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Archive for the ‘Answered Prayers!’ Category

Hill House

Years ago, for a class at the University of Wisconsin, I read a poignant novel titled YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN, by Thomas Wolfe.  Employing a cliché, “I beg to differ” with that deceased American author.  Yes, you can go home again; I know because my husband and I have done exactly that.

Due to health issues, Joe and I had not made the road trip to our homes 280 miles North since Memorial Day weekend of 2010.  A friend has been taking care of the yards—mowing and snow blowing, cleaning up fallen branches, etc. so the area around the two houses has been well tended.  The remaining 14 acres are wild woods—to be left the way we have always loved them, in God’s hands through the venue of nature.

A daughter visited the homes several times, when vacationing North.  She reported that things were compromised there.  The downstairs at the lake home smelled musty and the sweet house pictured above—a factory home built for our guests when we lived up there full time—had gone to the mice, mothballs notwithstanding.

Two garages at the lake home were packed full of Joe’s tools, half finished carpentry projects, years of nuts and bolts, life jackets, random bicycles culled from rummages, junked furniture, shovels, rakes, an outboard motor, canoe paddles, paint cans, oil cans, batteries—just for starters.  The houses contained dishes, bedding, decorative items, pictures, and enough kitchen utensils in each house to accommodate the vacations we had thought we’d spend there when we moved to Southern Wisconsin in September of 2009.

The above-pictured house has provided a charming site for some of my mother’s favorite furniture pieces:  a cherry wood dining room table, a mahogany secretary with a glass cabinet, Mom’s cedar hope chest, and a highboy in some elegant unknown-to-me wood.  Both houses groaned with books leftover from the many boxes of volumes we moved with us 4 years ago.

What to do with all of this?  I think Joe and I simply stuffed all issues surrounding these homes due to larger and more crucial concerns—namely multiple surgeries and other medical procedures spanning many months.  Occasionally our beloved North, where we’d naively thought we’d live “forever”, surfaced in my mind.  Whenever this happened, I prayed:  “Lord, these are Your houses.  They are in Your hands.”

(Have you ever yielded something you dearly loved to the Lord, with no bitterness and no sorrowful misgivings?  Have you ever relaxed and said, “Lord, this belongs to You?” only to have God graciously hand that something back to you—with a minimum of stress and effort on your part, while taking care of every minute detail along the way?  Well, this is what has happened to us.)

Since 2009 we went right on paying the utilities and telephone bills, and annual taxes on our property North.  Would we ever return?  We really didn’t think so, as we arranged to put business matters in our son, Eric’s hands.  We were happy here in the South.  I think we didn’t want to grieve, so we were refusing to acknowledge the fact that these homes were still ours even though we couldn’t go up there.  Someone else could eventually sell them for us, and we’d pay a commission and just bank or invest the results—all in God’s time of course.

Then about a month ago a man called from Green Bay.  He had been on our road North, and he’d read “For Sale By Owner” on our mailbox up there—with our Southern Wisconsin phone number.  He drove in, walked around the yards, probably peeked in windows, and then called.  He sounded very interested in possibly buying both homes, and he wanted to meet us up there.

We scrambled, quite against our will.  After all, life was so easy here in the South and we were super contented.  We didn’t want to go up there (we thought!) and we certainly did not feel up to the gargantuan task of cleaning those houses and emptying the 2 garages.  But circumstances were kicking us in the head.  Something had to be done and we could not in good conscience dump the burden on our 6 beautiful children.

God was in charge!  We were given the name of a wonderfully efficient and energetic woman, Marilyn, whom we hired to clean the interiors of the houses and wash the windows.  She had completed the above-pictured house when we arrived on the scene nearly 2 weeks ago.  We decided to stay there, on the hill, since Marilyn would be doing the lake house next—approximately a 3 day job.  When we stepped into our house on the hill, originally installed as a guest house, Joe and I had the same sudden and drastic response.  We fell in love all over again irrevocably with this colorful, sparkling, easy-to-manage home high on a hill with maples and birches around the edge of the yard.  Instantly I prayed in my mind, “Oh Lord, if it be Your will, PLEASE don’t let that man from Green Bay want this house!!!”

