass stones signifying the 12 tribes of Israel, and she was even more thrilled.  My parting words to her flew out spontaneously from my Christian/Jewish heart:  “I think it’s so important that we make a statement today!”*

So you see, I have no problem with the question, “Why, Lord?”  His answers abound before I even ask!

Meanwhile, Joe comes home today.  It’s 2 weeks today since his shoulder surgery.  In 4 weeks the brace can come off.  Then, “God willing and the creeks don’t rise”, we can go fishing!

Yes, I’m thankful for the experiences God has provided during the past challenging months, for His ongoing care, encouragement, and strength.  I’m thankful for the assistance of family members and friends.  I’m thankful for modern medicine, and the caregivers involved.  And I’m thankful for your prayers!

Margaret L. Been, 2011

*Note:  I’ve come to consider jewelry as far more than just adornment.  My lovely Cross with turquois stones and my Hebrew jewelry have been great conversation starters, providing many occasions to share what I believe!

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The events of Christ’s death and resurrection are as familiar to those of us who know God’s truth as if they had happened only yesterday rather than nearly 2000 years ago.  These events were prophesied many times in the Old Testament, and fulfilled down to the last detail in the Gospels.

How much closer in time, for those of us alive today, are the events of the Lord Jesus’s 2nd advent when the Lord will return to establish peace and justice on earth as He reigns from Jerusalem! 

We sorrow as storm clouds thicken around the world, and we are tempted to despair.  But these very clouds signal the completion of prophecy.  Beyond the storm clouds, a glorious future awaits—when our Passover Lamb will return to reign as KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS!

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. 

“His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written, that no man knew but He Himself.  And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood; and His name is called The Word of God. 

“And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. 

“And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations; and He shall rule them with a rod of iron; and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 

“And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written:  KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”  Revelation 19″11-16

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“For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.

“And the Gentiles shall see thy (Israel’s) righteousness, and all the kings thy glory;  And thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name.

“Thou (Israel) shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of God.”  Isaiah 62:1-3

Margaret L. Been, 2011

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Anyone who has never felt overwhelmed in the midst of life events is either not thinking or possibly under 2 years of age.  We can creatively sublimate our experiences, quote Bible verses until the proverbial cows come home, and stand positionally on God’s unquestionable faithfulness.  Yet there will be times in our humanity when we feel like we are being carried away in a flood—not as catastrophical as the Great Flood pictured above, but nonetheless a seemingly insurmountable flood of circumstances!

I experience an initial mental and emotional flood every time my husband, Joe, is caught up in a severe medical issue.  I’ve had my own medical concerns but they never wipe me out the way my husband’s issues do.  That’s because each time Joe has a crisis I feel overwhelmed by my responsibility as a caregiver.  I think, what if I made a mistake; what if I simply could not do what is expected of me? 

Many times over the years Joe has had challenges, healthwise, and somehow God has managed to get me through the times of stress and concern.  No episode has been more overwhelming than those events over the last 6 months since Joe’s untimely accident. 

Again and again I’ve thought, I can’t do this Lord!  I can’t change the dressing on Joe’s 4th degree burn as well as a professional nurse could.  I can’t sufficiently help him when he is unable to walk and one of his shoulders is agonizingly injured—as I might hurt him more. 

And yet with God’s grace, I have done these things.  I’ve dressed his wound for weeks, and I’ve been his legs and extra arm when needed.

The most recent flood washed over me last week.  Joe had surgery on the injured shoulder—an extensive rotator cuff repair.  In the hospital, I watched two nurses lift him in order to change his bedding.  I saw him struggle to his feet, as his muscle grafted leg wound was causing extra pain and weakness due to his overdoing of physical therapy the day before the surgery.

Joe needed to regain more strength on his leg before going home.  I needed to rest one more night (I now stay in the hospital with Joe when he is a patient) before facing the home care which I feared I wouldn’t be able to manage due to my own chronic pain issues. 

I told the medical staff that I was overwhelmed, and needed more time before going home!  Nevertheless, we came home.  Medicare and our supplementary insurance will not pay after all the (deemed necessary) procedures (tests, IVs, etc.) have been completed. 

It’s assumed that rest and recuperation can best be served at home.  Perhaps that’s true in some cases, but it never seems possible at the precarious moment of hospital discharge.  And if medical issues still threaten to present themselves, it would be far better for the patient to have just a bit more time under hospital supervision and care. 

After several days at home, Joe’s shoulder is amazingly pain free.  But the leg where Joe had the 4th degree burn has been swollen and extremely painful.  Yesterday’s visit to Joe’s plastic surgeon happily confirmed that there is no infection present.  His symptoms have been aggravated by fluids administered after surgery.  Diuretics have been prescribed, which are already working to alleviate the discomfort.

