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Archive for the ‘Christian Living’ Category

This is a CONDO?

When we moved from our up north home on fourteen acres nine years ago, into a four room condo in SE Wisconsin, family members and friends were raising eyebrows, rolling eyes, and just generally not quite believing it.  A CONDO?  Four rooms?  Joe and Margaret Been?

To back up a bit, I have a decades-old reputation for being an incurable (but very neat and well-organized) pack rat.  And my husband, Joe, via osmosis, has become a pack rat as well.  We would simply have to change and we probably would be miserable.  Ha ha.  That’s what they thought!

Well we didn’t change a bit.  We left a few things behind, but began adding new rummage and antique store stuff to our new digs within weeks after arrival in September, 2009.  We not only kept our space-consuming hobbies; we have added more.

Joe has a garage workbench area, and also works in his den.  He makes wooden models and flies drones.  My card table art work has morphed into sometimes 3 different work areas in our four rooms and many paintings which I’ve done since ’09, stashed everywhere.  A few years ago,  I began painting silk scarves.  Two spinning wheels occupy our living room and they are constantly whirring like there is no tomorrow.  My hand-made yarn dangles everywhere.

One friend was shocked to learn that I am still making soap—a couple hundred bars per year of drop-dead-beautiful complexion soap.  But all it takes is a stove top for melting fat, and a few standard kitchen supplies plus a small stash of molds, cosmetic grade color pigments, small bottles of fragrance oils, some sodium hydroxide, a few bottles of rendered fat which do not need refrigeration, a small scale, and some distilled water.

All of this equipment is stored in the kitchen.  My computer (Joe and I each have our own computers in our own private office areas) accesses the online sodium hydroxide calculator where I enter each oil by the number of ounces used, and the calculator computes the amount of sodium hydroxide and water needed for the recipe.  Not exactly pioneer stuff.  Sure glad for that!  Much of the soap stuff is stored in our dishwasher.  I dislike dishwashers!  With gorgeous antique dishes which are fun to wash, we never use a dishwasher for anything but storage—and it is GREAT for that!

Books continue to breed and multiply here, thanks to the hoards we moved with us, and dozens more thanks to Amazon, other online sources, ST. VINNIE’S and GOODWILL, and rummage sales.  Joe built a bunch of bookshelves, plus we have books stacked on the floor all over the place.  And plants!  And the piano.  Essential in our home!  And we will always have a play area with books and toys for our great-grandchildren, now numbering nineteen.

So you see, our family members were relieved, and friends (although shocked) are comforted to know that we are blissfully happy here in our four room condo.  No basement, but a garage crammed with odds and ends from our rummage and old furniture obsessions—and a delightful Granny’s Attic type storage closet which is under the upstairs neighbor’s stairs to his condo.  Heaven on earth, in Nashotah, Wisconsin!  🙂

Just scroll down for a tour.

Yes, it’s a CONDO!  Along with everything else that goes on here, we entertain A LOT!  Family and friends, right in the midst of art making, soap making, music making, reading, drone flying, etc.  Even sleeping!  A couple of weeks ago, I entertained nine ladies (including moi)—mostly friends from WAUWATOSA HIGH SCHOOL, class of 1951.  We chatted and ate our refreshments around the living room coffee table.  So delightful.

Often the dining room table is 1/2 full of art making, leaving only space for three diners.  So we simply dote on our dinner guests in the living room.  There are places for nine to comfortably sit with odds and ends of tables for plates and silverware.  Thankfully, both Joe and I came from interest-filled open homes where people came for coffee, tea, and/or dinner frequently, and loads of animated chatter.  Joe and I cherish this heritage, and believe it’s the only way to live!

I rarely bother to dust or clean other than a runaround with a vac and a swish of a woolly duster—and certainly never for company.  Just for fun when I feel like it.  Everything gets carefully spruced a few times per year whether it needs it or not.  Occasional cleaning projects are fun with Irish music blaring. 

Of course the exception is routine kitchen and bathroom maintenance which we do constantly just for the two of us because we are civilized and we like clean bathrooms and kitchens.


A home is a blessing to use, share (as much and as often as energy will permit), share and share again and again, and ENJOY!  And that we do—all four rooms plus two loos, one for Joe and one for me.

