Archive for October, 2011

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”  Ephesians 1:7 NIV

Looking back over a lifetime, I’m overwhelmed!  Looking back a year, I’m overwhelmed.  Even looking back over the last couple of days, I am awash with the sense of God’s presence and His grace!  

Over the decades God’s grace has worked miracles in relationships, in circumstances, and in medical wonders—the most recent being a “whole new pair of eyes” for me via the simplest of all surgeries, the removal of cataracts and replacement of lenses in both eyes.  In times which are obviously “good”, and in crisis times of stress and concern, God’s grace abounds.  Our upcoming month of Thanksgiving underscores an ongoing lifestyle of thanksgiving enjoyed by any and all who understand the reality of God’s “Amazing Grace”!

Blessed with a large family, I share the reality of grace with numerous loved ones.  We laugh and cry, pray for each other, and rejoice in the fact that we are together in all of our joys and sorrows.  Currently we are sharing the prayerful anticipation of two more family members:  1) a new baby girl, Mia, due in December and 2) a new son-in-law-to-be, Sammi, due to arrive from Nigeria.

In 2006, our daughter Martina embarked on a 4 year adventure of teaching at the American School in Abuja, Nigeria.  There she met Sanmi (pronounced “Sah-mi”—the “n” is silent) and they eventually became engaged.  Now Martina has been back in the USA for over a year and she is teaching in Spring Green, Wisconsin.  In the fall of 2010, Martina and Sanmi began the long process of procuring a fiance’s visa that he could come here to live.  The “powers that be” are thorough, and the process of obtaining a visa can be lengthy. 

Now Sanmi has his visa, and only a few business details remain before he can fly to Wisconsin where he and Martina will be married.  Both of these young people are in their mid 30s.  Neither one of them has been married before.  They have waited a long time for each other.

Needless to say, our family is tremendously eager to meet Sanmi.  Many of us have chatted with him on the phone, but if you have ever experienced a phone conversation to Nigeria you know how spotty and fragmented that connection can be!  Soon we’ll visit in person, and rejoice in the marriage of Martina and Sanmi (pictured below)!

And then we’ll all look forward to welcoming the youngest member of our family—baby Mia.  Amazing grace!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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I think most of us have them—days when we feel lackluster and out of sync.  Thankfully, I have never had anything remotely close to textbook or clinical depression.  But once in awhile I just feel “off”!  Today is kind of like that.  My 2nd cataract surgery is scheduled for this afternoon, so I’m experiencing a day without beverages.  Coffee, tea, ice water, juice, Sierra Mist®, etc. are off limits for me until post-op.  Never mind that I can’t eat as well.  Going without food for a day is no hardship.  But how I do love those beverages!

After morning prayer and Scripture reading, what do I do with an off day?  I have some good remedies.  Although my music emphasis and training over the years have focused on classical, I have one passion of a different sort:  RAGTIME!  A book of 18 Scott Joplin rags is a joy to me most any day.  On an off day, The Entertainer is a lifeline—sure to make me smile as I play it.  The other rags in the collection are a bit more challenging,  but I’m working on some of them.  Nothing like a little syncopation to get a person back in sync!

When I think ragtime, I recall a long ago friend named Wayne.  Wayne had huge hands, and he played the double bass in our Wauwatosa High School orchestra, where I played the violin.  He also played a great piano.  Frequently, when Wayne was in our neighborhood he would stop and perform The Twelfth Street Rag for my mom and me.  Mother was a classical pianist, but she also enjoyed a good rag—and she loved the young friends who came to call.  We would drop whatever we were doing, and listen raptly to Wayne shaking the room with The Twelfth Street Rag.

My other off day ruse is not as much fun as ragtime, and I’m about to embark on it.  I’ll clean up my household business office, file receipts and paid bills, etc.  My first paid job was that of file clerk for the Wisconsin Electric Power Company, in the Workman’s Comp Division.  I realized early in life that as humdrum as filing may be, it’s necessary. 

Once the filing is done, it will be nearly time to go for the surgery.  After that, another “new eye” and all the beverages I want!  That will be the end of my off day.  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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An online dictionary defines the word “subtlety” as:

1.  The state or quality of being subtle.

2.  Delicacy or nicety of character or meaning.

3.  Acuteness or penetration of mind; delicacy of discrimination.

4.  A fine-drawn distinction; refinement of reasoning: the subtleties of logic.
Children are known for their spontaneous thoughts and bluntness of expression.  A child tends to say whatever pops into his or her head; that can be charming, hilarious, and thoroughly delightful.  Some of this blunt quality is admirable in adults when it involves clear thinking and no-nonsense conversation.  Yet carried to extremes, the adult who thinks and speaks like a small child can be wearisome—as such a person lacks the mature refinement of subtlety.
The presence or absence of subtlety may be evidenced not only in what we say, but in how we perceive words that are spoken.  For instance:  If I see you doing a thing one way, and then take it upon myself to say that you should to do that thing in a different way, I am—in essence—saying “You don’t know what you are doing.”  I’m telling you that I think you need my advice! 
Yet I might vigorously deny having said “You don’t know what you are doing” on the basis of not having used those exact words.  I might emphatically deny having dispensed unsolicited advice.  My denial indicates a cluelessness on my part, a lack of subtlety.  I didn’t think carefully enough to perceive the inference of my words. 
Conversely you, the mature and subtle party in this hypothetical scenario, are subtle and sensitive enough to perceive and interpret my comments as unsolicited advice.  You correctly “heard” me as saying, “You don’t know what you are doing”—even though I did not use those specific words. 
I might then insist that I did not mean such an inference.  But the projected meaning was implicit in my original words whether I was perceptive enough to realize it or not.
Too often we humans create confusion, simply by failing to realize the subtle implications of our words!  Chaos results when we speak without weighing our words, without considering what those words will mean to the other person when carried to their ultimate conclusion!  Careless words can cause wounds, and sadly enough they often do!
“A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even tempered.”  Proverbs 17:26 (NIV)
Margaret L. Been, ©2011 