For the next 3 days, prior to our appointment with the Green Bay fellow, Joe and I planned, sorted, discarded, etc.  Our grounds helper, Allen took loads of burnable trash to dispose of at his home where he has a permit for burning.  Some of the equipment also went home with Allen.  Marilyn and her husband were wonderful as well.  They carried many pick-up truckloads away with things they could use on their property at another lake nearby.  I sold some furniture to Marilyn, and gave her many household items we just didn’t need.  Our friends, Betty and Joe, took many more items—and so did friends, Dee and Jim.  And my Joe took 2 van loads, packed to the ceiling, to our town dump.  The houses are in beautiful condition now, and the 2 garages are miraculously (almost!) empty!

For 10 nights, we slept in the commodious bedroom on the hill—the sleep of contented, well fed and amply exercised children.  For 9 days we happily did projects, and spent quality time with the above mentioned friends.  We went to town (10 miles from home) several times.  In every store and restaurant, we were greeted as good old friends.  “Where have you been?”  “I’ve thought of you so often!” were familiar refrains.

However for several days prior to the man allegedly coming from Green Bay, I carried an ache in my heart.  We had advertised 2 houses.  What if he wanted both?  We were settling into the hill house, bringing in more “treasures” from the lake house, making the hill house ours for future vacations now that we realized we were healthy enough to make the trip and enjoy the North once again!

Then one night we picked up a message from our phone answering machine in the South.  The man from Green Bay reneged and would not be meeting us.  He would not be thinking of buying anything until maybe spring of 2014, and then he might see if a house was still available.  Joe and I were in bed at our hill house, when we got this news.  We shouted for joy, and I wept!  We were enjoying our vacation home, and God-willing we will enjoy more.

Even if this was to be our last vacation North, it would be a priceless gift.  But we anticipate more.  In fact we hope to go up for a couple of weeks in January when, although much colder than South (like minus 25 degrees F) the air is always fresher without that damp, penetrating (and I think, miserable!) Lake Michigan chill we have South.  The only problem with winters in the North is that (I think) they last just a bit too long.  When I was itching to dig in a garden, we were still blowing snow.

Judging from his melancholy novel, Thomas Wolfe had a disillusioned slant on life—sadly lacking in any vision beyond the material and temporal.  So the character in his literary work could not go home again.  Things were never the same at home, in that book, and all was lost.

Praise God that doesn’t have to be so!  Joe and I have “gone home again”—home where there are more Virginia whitetails than people, home abounding in howling timber wolves and ever-ravenous-until-hibernation-time black bears.  Things are the same.  No, I rescind that statement!  Things are even better!  We willingly yielded the North to the Lord, and God has graciously handed it back to us—for whatever amount of time He’s ordained in Eternity Past!  What a PRAISE!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2013

NOTE:  We plan to list the lake house with a realtor, by spring of 2014.  Again, it’s all in God’s hands!  What a GOOD LIFE!  (Our Lord must have a sense of humor to put up with us, if we sometimes lapse into thinking we are in charge!)

ANOTHER NOTE:  Sunshine, are you online?  I’ll see you on a 4th Monday sometime in 2014!

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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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For I have known them all already, known them all:

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T. S. Eliot

Like the famous Prufrock, I’m measuring out my life—only not in coffee spoons, but rather in those pink plastic containers every patient gets upon admittance to our hospital.  The “pinkies” hold toilet items:  toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, soap, lotion, etc.  The hospital disposes of them after each patient, but I always take ours home because they are infinitely useful for holding plants, collecting garden weeds, containing water and Murphy’s Oil Soap® for scrubbing floors, corraling puzzle pieces, etc.

Like Prufrock, I’m measuring out my life—not with T. S.Eliot’s existentialist despair*, but rather with the divine assurance that “all things work together for good, for those who are in Christ Jesus and are called according to His purpose.”  The pink containers which I’ve brought home from hospital stays (both Joe’s and mine) also serve as a scoreboard.  We have accumulated 16 pinkies since October, 2010.