Margaret L. Been —  April 4th, 2018

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Jesus’ last words, recorded by the beloved Disciple, John, should fill us with wonder, awe, and gratitude beyond words to express!  “It is finished!”

Our Lord’s proclamation is the affirmation of our salvation.  His sacrificial death in which He took all the sin of the world, from beginning to end, liberates me—has exonerated me, and all who believe in Jesus’ finished work, from all the condemnation that we deserve.

Then, after dying to pay the unspeakably enormous price of our sin, Jesus rose—alive and triumphant—defeating the power of death.  Those who have trusted Christ for their salvation share in His Resurrection Life.  He has given us His Holy Spirit, and we are a new creation in Him!

Back in January of 1971, when the Lord Jesus catapulted me into His kingdom, I literally felt like I had been shot out of a cannon—like the lady in the Shrine Circus which our family enjoyed every year when it came to Milwaukee.  But the talented and skilled circus performer was simply shot out into the arena for the purpose of entertaining an audience.  I was catapulted into the Kingdom of God and Eternal life.

“Catapulted” is the perfect word for my salvation.  One moment I was a skeptic steeped in humanism, and suddenly in the next moment I was a child of God.  Today, nearly five decades later, I still savor that joy, and sense of sudden freedom, as I contemplate Jesus’ finished work on Calvary, and His Resurrection.

Many people do not recall the moment they were saved.  Our youngest son, Karl. was seven years old when I became a believer.  I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and our entire family was privy to the GOOD NEWS.  Shortly after that great day Karl said, “I don’t know when Jesus came into my heart. I guess He just walked in.”

Obviously Karl had a sweet, open soul and he didn’t need to be catapulted in the fashion of his stubborn, thirty-seven year old mother.  God works differently in every life—uniquely customizing the miracle of salvation to each one of us.

It is finished!  Those powerful words resonate with me.  How often do we fret and obsess over some unfinished task looming over our heads—be it a report or assignment in our workplace, or muddy windows or a closet heaped with disorganized odds and ends at home?  The completion of these jobs is sometimes interrupted by immediate concerns which alter our schedule and consume time and energy: the computer freezes, a toothache suddenly has to be fixed, our car dies of old age, or a child throws up.

Life is wonderful, life is GOOD.  But we have a fallen planet, someday to be restored when our LORD returns—and at the moment we are living in the “meantime”.  The meantime can be a piece of work!

Finally, at the age of 84, I am learning that my “work” will never be finished in my lifetime.  There are always more projects lined up on the runway than I have months or years for completion.  The daily tasks can be all-consuming, because I love to do everything well.  But my hyper-perfectionism died on the Cross with our LORD.  It was wood, hay, and stubble compared to simply relaxing in Jesus love, focusing on Him, doing my best, and choosing to glorify Christ in whatever I do—knowing that my life is a process and my work will never be completed while I am still on this fallen earth.

Yes, I stumble, and Yes I am lifted up by His redeeming love.  Musicians, the monk, John Michael Talbot, and his brother, Terry Talbot have a beautiful song (among all of their incredibly wonderful compositions) referring to that redemptive love in their album NO LONGER STRANGERS—a song called “We Will Rise”, with these words: “. . . in Him all our failures shall not be defeats, and when we are weak He renews our strength.

How comforting to realize, to understand with all our heart and mind, that the only finished work on earth is that which Jesus did for us on Calvary.  Jesus paid it all!  He is risen.  He is alive.  And it is finished!

Margaret L. Been — March 31st, 2018

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. . . and now we are eight.  Eight women who have gathered every second Wednesday at each other’s homes since the late 1950s and early 60s.  Originally bonded by graduation  from Wauwatosa High School (a near west side suburb of Milwaukee) in 1953, we’ve gathered other friends along the way.  Since the 50s and 60s were early mothering years, we began with evening meetings including lots of chat and a sumptuous dessert with our prettiest tableware.  Candles and/or centerpieces were givens and always will be—so long as we can still manage to strike a match (and blow it out!) or delve in our storage closets for interesting adjuncts to the occasion!

