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Archive for December, 2012

Colour 1

Two doctors, our primary physician and an ENT specialist/surgeon, were concerned about the lump in my neck—concerned enough to set up a complete removal of the lump in the O.R. under a general anesthetic as soon as possible, which turned out to be on December 24th.  After that scheduling was in place, there was even more concern when these doctors learned that I also had another lump in a thigh—and that I’d had a malignant melanoma removed in 2006. before we moved down to Southern Wisconsin.  The ENT surgeon agreed to remove the thigh lump as well.

With all of this concern, I had total peace.  Had the lumps been on one of my loved ones, I would have sorrowed and prayed for healing (if that were God’s will) as well as for the presence of the Lord Jesus to be especially manifested in that person’s life.  But I never pray for “healing” for my own (several!) health issues, and I do not sorrow because of them.  My body as well as soul are committed to the Lord and whatever happens to me is completely in His hands.  I want His will in all events, and I know that His will is perfect.

Obviously, illness and “death” are according to God’s plan—as well as thriving health and a continuation of life on earth—when “death” means an entrance into the incredibly wonderful Eternity with the Lord.  In His Word God has said, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”  Psalm 116:15 (NKJV) 

Rather than praying for healing, I always pray that the Lord Jesus will be magnified and glorified in my life and my death—in health or illness.  I love life on this earth, and I certainly am not in a hurry to move on—yet that time has been established in Eternity Past.  I desire to rejoice when it comes.

Meanwhile, I went through the surgical preparations which included a thorough physical, a CT scan, and a stress test (already scheduled for me due to another health issue).  Joe and I checked in for my surgery, and I anticipated getting the whole thing over.  Another pre-surgery prayer which I’d consistently offered was this:  that I’d be able to attend the Christmas Eve service at our church.  But since my surgery was set for around noon on the 24th, I’d resigned myself to probably being a bit “out of it” for the 5:00 p. m. church service.

Just before the IV was to go into my wrist, the surgeon stopped to do a final inspection which would include marking the surgical site with his pen.  Perhaps you have already gleaned the miracle.  The surgeon probed, squeezed, and checked my neck for several minutes—and finally he concluded, “The lump is gone!” 

What a lot of laughter and rejoicing took place in the pre-op room.  Two nurses and an extra surgeon were on hand with Joe and me, and the mass concensus was that indeed this was a Christmas miracle!  Later I did attend the Christmas Eve service with Joe.  Friends were surprised to see me there, as they had been praying about the surgery.  Joe eagerly share the news about our miracle, and there was more rejoicing!

Miracle?  Yes, but isn’t all of life exactly that?  What is more of a miracle than the fact that God took on human flesh, and was born as a helpless baby in a humble stable?  What is more of a miracle than the blood which Christ shed for our sins, at Calvary—and the magnificent victory of the empty tomb.  We serve a Risen Lord, a Lord of miracles!

There is still a thigh lump to be removed.  Since that’s not in a dangerous place for surgery, the thigh lump will be removed in a normal clinic setting.  Yes, I have peace about that one as well.  No, I am not praying for it’s disappearance—or for healing in the event that it would be malignant.  Yes, my prayerful desire is that the Lord Jesus will be glorified in whatever lies ahead!  🙂 

Margaret L. Been, 2012

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Here's what it's all about sans GB

Many of us know by heart, the visitation of three spirits to Charles Dickens’s Scrooge—the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.  Each year I time-travel in reverse, as I recall our Christmases Past.

The above-pictured familiar drama was performed by three of our children—Laura, Debbie, and Eric—circa 1963.  Other memorable Christmases include: 1) the time when some cars failed to start due to sub zero outdoor readings, and the few cars still running shuttled back and forth between homes— bringing family members to our large gathering; 2) poignant Christmases underscored by the loss of loved ones; 3) an ethnic-flavored Christmas when a Swedish friend brought her children, each bearing a battery candle, to our door in celebration of St. Lucia’s Day—the oldest daughter enacting Lucia; 4) and a fair number of Christmas seasons when nearly everyone threw up.

There was a Christmas when we were especially pinched financially, and I made each child (we had our first five, then) a stuffed animal pillow from pre-printed fabric detailed and shaped like the animal it represented.  The animal I recall most vividly was Eric’s gorilla, because Eric was attached to his pillow for years.  The other gifts that year (an additional two for each child) were necessary clothing items—hats, mittens, or a sweater.  

It was a thoroughly blessed and joyous Christmas!  We had good food, a warm home, warm beds, and each other!  Our family’s happiness never centered around possessions or the lack of them, but rather on the fun of just being together. 

Recent Christmases Past featured:  1) the up-north years, when we came to Southern Wisconsin to visit our family members here and stayed in a neighborhood motel with a lovely warm pool; and 2) that “famous-in-our-family” Christmas of 2010, when both Joe and I had major surgery on December 23rd and spent our Christmas in hospital rooms next door to one another—an accommodation kindly arranged by one of our surgeons. 

Joe had a muscle graft over a 4th degree burn, and was not allowed out of bed, whereas my surgery required that I get up and exercise as much as I could.  So several times a day I shuffled next door with my “dancing partner”—the IV pole—to visit my love.  Our hospital Christmas was indeed special, because of opportunities to share with hospital personnel the WONDERFUL REASON for my peace and joy—serious health issues notwithstanding.