Our latest pink container has settled into my storeroom.  Last Thursday, Joe had a heart attack while sitting in his reclaimer at home.  We were taken to Emergency in a shrieking ambulance, and Joe was admitted to the hospital.  A defibrillator/pacemaker was inserted to prevent future arrythmias.  His arteries are severely clogged, he has had 6 by-passes, and he’s “stented out”; his vessels cannot accept more angioplasties or stents.  Joe also has diabetes and high blood pressure.

I’m measuring life—while treasuring each day and letting the pinkies keep score.  J. Alfred Prufrock was a kind of walking Ecclesiastes, but without a knowledge of the Lord; Prufrock’s life was weary and meaningless.  How thankful I am, to know and believe God’s Word and realize that we are pilgrims on earth—destined for eternal glory with Him!  Because of our Lord, we never cease to hope.  Because of Him, every moment is pregnant with meaning!  Even our most abject sorrow has a purpose!

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12

*Poet T. S. Eliot’s life did not end in the despair expressed in his fictional character, J. Alfred Prufrock.  In 1927, Eliot became a Christian, and left wasteland of existentialism.  Eliot’s last years reflected his newly discovered faith.

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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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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It’s one of those Greek-owned restaurants with large platters of good food at a reasonable price.  We had not been back there since October 23, 2010 when Joe stepped in front of our empty van which he thought he’d left in “Park”—and the van moved forward pinning Joe to the ground, advancing over his left leg and shoulder, and changing our lives. 

When the subject of going back to the restaurant came up a few weeks ago, Joe shook his head.  Never again.  But yesterday Joe and I shared a desire to return to the SUNSET FAMILY RESTAURANT, for the breakfast we’d never had 5 months and 3 days ago. 

This time we parked in the handicap zone, as Joe has a temporary sticker.  He walks slowly, with a cane.  We crossed the area where he’d left the car to open the restaurant door for me—as in October I was recovering from spinal fusion surgery and I was weak as a baby rabbit.  I noted the exact spot where the ambulance driver had held me in his large, comforting arms. 

Inside, the owner’s wife—who tends the cash register—gasped and broke out in tears when she saw Joe.  She gave him a huge hug and said, “I never heard anything after that day and thought it must have been bad news.”  (Someone had intended to go back to the restaurant after the accident, and report Joe’s progress.  But with all the challenges of these past months, that never happened.)

After we were seated, the owner came to our table and expressed his relief and joy to see us again.  The waitress cried when she came to take our order.  “I couldn’t focus on my job that day,” she said.  “I just kept praying and praying.”

It wasn’t long before Joe and I were crying tears of gratitude and appreciation.  I was overwhelmed, just as I was that day last October, over the amazing kindness of people!  There are plenty of tender hearts out there.

The rest of the day was special for both of us.  We’d experienced the sweetness of closure!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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“But thanks be unto God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.”  2 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV)

Our little Christmas tree sparkles in our east window and reflects the dawn.   Glints of sunlight are precious on these bitter cold, Wisconsin December days.  In just a little over 2 weeks we’ll experience more glints every day, as the faithful sun returns to our northern land—reminding us of our ever faithful SON!

Beneath the Christmas tree is an assortment of gift bags, overflowing with tangible expressions of love.  As family members drop in for a visit, we will give them their gifts—thereby stretching  our Christmas festivities out over several weeks. 

This is a sensible and enjoyable way to celebrate a most unusual holiday season at the climax of a most unusual autumn which began with my spinal fusion surgery, followed by Joe’s accident and multiple procedures on his severe leg burns (which are healing nicely).

As autumn began with surgery, thus it will end.  Joe is scheduled for a skin graft on his 3rd degree burn next week, and on December 22nd I am having colon surgery.