As our children grew to school age, we switched to mid day, with lots of chat and a luncheon on the above mentioned tables—varying of course with the seasons, availability of fresh flowers from gardens, and prevailing daylight or early dark.  Now we are getting into the mature years, and we sometimes opt to serve dessert only, or even meet at a restaurant.  But homes are still the best.  Last week the eight of us, plus one delightful guest making us “nine”, met in Joe’s and my condo on a drop-dead gorgeous March day with doors open and sunlight pouring in.

How can we do this, year after year?  Unlike every other gathering to which I’ve belonged, we are not glued together by a specific interest such as Bible Study, knitting, spinning, serious bridge, writing, and antiquing which have composed the grist of my other groupie activities over the years.

In our thirteen-now-eight group, we’re not all on the same page—worldview-wise or according to politics.  Not one bit!  Indeed, it’s tacitly understood that there are conversational places where we simply never go—for if we did, our shared pleasant origins might deteriorate into a food fight, especially if some of us were to begin quoting our favorite, highly-polarized Cable News sources.

Some share an interest in a craft, and others don’t craft at all.  Some of us decorate with antiques, and others with practically nothing in the room except for a couch, table, a few chairs, and a lamp or two.  We all share a love for family, but we rarely talk about our families.  (I probably am the most apt to talk family, because I have so many fun and funny little people to talk about.)

We rarely discuss a problem.  Or medical stuff—the most boring topic of all.  Our bodies are beginning to fall apart, but we try to eschew talking about bodies.  On perkier days, we talk of the natural world outside our doors:  the birds we’ve seen at our feeders; the recent cougar siting in Brookfield, WI—a suburb west of Wauwatosa; the deer and coyotes ubiquitous in our county.  That is real talk.  Some like to travel: always fun to hear about.  Some, like me, stay home and enjoy each day.  I can make jaunty conversation out of that—at least no one has fallen asleep listening to me so far.

Perhaps the closest to a common bond other than families would be pets and gardens.  No matter what side of the political aisle we are on, we agree that cats are hilarious and infinitely interesting.  Plus, most of us agree that dogs are people.  Although I have been cat-less for decades, and (sob-sob) currently dog-less (that cannot last much longer), I never tire of hearing talk about anyone’s cats and dogs.  Better than politics any day.

But even pets can’t explain the phenomena of women gathering every single month over a period of almost six decades!  So what’s up?  I go back to one common denominator:  a gracious mother in an open home.  I believe we were all blessed with such mothers and homes.  We learned the art of disagreeing without throwing food; and we avoid areas of pointless discourse where no one’s mind will budge short of much prayer and a God-given epiphany.  We agree to disagree, and get on with the “math” in terms of our considerable common denominators.

We learned to chew WITH OUR MOUTHS CLOSED, not to lick our knives, and other mannerly amenities of dining.  We learned TO NEVER TALK WITH FOOD IN OUR MOUTHS.  The alternatives are unthinkable.  These mouth bits alone make for six decades of companionable talking and eating.  🙂 

And believe it or not, the mouth manners have been instrumental in naming our group:  We are TALK AND EAT!

Margaret L. Been — March 18, 2018

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Sun on Patio.JPGHere is our patio garden in the morning March sun.  I love the pictures on my phone because I can enlarge areas with my fingers and see the beautiful detail of dried stalks and pods.  You can imagine those details.

Sun!  Our patio is in an east facing courtyard.  Because of the enclosure, our view of morning sun disappears in mid October and doesn’t return until RIGHT NOW!  The sun is back with a sudden explosion!  Actually in January and February we see an oblique ray at the ceiling above a small bit of window over our front door.  That’s encouraging.  But I’d have to sit at the top of a high ladder to bask in that bit of sunlight.

The southern exposure in our bedroom and Joe’s den is magnificent year round, especially in the winter.  Often I stretch out on our bed, with a book, on sunny winter afternoons.  I close my eyes and imagine that my body is slowly browning, like a roast in the oven.  That delight will come in a few weeks; meanwhile I go “South” five miles to the nearest Walmart where I buy coppery goop—to keep my face and body colorful in lieu of the real thing.  That helps!