Yes, the floods can seem overwhelming.  But somehow the Lord keeps sustaining us and bringing us through the high waters—through whatever He allows in the circumstances of our lives!  Our Lord suffered unspeakable tortures on that cross, and He is risen!  Like Noah and his family who survived the Great Flood, those who enter God’s ark by trusting the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation are eternally sustained by His grace!

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  II Corinthians 4:17-18 (NIV)

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

(Public Domain image courtesy of Karen’s Whimsy.)

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For Christmas in 2005, our daughter-in-law Rosemary gave me a wonderful handcrafted gift:  a microwave-able flannel bag filled with corn to provide comforting heat for an aching back (or whatever else might be hurting).  This treasure was called “achey-bakey”, and I have personified it by calling it a “him” with capital letters:  Achey-Bakey.  Most every night Joe goes through the ritual of heating up Achey-Bakey, and bringing “him” as a love offering for me and my degenerating spine.

After five years of receiving comfort nearly every night, I suddenly discovered corn in the bed.  Achey-Bakey had sprung not one but many leaks, as the flannel had begun to disintegrate under the frequent onslaught of heat—four minutes on high power.

I had a nine-patch square on hand, left over from a quilting project.  I added a back piece and fashioned a new pillow for Achey-Bakey—or rather for his corn filling.  My art mania has taken up so much available space in our Southern Wisconsin home, that there is no room at present for my sewing machine to be permanently set up, so I stitched the pillow by hand. 

While stitching, I couldn’t help but reflect on the time-honored art of quilting—and the centuries of comfort and beauty created by women with their needles.  In recent years I’ve read a lot of fiction and non-fiction based on 19th century pioneers and the settling of the American West—an interest shared by many in our nation, and mirrored in the ongoing popularity of quilting as a hobby as well as a tribute to the past. 

Whether handmade from scratch, or machine pieced and quilted by hand (or that fabulous long arm machine), there is a poignancy about pieces of fabric designed and quilted.  Historically many women needed to make most of the clothing, linens, and bedding for their families.  People needed warm blankets and these could have been simply assembled out of two large fabric squares or rectangles filled with a wool batt, sewed at the sides, and secured with tufts of yarn throughout.  Many good comforters were (and still are) made that way.  But the arduous art of quilting pieces of fabric fashioned into a design spoke of another need, less basic yet perhaps more profound—the need for beauty! 

Here is where the poignancy comes in.  I think of the raw realities faced by pioneer families moving west—the constant toil of the trip, the potential famine and/or death from disease along the way, and the dangers of Indian raids.  Women could transport very few objects of beauty with them in a covered wagon.  Perhaps some pretty dishes (if they actually had any) were stashed in barrels of flour or cornmeal.  Only a few homey objects of furniture could be crammed into the family wagon.  Nearly every material object had to be useful. 

Migrating west was a process of paring life to the bone.  In the face of daily fatigue and stress, these women had one recourse—one outlet where they could feed their hunger for beauty, and that outlet consisted of fabric, needles, and thread.  Only in fabric could a pioneer woman indulge in flights of fancy and the luxury of creating beauty.

The popular art of quilting celebrates our nation’s past and the age-old efficacy of women’s hands—ever striving to fill a functional necessity, while expressing that deeper need of creating beauty.  The expression of beauty can even include a bag of heat for aching bones!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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 I Long to Venture in the Wood

 I long to venture in the wood

where warblers glorify our Lord

and see what violets might show

of life from death

while springing from decaying

forest floor, and find

a cleansing stream to kneel beside

and cool my face

where cowslip congregations dwell

in ever-flowing grace.

©Margaret Longenecker Been

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My friend Karen and I visit a lot on the phone.  Such a nice old-fashioned means of communication!  In fact, the only communication venues that can compare with a congenial phone chat are:  a face to face visit and a real letter via USPS.  Karen and I enjoy these as well. 

Karen and I catch up on our family events, and we chat about gracious, homey things such as our gardens* and our home decor.  Both of us relish an occasional afternoon spent in antique malls on rainy days, and on the local rummage sale circuits when the weather is fair.  We collect all and everything that catches the eye, warms the heart, and can be obtained at a bargain price—and we love to share the news of our latest finds.

Yesterday Karen and I were talking about how we love to be at home—baking, scrubbing, dusting, rearranging, and creating vignettes of beauty around the home.  We never tire of our homes, and neither of us looks at homemaking as a chore, but rather a supreme privilege. 

Being a keeper at home—along with nurturing a family—is the most creative occupation on earth.  Our loved ones flourish in an environment that is relaxing, delightful, fun, and (in my case) funky.  People love to visit a home where the lady of the house is fulfilled and happy.  Words need not be spoken, as the atmosphere says it all!  Home is an artist’s canvas.  When the artist is contented the home exudes beauty, originality, and joy! 