Christmas Day in the hospital will not be a sad thing for me.  The beautiful new hospital where we go is only 8 minutes from our door, and we have family members all around.  I will have plenty of company.  And also, I’ll get a much needed rest.  Joe will “vacation” at our son Eric’s home during my hospital stay, and Eric will bring Joe to visit me.  With the presence of the Lord in one’s heart, every day is Christmas!

This morning I made a batch of soap, and scented it with sandalwood and rose fragrance oils.  Our home is redolent with sandalwood and rose.  I pray that, spiritually speaking, I can carry this fragrance with me over the next weeks—as I go to the hospital with Joe for his surgery, and as I check into the same hospital a week later for mine. 

May those of us who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ share the sweet fragrance of His love and saving grace wherever we go, in all circumstances—as long as we have time left on earth!

Merry Christmas!

Margaret L. Been ©2010

P. S.  Due to a rash of obnoxious spam, I am dis-allowing comments for awhile.  For friends and family members who read this blog, please email or call.  I love to hear from you!  MB

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Three weeks ago today, Joe and I drove to a nearby city anticipating a hearty breakfast at a favorite Greek owned restaurant.  After letting me off at the restaurant door Joe suffered a serious accident, which has impacted our lives in making each moment we have on earth more infinitely precious even than before! 

Life was always precious to us, but the treasure of our time together has reached a new, heretofore undreamed of level!

Joe suffered no broken bones or internal organ damage from the accident, and no other persons were involved.  The remaining challenges consist of a 3rd degree burn on his left leg (which will eventually require surgery) and a considerably damaged shoulder which may respond to physical therapy.  The burn is painless, because nerves were destroyed, and the shoulder grows less painful every day.  Also, Joe had a coronary artery incident last week and that has been treated as well. 

Joe and I have received grace upon grace, and blessing upon blessing in a short span of 3 weeks’ time.  We have been moved to tears by the kindness and generosity of our family members who have dropped everything to cart us to appointments and help with our daily household needs.  Since I am only a few weeks out of lumbar fusion surgery, help at home has been a lifeline.  Our daughter, Debbie, who lives a mile or so from us has been a constant cheerful worker!

We are amazed at the caring, personal quality of the doctors and nurses who are tending Joe during his crisis.  He is receiving the best of care, just as I have received for my surgery and recovery.

Meanwhile, the quiet, “darkling days” are upon us.   The demise of daylight savings has descended with a thud, reminding me of a curtain falling on a stage—signifying the end of a drama, in this case the drama of 2010. 

Summer born, I’m a creature of light.  The onset of darkness makes me cling to that small bit of remaining light—as well as to the fact that in just 6 weeks the winter sun will be moving back to the north and our beloved daylight will slowly, inexorably return.

Joe and I are resting.  Our little patio garden is resting as well.  In a low alcove, protected from all but the east wind, the herbs continue to flourish—several frosts notwithstanding.  The garden will provide fresh sage for a turkey dinner.  Garden mint for my tea will sustain me, bringing me closer to that moment when the sun resumes its northern climb.  

I gaze out at the patio, where I lounged most every afternoon during our long hot summer.  The poignant sweetness of summer lingers in my heart, with an undercurrent of sadness.  But the promise of spring in my garden brings a spirit of joy, and a prayer of gratitude. 

Joe’s accident reminds us that, in our personal lives, we never know what lies around the next bend.  Our envisioned breakfast out can turn into a day of sorrow at the nearest Emergency Room.  Dreams can become nightmares in just a few seconds.  Humanly speaking, this very moment is all we can be certain of on earth!

But eternal truth prevails as expressed in a favorite hymn based on Lamentations 3:22-23:  “Great is Thy faithfulness, Oh God my father . . . Summer and winter, springtime and harvest, sun moon and stars in their courses above . . . .”* 

Healing requires time and patience.  Winter requires time and patience, at least here in Wisconsin.  But our Lord is faithful!

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

*From Great is Thy Faithfulness, by T. O. Chisholm and William M. Runyan

(For a recently penned ode to the darkling days, please see the “Paintings and Poems” page on this site.)

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