Even on the gloomiest days, the sun is up there somewhere.  I refuse to insult your intelligence by elaborating on an obvious metaphor here.  But I often reflect that it’s easy to see why pagan cultures worshipped the sun.  That’s a no-brainer.  Anyway, I’m thankful that I worship the SON! 🙂

Margaret L. Been — March 7th, 2018

(And this is the way our patio garden will look in just a few weeks—give or take a little:)

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It has been a long time since I shared my abundant life on this blog!  I dislike excuses, but sometimes we have reasons.  I guess my main one would be that, along with family and friends, I am besotted with hands-on pastimes many of which are pictured here.

I have loved making things for most of my life but making has become a passion.  I LOVE creating:  textured yarns on my spinning wheels, music on my piano, garments on knitting needles, amateur but infinitely satisfying water media art*, gardens indoors and out, soaps for face and body (we have not bought soap for our household since 1976!); and I may have omitted a passion (happy obsession?) or two—not to mention the ubiquitous books which line our shelves and floors.

However today I woke up inspired to share a personal story—actually the very reason I am enjoying an abundant life, so overflowing with excitement that I sometimes fight going to sleep at night and get up with anticipation most days because there is so much to make!  If you have read my story on this or one of my other blogs, I do hope you will read it again!

Back in 1971, I was a wife and mother of five children** ranging from ages 7 to 15.  Life was tremendously good in terms of family and circumstances—but not good inside my soul.  The world was spinning and changing too fast and some of my life props and idealisms had been pulled out from under me, like the magician’s trick of pulling a tablecloth off a table while the dishes remain intact.

Visibly, I was intact. The dishes were on the table.  But inwardly I was a mess!  For months I’d had a sense of aching emptiness, a void which all my daily joys could not fill.  The void consisted of a lack of meaning.  I desperately longed for inner peace.  What was wrong with me, that I had such desperation when my outward life seemed so good?

I’ve always looked for answers in books.  Our local library was within walking distance of home, and I walked there a lot—trying to make sense out of life and find peace for my hungry soul via the world’s philosophies and religions, especially the mystic Eastern religions which appeared to offer the thing I needed most:  peace.

And although I rarely let myself face reality, deep inside I knew I was desperately flawed inside my head and heart.  I was the problem.  I was the reason I lacked peace!

I avoided the old-fashioned word for my condition, but in rare moments of truth I acknowledged that word:  SIN.  I was a sinner.  After devouring many books I found the Eastern religions to be flimsy, lacking in a down-to-earth reality which could change me.

What was the answer?  Was there an answer?  On the third Saturday in January, 1971, I said to my husband, very emphatically, “Something is missing from my life!”  Once again, I trundled off to the library to look for answers.  Having exhausted many overly-wordy, allegedly “meaty” books in the spiritual and self-help sections of the library—I “just happened” to find a very slim little book, simply titled PEACE WITH GOD.

Maybe I thought, “Well why not?  I’ve read most everything else on these shelves.”  Or maybe I wasn’t even thinking.  But I checked out the tiny book, PEACE WITH GOD.  That evening, after the household had settled into a Saturday night routine, I read the book thoroughly, absorbing its contents.

In very simple, unpretentious language, and with Biblical references, PEACE WITH GOD presented the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  All of mankind is in bondage to sin.  God came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, to die on a cross at Calvary—for our sins, for my sin.  Jesus paid the penalty, and rose to defeat the power of sin and death.  He lives.  He is Eternal God, an all loving, all just, all righteous, all merciful God.  When we believe in Jesus and His finished work on our behalf, He forgives our sin.  We are washed clean with His blood, and He gives us His life—with His victory over the powers of darkness, His peace regardless of circumstances as we look to Him and abide in Him, growing in Him through His Word, The Bible.

The book explained how we could do nothing, absolutely nothing.  Yet when we believe in Jesus, we have the free gift of Eternal Life with Christ Who is God—and we can have His spiritual victory over sin, His abundant LIFE on earth, His new life in exchange for our old sinful life which died with Jesus on that cross!  I distinctly recall a sense of peace from reading the book, but it was a kind of sad and wistful peace.  I recall saying to myself, “Oh, if only that were true!”

The next day, Sunday, I surprised myself by suddenly arranging to go to a Bible Church in the neighborhood  I called a friend who attended that church, and she and her husband agreed to pick me up.  We entered a bit late, and the congregation was singing a Gospel hymn; I had never in my life heard such singing.  I recall thinking, “It’s as of they believe what they’re singing about.”