Now in 2012, Christmas Present once again presents a health challenge which in no way detracts from the wonder of the fact that our Lord took on human flesh and came to live among us.  Again I testify that a challenge actually augments the wonder of it all.  Because Christ died to save us, and conquered death to give us eternal life, we can experience irrevocable victory over whatever may be happening around us—or in our bodies.

All of this leads to the fact that Christmas is only part of the story.  Christmas culminates in Calvary and Resurrection.  And there’s more wonder yet to come—when our Lord returns to reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He will return, perhaps in the year of a not-too-distant Christmas Future.

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Clean Palette 2

Except for last minute baking, I’m ready for Christmas.  Tree lights are glowing.  Gift bags, stuffed with presents and labeled according to family groups, are neatly arranged around the tree.  Our out-of-town family members’ gifts (to Colorado, Washington, and California) have arrived at their destinations.  

With approximately 46 family members, Christmas preparations are no small accomplishment.  But, by God’s grace, I’ve managed to do it again.  Online shopping and the plethora of available gift cards have made Christmas traditions incredibly easy.  And it’s fun to shop throughout the year—finding gifts at art fairs, antique shops, and bookstores.  Some of the items have been produced (painted, grown and dried, knitted, etc.) right here in our home.  By December my storeroom is groaning with bounty, eagerly waiting to be wrapped or bagged.  A sense of order reigns.

While savoring the process of preparation, I focus on the Greatest Gift of all: our Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation He has provided through His shed blood, for all who will believe.  God Incarnate died to pay our sin debt, and rose to give us Eternal Life.  Through the Abundant Life of His Indwelling Holy Spirit, we have peace in the midst of turbulent times.

As the earth turns . . . !  Now that may sound like a silly soap opera title.  But the revolving of the earth around the sun, season after season and year after year, is far more exciting than any human meladrama ever imagined!  The revolving of the earth is a God drama, and it never grows old. 

Some individuals are acutely sensitive to the turning of the earth and seasons, and I’m grateful to be one of those people.  In our souls, we actually feel the turning which accompanies seasonal changes in the amount of daylight.  The turning surges in our blood and bones, and we respond with anticipation and joy!

Thus when we plummet headlong toward the darkest day (approximately December 21st this year), those of us who turn with the earth anticipate the very next thing—an increase in daylight which will begin shortly after the solstice.  By Christmas Day, we’ll have gained one minute of daylight.  According to my charts, New Year’s Day will bring an additional 4 minutes!  The sun rises later for awhile after the solstice, but daylight compensates by increasing substantially at sunset.

This after-solstice turning is illustrated by the above photo: a clean palette representing a new year.  Recently I got up in the night, determined to make a fresh start at my bridge table studio.  I really do believe in setting New Year’s goals, because (reasonable) goals inspire me to new adventures.  

My art goals for 2013 are:  1) slow down, deliberate more thoroughly, spend days (or possibly weeks) on a single painting and 2) work bigger.  The sheet of ARCHES 140 lb. cold press paper pictured above is larger than I have successfully negotiated so far.  I’ve tried working on a sheet this size, only to botch up part of it—resulting in cropping and matting smaller renderings from my initial attempt.  Perhaps the goal of slowing down will facilitate a shift in the size of my “masterpieces”.

I know I’ll start in on the sheet and clean palette before January 1st.  When I’ve learned to paint this size to my satisfaction, I hope to graduate to the American standard full sheet of watercolor paper which is 22″ x 30″.  For that undertaking, I’ll outgrow my bridge table and will need to clear off 2/3rds of our dining room table—leaving a commodious 1/3rd on which my husband can relax over his meals.*  (I’ll sandwich my miniscule servings into a space at the edge of my palette—while being careful not to crumb up the work in process.) 

Human goals notwithstanding, only God knows what 2013 will bring!  Someone recently posted the following comment on one of my blogs:  “I think Obama was re-elected so Americans will put their trust in God rather than politicians.” 

A wise statement!  Perhaps this will be the year when our nation returns to the premise on which we were founded.  Perhaps 2013 will be the year when our Lord returns for his own!  God is faithful and He will fulfill His plan as promised in Scripture, as the earth turns . . . !

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*Praise God, I have a husband who heartily applauds my makey lifestyle.  He has been apprised of my desire to paint big, and he’ll be interested in whatever is going on at his dinner table!  I could set up an art camp in the middle of our living room, and he wouldn’t mind a bit.  But he does have his very own room for lounging in a LAZY-BOY, resting on a daybed if desired, viewing whatever sports are in season, and working at his own paper-inundated computer desk. 

It comforts me to note that some geniuses (among them, reportedly, Albert Einstein!) have had messy desks like Joe’s.  My desks are picky neat, so I’m obviously not very brilliant!  But I never mess with Joe’s space, other than the occasional perfunctory swipe of the woolly duster on his TV screen and around the pictures (my art) on his walls.  

Joe’s room is his domain—although he did buy a comfy chair on wheels which can be rolled out of a corner so that I can join him to watch National Geographic lions, or whatever.  We are highly compatible!  🙂

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