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Little Margaret

NOTE:  The following entry is a replay of a recent piece which I posted on http://richesinglory.wordpress.com/ , my blog dedicated to “mining treasures in illness and pain”.  Riches in Glory receives far fewer views than any of my other four websites.  I’ve hoped that is because most of you simply do not have any illness and/or pain.  But sometimes I wonder if many of my readers know that Riches in Glory even exists!

Meanwhile, for some unknown reason, today my “sick blog” is experiencing a tremendous leap in the amount of visitors.  Thus I’ve decided to offer an encore of this recent entry.  Since writers can more correctly be called “re-writers” the encore has been improved and otherwise clarified for Northern Reflections.  Here’s a cyber repeat:

It’s been quite a few decades since the above photo was taken back in the days when little girls wore dresses in boats, and life jackets were only known to be used by sailors, marines, or brave souls crossing Lake Michigan in a rubber life raft—something my father actually did in the 1940s, to test wartime outboard motors produced by the company where he was employed.

Now I’ve recently embarked on Decade Number Nine!  And so far, it’s great!  Perhaps it’s great because we’ve occasionally heard that old age can be horrible.  Unfortunately, for some it is!  But for a person who loves the Lord Jesus Christ, life is good—yes even when it includes pain!

For some people acute health concerns are common; they come and go.  But for others, illness or pain will move in permanently—sharing one’s space like an uninvited caller who arrives with cumbersome baggage while demanding an inordinate amount of attention.  For the past eight years, I have been one of those “others”.

Although my chronic lumbar and sacral pain seemed highly disturbing at its onset, God has revealed amazing things through the presence of the uninvited guest.  Our gracious Lord has blessed me with insights which put each day in its proper perspective.  Hopefully you are not personally entertaining pain on a daily basis.  Yet you undoubtedly know at least one person whose life has been rearranged, perhaps a family member or friend for whom you pray—and desire to encourage.  Here are some of the gems regarding pain, that God has bestowed on me in recent years:

1)  Pain is relative.  The subjective “One to Ten” pain scale differs with individuals.  There will always be someone who hurts more, someone who is drastically ill, someone who needs my prayers far more than I need to pray for myself!  Or even think about myself for that matter.  From the internet I’ve printed out a heartbreaking letter from Pastor Saeed Abedini, imprisoned in Tehran, to his wife in the USA.  No, I cannot begin to dwell on my pain!

2)  Pain can be a friend.  Pain reminds me to hang back rather than jump full speed ahead into some new and unnecessary responsibility or job.  Pain is that friend who says, “Rest!  Take it easy today, so that you will feel better tomorrow—and more able to do whatever the calendar has in store for you for the rest of the week.”  Pain is the considerate friend who assures me I’m never to feel guilty for not being everywhere at once, or for not being all things to all people.  I’m never to feel guilty when I hear that invasive, sanctimonious question, “And what are you doing for the Lord?”  As Milton wrote on his blindness, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

3)  Pain affirms that I’m still intrinsically worthwhile in God’s eyes, even though I’m no longer the busy person I was for many years.  Recently we celebrated Thanksgiving.  Whereas for decades I fixed most of the meal and set our table for from 18 to 30 individuals, this year there were four of us—actually five, but the fifth is 5 months old and she sat on her mother’s lap while eating.  The meal, company, and conversation were special!  Dishes for four plus a few pans are not overwhelming with two people, our daughter and me, in charge of washing and cleaning up.  A home is never dismantled or upset in the least, for only two extra adults and a baby.

Thanksgiving day was PERFECT, except that I crashed immediately after our company walked out the door to go home.  All of the next day I was a zombie.  I groped about our home like Victor Hugo’s Quasimodo, due to pain.  Furthermore my GI system was down, like Healthcare.gov was for weeks, because I’d added 4000-something calories to my 94 pound frame which normally feels stuffed after consuming a typical 900 to 1000 calories per day.

“What is wrong with me?” I asked my husband. “It didn’t used to be like this.  I used to feel fine the day after Thanksgiving.”

Joe just smiled and commented, “We’re old!”

Then my friend, Pain, agreed and said: “Just go to bed and quit trying to be so useful!  Give yourself a break!”

How delightful it was to go to bed at 3:00 in the afternoon with my knitting, my art books, and Charles Krauthammer’s amazing Number 1 bestseller, THINGS THAT MATTER.  Thank you, Pain!

4)  Pain is nothing compared to the future glory in store for those of us who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.  “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

What more do we need to know?  At age 80, I’m contented—and oh so thankful! 🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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IF

A few weeks ago a kindred spirited friend, Shari—who loves many of the English poets whom I love—mentioned Milton’s sonnet On His Blindness.  I responded with a whopping “YES!”  I hadn’t read that sonnet for years, but I still recalled the poignant last line:  “They also serve who only stand and wait.”  I thanked Shari for the déjà vue, and that evening I located my beautiful antique volume of John Milton’s poems.  Here is the sonnet, followed by an explanation of why it has meant so much to me in recent weeks:

On His Blindness

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

John Milton
 
As many of you know, our daughter-in-law, Rosemary, is facing a stand off with breast cancer.  The first post-op reports were encouraging, but complications have been discovered and both chemo and radiation will be needed.  For certain, 15 years ago (and perhaps as recently as 6!) I would have been on a Denver-bound plane—probably more than one time, to help Rosemary, our son, Karl, and their family during the difficult days ahead.  Sometimes physical issues ramp up so gradually, I had to mentally pinch myself to realize that NO—I probably should no longer travel “to help out”.  
 
I cannot “Hoover” (as they say in England) my own carpets, let alone someone else’s.  Fatigue often renders me useless for purposes other than reading, blogging, knitting, writing letters, or painting after 6:00 p. m.  My 82 year old husband and I are so attached to each other that leaving him alone (even in the company of a sweet Pembroke Welsh corgi) might break my heart (or his, or both)! 
 
We have an amazingly energetic daughter, Debbie, who loves to travel, loves her brother and his family (just as I do), and is incredibly deft at helping most anyone, anywhere!  Debbie has already been to Denver once since Rosemary’s surgery 2 weeks ago, and may quite possibly return!  Thus the re-reading (again and again) of On His Blindness ministered powerfully to my soul which had been considerably troubled by the realization that I’d no longer be flying to Denver, to help out. 
 
“They also serve who only stand and wait.”  And while I stand (sit or lie down) and wait, I pray!  I’m quite certain that Milton did that as well! 
 
Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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