During the sermon that morning, God very clearly and simply picked me up and lifted me into His Kingdom—the Kingdom of Forgiveness and Love.  In retrospect I see that God used that Sunday worship service as a catalyst for my salvation.  Suddenly I knew that Jesus was real, and I needed His forgiveness, His Life—and that understanding landed me into Christ.

But I was totally ready to be born into God’s Kingdom that Sunday morning.  I’d been prepared the night before, when I read a slim little book called PEACE WITH GOD, by Billy Graham.


As I left the church on that bitter cold January day in Wisconsin, the sun on the snowdrifts seemed nearly blinding.  At that point I knew nothing of Scripture, except that I was a new creation in Christ.  I was forgiven, and I was raised up with Him,  That night I picked up a childhood Bible which I had never read;  I’d tried a couple of times but it simply had not made sense to me.  But now I found myself in John 15, and it made all the good plain sense in the world.  “I am the vine, ye are the branches; He that abideth in me, and I in him, bringeth forth much fruit, for without me ye can do nothing.”  And “This is my commandment, That ye love one another as I have loved you.”  And “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you . . . .”

(As a lover of the Old Bard, William Shakespeare. the King James Bible replete with “eth” and “ye” seemed natural to me, and still does!)

Meanwhile, back in 1971 my peace and joy were palpable—and I was so excited that I could not keep my mouth shut.  As the days progressed I told nearly everyone I knew about the Savior—even our vet as he was negotiating with our sick pet, either a cat or a dog; we had many of both.

Now, with many years of Scripture in my soul, I can witness that God has never failed me in anyway, and although I have sometimes failed to pay attention, or to obey my Lord.  Jesus Christ sustains me.  New LIFE.  Abundant LIFE!  Articulately and succinctly explained to me long ago, in a tiny gem of a book, PEACE WITH GOD, by the late Billy Graham.bedroom gardenchair

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The Lord Jesus is the reason for my abundant, hands-on life.  And my blogging life, as well, when I blog. 🙂

*I have updated my art blog on occasion.  Just GOOGLE “Margaret Been’s MESSY PALETTE.”  Art is a language universal, and hits come from everywhere—including Afghanistan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia as well as all over Europe, Oriental countries, South America, and our neighbors to the North.

**We had one more child, in 1976—adding up to 4 girls and 2 boys.  They are Joe’s and my best friends.

Margaret L. Been — March 6th, 2018

 

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All of the arts in some way reflect human culture, but perhaps the mirror of music is outstanding.  Most every person on earth is aware of some kind of music, either as a participator, an appreciator, or simply an unthinking “bystander” who takes the current state of the musical art for granted.

Centuries of music are layered into the human experience, and the layers I love are often those which represent memories—times of life I delight in recalling and preserving over the decades.  Such is the case of the Gospel hymns which my Grandfather Longenecker played nearly every day on his violin.

And Chopin!  I grew up in a gracious home where Chopin’s Nocturnes and Waltzes resounded from room to room, thanks to my beautiful mother who was a classical pianist.  Today I play some of these.  Although I lack Mom’s highly trained skill, my passion and determination to play Chopin’s music is boundless and he is the composer whom I love the most.

Recently I met a new-to-me composer, Erik Satie—a contemporary of another of my favorites, Debussy.  I don’t know why I’d never met Satie before—except that my parents disliked discord of any sort.  I had to discover and fall in love with composers such as Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Mahler on my own.  Satie has some uniquely discordant moments, so Mom might have considered him to be a bit off.

But Mom would have loved Erik Satie’s waltzes.  These poignantly exquisite melodies speak volumes to me of the era in which I grew up, a world which some individuals today may never even know existed—that tea-garden world of formal dances and gentility.  That time in history when boys and men still rose attentively when girls or women entered a room—a time of family dinners with cloth napkins and gracious apparel and behavior, formally set dinner tables where girls and women were carefully seated at the dinner table by boys and men.

In my home of origin, the grace and manners prevailed not only at the dinner table but throughout the days and years.  People respected other people enough to dress and look their best, with more slipshod attire appropriate only for fishing, gardening, and heavy or messy work projects.  People respected other people enough to really listen to them, rather than sit on the edge of their chairs waiting for a chance to barge back in and seize control of the conversation.