Nearly forty years ago our son Eric—14 years old at that time—made a classic statement which makes me smile to this day.  Eric said (with the characteristic fondness that mellow sons have for their mothers), “Mom, you are such a homey simpleton!”

I realized that the statement, from Eric’s perspective, was a tremendous compliment.  He knew that I was in euphoria at home:  arranging vignettes of beauty, reading old books, watering houseplants, raising cats and dogs, baking bread, and stirring up huge pots of chili for Eric and our other children to share with their friends.

After I finished laughing about Eric’s loving apprisal all those years ago, I explained to him that a “simpleton” was the classic town idiot of folklore and fairy tales.  I still chuckle today when I think of it!  But maybe it’s no joke!  The “world” does view those of us who love to be at home as “simpletons”.

Homey simpleton indeed!  The best job description on earth!  How could anyone want to be anything else?  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

*Karen is a master gardener whose gardens, in the city of Waukesha, are unlike any I’ve ever seen anywhere.  Walking through her paths is like a trip to England. 

If all goes as planned, photos of Karen’s gardens will be featured on Northern Reflections in a few weeks.  Things are just beginning to get revved up around here, gardenwise.

And finally, below you will see some of the main reasons why HOME is so wonderful!  This photo was taken at a family member’s home—but these treasures visit us a lot.  We are all at HOME at each other’s homes!  🙂

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Looking at pictures has been a popular form of recreation ever since the invention of photography, and before that throughout the centuries of capturing people and scenery via sketching and painting. 

When I was growing up, one still found stereopticons on coffee tables.  For those who do not haunt antique shops, a stereopticon was a wood and wire thingy in which a double image (often of a travel scene) was inserted into a holder.  The viewer held the stereopticon to the light and slid the wire holder until the images came together.  (If I haven’t clarified that concept, just GOOGLE “stereopticon” and you’ll see it for yourself.)

During the 1930s and early 40s we had albums of tiny photos taken with a primitive Brownie camera, and also 8 mm family movies.  Later my dad bought high tech cameras with multi dials, settings, filters, and lenses—the likes of which I could never figure out in a million years!  Then Dad graduated to making 16 mm movies, and finally to slides and a slide projector.  Slides were the “picture shows” of the 1960s.  Many an evening one had to sit and watch someone’s slides of what seemed like every single cathedral in Europe!

Joe and I skipped the video cassette stage, and kept on taking photos with a Minolta® automatic 35mm which served us well right up to a few years ago with the onset of digital cameras.  Now we can sit and view the cathedrals of Europe on friends’ ubiquitous laptop computers.  Likewise, I can potentially bore my friends to distraction with my computer full of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Nonetheless, a picture show is a fun and sharing way to spend a social hour!  At the rist of boring you to distraction (I hope not!) here are some of our family classics:

Our son, Karl, at age 13 in 1975.  When Karl was younger, he looked a lot like John Denver.  Now Karl no longer has a John Denver haircut, but guess where he lives:  you’ve got it, Denver.  (Actually, Centennial which is on the south side of Denver.)  Karl still enjoys that natural “rocky mountain high” depicted in the above New Mexico scene.  I think those are the Sangre de Cristo mountains in the background.

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The two on the right are Karl’s sons, Nathaniel and Joelly, teaching their 1st cousin-once-removed, James, how to be silly.  It seems to come naturally, even for those of us who do not live in or near the Rocky Mountains!

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Going back many years, here is my favorite wild west character.  I don’t know if he’s a cowboy, gunslinger, or U.S. Marshall, but I love him and have been married to him for nearly 58 years!

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About the same time as the cowboy photo was taken, an adventuresome kid was racing (I think it was a 2 horse power engine) around Lake Winnebago—Wisconsin’s biggest inland lake.  Life jackets were something used in the Navy; we never had them when I was growing up.  And look at that!  We wore dresses in boats, at least I did! 

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Fast forwarding to 2004, our Baby Dylan did not have his legal “temps” (and still doesn’t).  But a lot of youngsters have learned to drive on the remote sand roads of the Chequamegan National Forest in the Wisconsin Northwoods. 

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Now it’s 2007 in the picture show.  I was supine on our living room couch—recovering from a roast pork, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pie dinner at the Phillips’ Cafe when this Sunday visitor dropped in.  I’ll be forever thankful that I had my camera handy!  🙂

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You’ve seen this one before and you may see it again!  Great-grandchildren! 

We have 5 more wonderful great-grandchildren not featured here.  I’ll publish the other five as soon as I get some photos of them from their moms. 

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Ooops!  Here are 2 more “classics” which recently came in from a friend.  These photos date back to 1982, when we were getting hay for my sheep.  Can you believe we did that (22 bales!) to a vehicle?  And drove the 6 or 7 miles home? 

Margaret L. Been

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