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What has Israel displayed to the world?  Israel has irrevokably shown the world that Jehovah God is a God of peace, a God of love—the one and only Lord of all creation.  Israel has displayed to the world that life is valuable.  We are made in God’s image.  Human life, yes EVERY INDIVIDUAL PERSON, is infinitely priceless and precious!

Welcome home, Gilad Shalit!  Many people I know are praying for your recovery.  We love you.  We love your nation!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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This somewhat diluted-by-sunshine teeter totter adventure features our 4 year old great-granddaughter Brynn and me (the old one).  The reason for the photo involves another great-grandchild, 5 year old James.

Earlier in the summer when James was still 4 years old, I took him and his 2 year old sister, Lyla, to our neighborhood playground.  James saw the teeter totter and got very excited.  He ran and sat down on one end of it.  Little Lyla followed, and stood with her hand on the vacant seat—obviously wanting me to put her on it.  I joined the children, so that I could give Lyla “a leg up” as they say in horse racing.

Meanwhile, James thought I was going to get on the teeter totter myself.  His face registered shock, disbelief, and consternation—and his comment was sweet and precious, as well as hilarious.  James said, “Oh no!  You’re too old!”

Joe and I have been chuckling about James’s concern ever since.  So recently, when we went to the playground with Brynn we asked her mom to take a photo of the old grammy teeter tottering—and then to share the picture with James since he and Brynn are cousins.

Kids’ words have got to be among the funniest and/or most touching and wonderful things on earth!  I hope I’ll never be “too old” to enjoy them!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

Note:  There’s an addendum to this adventure.  Last week James came to visit again, and we went to the playground.  I decided to really impress him, by swinging on one of the swings.  Back and forth I went, pumping higher and higher—like the child in Robert Louis Stevenson’s A CHILD’S GARDEN OF VERSES.  My it was fun.  But later, I paid the piper with a spine that could scarcely move let alone straighten up.  I was gimped. 

Maybe James was right!  🙂

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Now we’ve had a light frost in our county so these warm, euphoric October days constitute the beginning of Indian summer—and what is more lovely?  Springtime and summer are as lovely, but what is so poignantly beautiful as Indian summer?  Mums in an array of analogous shades offer color dominance—while lemon thyme, lavender, mint, sage, garlic chives, sweet basil, and last year’s tomato plants fool us into thinking we still live in a green world.

Indian summer is a time to pause and luxuriate in the sun, but it’s also a time to say our last farewell to summer.  Today I gathered my “garden art”, to be stored in the garage until spring.  I have four garden areas.  This project took over an hour as so many funky treasures either tower over or hover beneath our perennials and bushes.  The items had to be hosed off and transported to the sanctuary of our garage.

Farewell to summer!  Farewell to those derelict chairs (1 cardinal red, 1 hippie era orange, 1 saffron) which sat in various gardens for months—holding bounty such as a blue granite pail, a broken English porcelain teapot, and a tarnished silverplated pitcher.  Farewell to the vintage croquet set.  Farewell to the clay warty toad with a baby toadie on its back—so ugly, it’s cute!  Farewell to other stone and ceramic critters:  the chipmunk, froggie, hedgehog, and rabbit. 

Farewell to the fairy house and the diminutive horses that fairies might ride when no one is looking.  Farewell to those wavy, stick-in the-ground thingies on (now delightfully rusted) metal poles:  ducks, road-runners, gnomes, sparkly plastic balls, weird insects, and whiligigs.  Farewell to the cobalt blue bottles which I insert on bare branches and poles into gardens every spring.  Farewell to the brown bottle, and the green bottle as well. 

Farewell to the fake flowers which filled spaces where real flowers forgot to bloom.  Farewell to the copper coffee pot, the stainless steel perc, and the enameled dippers and pitchers.  Some of these will take refuge in our home over the months ahead. 

Even as I bask in the euphoric Indian summer sun, winter whispers icy insinuations to the periphery of my mind.  Winter will come.  Winter always comes to Wisconsin.  Winter with its pristine beauty and recreational delights.  Winter, with its time of testing.  Winter, the proving ground for true grit. 

Farewell to summer and the funky garden accoutrements.  Spring will return, and another summer will follow.  God willing, I’ll be here in 2012—to put summer back together, garden art and all! 

Meanwhle as I surveyed my gardens, now devoid of manmade “art” yet still abounding in live growth, I saw an exquisite piece of real art:  a delicately patterned monarch resting on a flowering hydrangea. 

The garden stuff is fun, and I’ll probably always enjoy “planting” it.  But God’s art is best of all, and it’s with us in one form or another—no matter what season we are experiencing!  🙂

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