Along with Chopin, ongoing considerate conversation and a lot of laughter were the sounds of my childhood.  I was rather shocked when, as an young adult, I came to realize that some humans frequently yelled at occasions other than sporting events—and that I, myself, was unfortunately very capable of a yell.

In fact, I’d heard in-home yelling only one time in all my growing-up years:  when my UW-Madison student older sister, Ardis, brought home a Communist boyfriend named Benny.  Benny told my father that there would be a revolution in the USA, and that he—Benny—would have to assassinate his industrialist father if said father opposed the revolution.

My father YELLED!  (As a 9 year-old who regularly fed on mystery stories and spy movies, I found the yelling to be quite exciting!)

Human nature has not changed over the centuries; we are born flawed and in need of Christ’s redemption.  But outward human behavior—certainly in the USA—has changed in my lifetime of only 83 years!  And I truly believe that music heard and absorbed again and again does make inroads—whether benign or malignant—into the human psyche.  How grateful I am, for Gospel hymns, Chopin, and Eric Satie!  And the power of music, to mirror our memories and human values.

Margaret L. Been  —  June 20th, 2017

Note:  Sixty-four years ago today, I married the most precious husband on earth; and my love for Joe Been will never stop growing.  🙂

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I have read more than once of how people in Europe, generally speaking, have a greater handle on relaxing and savoring the ambience of the moment compared to those of us in the USA.  The utter devastation of the big wars, something most Americans cannot even begin to comprehend, resulted in some cases in a determination to celebrate the moment whenever there was a moment of peace.

Most conservatives, of which I am one, decry the mentality that would sooner accept a government handout than look for a job.  But how often do we realize that there are also some Americans who drive themselves relentlessly, even ruthlessly, in a self-imposed and unnecessarily severe work ethic which precludes taking a time out for rest, relaxation, recreation, and soulful reflection.

It is one thing to struggle when necessary for SURVIVAL.  But quite another to drive and push in order to procure the myriads of material things that many of us have grown to believe we need and must have—items far beyond the basics of food, decent shelter, and adequate clothing.

To clarify, please understand that I really enjoy material things—and I have an abundance of them, although many are of the vintage shop variety purchased for a little more than a song:  things the trendy crowd would sneer at superciliously.  But I am not, and never have been, willing to sacrifice a lifestyle of savoring the moment in order to obtain myriads of “things”—and certainly not “high status”, flashy, grandiose things which mean absolutely nothing to me in contrast to a better way:  the timeworn, gracious, contemplative, and appreciative quality of life.

We Christians should understand and appreciate God’s mandate to “Be still, and know that I am God.”  Quite apparently, it runs against the grain of human nature to “be still”, and when it comes to noise I know I can contribute volumes.  But God calls us to a lifetime of poised stillness—an inner attitude of restful quiet while we work or socialize, and as we defend God’s truth in our words and actions.

Too frequently we leave the serenity factor to the New Agers.  They are great at focusing on tranquility and peace; but theirs is a false, demonic “peace”—a counterfeit of the true peace that only the One True God can give through His Infallible Word—and through quietly savoring each moment He gives us.

Our nation is in the midst of a vicious political/cultural season, with evils of immorality and the horrendous demon of anti-Semitism on the rise.  Frequently we must speak and act to project the truths on which we stand.  But to speak and act with an attitude of genuine inner serenity—that is the challenge, one of which I too often fall short.

There are times when we must (and will!) be visibly, viscerally angry.  For instance, I am livid over the Obama-via-Samantha Powers dissing of Israel at the UN on 12/23/16—a day of infamy—and I express this anger with every opportunity.  Yet I must cling to the understanding that God is in control; He must be the very center of my being as I speak, act, and even as I express my abject anger.

In view of national and global chaos, I pray I will never forget the better way—to be still and know that God is God.  For my husband and me, the “better way” translates to treasuring the simple joys:  time spent with family and friends, birds at the feeders, the drip-drip of melting snow from our rain gutters during a January thaw, these ever-stretching daylight minutes since the darkness of winter solstice, and ever-present scenes like the one above—a fantasia of ice and snow photographed from our patio.

Meanwhile, I’m wishing you a New Year blessed with tranquil islands of solitude and serenity, for savoring the better way.

Margaret L. Been, 1/22/17

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