Archive for the ‘People need people!’ Category

Giving . . .

A. C. 3

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”   Isaiah 9:6-7 KJV

This is the greatest GIFT, the gift of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ Who suffered on an unspeakably cruel cross and died to pay our sin debt—then rose victorious to give us eternal life, HIS abundant life now and forever!  I received this priceless gift of God’s Grace forty-four years ago this coming January.  The GREATEST GIFT!

I was blessed to have parents and a closely bonded extended family and friends who loved life, valued life, and lived by Godly principles.  My grandparents were Bible believing Christians, and in later years I was greatly persuaded that my parents also received the greatest gift—The Lord Jesus Christ.

In my early childhood, family Christmases were somewhat shadowed by a tragedy that had occurred before I was born:  my sister, Shirley, had died at age two on Christmas Day.  Yet Christmas was always a time for celebration, hope, and joy.  We loved being together, we loved the music, we loved the Christmas Story.  And we loved giving and receiving gifts.

In light of the fact that we believers are recipients of the Greatest Gift in Heaven and on the earth, because we are walking around everyday with the very life of God in the Person of His Holy Spirit, the most natural thing to do is to give gifts to family members and friends.  Up until I believed in the Lord Jesus, I naturally loved giving gifts; it was the most wonderful and fun thing to do.  But once I became a believer, God’s Spirit enhanced and blessed our family traditions in such a way that I was, and still am,”over the top” with His joy over our family Christmases.

The Christmas worship services, the music (decades of singing in choirs), favorite recipes (which our children looked forward to each year and still serve to this day), the gatherings with laughter and games we played with the children (and still play, as new family games appear on a regular basis), and our tradition of GIVING became so endowed with implicit depth of meaning and God’s love, that it is inconceivable to imagine any other way to live.

As Joe and I raised our six children, extra people at the family dinner table (year round, not just at Christmas) was a given.  Friends were family.  If a child or young adult friend of one of our children hung out in our home, he or she automatically became one of the loved ones; they were included in the food, hilarious games, and the Christmas giving.

What is more fun than giving and receiving?  It’s not about spending a lot of cash.  Although exceptions have been made over the years for some special item or when there is a specific need, it cannot be about spending huge sums.  We have, to date, forty-nine immediate family members, not counting myself.  But even if we were just a handful of folks, it would still be all about loving each person and deciding what would be fun to give—rather than just blowing money.

I love to make gifts.  For years good gifts came out of my oven or off my pantry shelves where bountiful jams and jellies were preserved.  Now we have children, their spouses, and their children who share yummy kitchen creations.  Although I still bake some things, now I am very happy to paint a watercolor, knit a hat for a child (or an adult), design and knit funky, colorful scarves for all ages, and share my homemade soaps in those lovely gift boxes (just inside the door as you enter JoAnn Fabrics, and at other outlets as well).

Throughout the year, my antennae is up when I browse at art fairs, antique malls, and even rummage sales.  By Christmas each year, I’ve managed to acquire a stash for family members and friends who appreciate lovely vintage art glass or a hand crafted piece of stained glass, mosaic, pottery, whatever.

And then there is that fantastic treat, popular as of recent years, the Gift Certificate.  Although that may seem to be a cop-out to some, I think the certs are wonderful.  I tailor them to individuals.  Some of our young families do a lot of home repair and renovation.  Home Depot.  One family member loves Starbucks, but being a diligently frugal young lady she will pass up that luxury on her budget.  I get tremendous pleasure out of giving her a Starbucks cert for her birthday or sometimes Christmas—and picturing her savoring her powerful coffee and perhaps a sweet.  And who doesn’t love Barnes & Noble?  Books and music—something for every preference and taste.

In our mushrooming family, Joe and I have seventeen great-grandchildren ranging from age twelve down to nine months.  Babies typically get little cuddly animals from this Granny—stuffed, not live although I’d love to be given permission to pick out a real kitten or puppy.  That is yet to happen!  The other children?  Books, puzzles, crayons, etc.  It’s easy, almost a “DUH”, to find gifts for young people.  In fact, all ages are easy, when you long to give some little token of your love and thoughtful consideration.

I constantly find wonderful cooking and crafting books (mostly like new) at a nearby St. Vinnie’s.  Again, these gift books are tailored to the recipients and their hobbies and interests.  How rewarding is that!  I have delighted someone’s heart, for all of $2.19 or thereabout.

Underlying it all is the fact that we love because He first loved us.  We give because He has given to us—that Greatest Gift of salvation and eternal life.  Giving is sharing.  When we are filled to overflowing with God’s gift of love, we simply can’t not share with those whom we love.  When we are filled to overflowing with God’s Word and His gift of grace, we are delighted to graciously receive and enjoy the gifts which our loved ones have thoughtfully selected or made for us.

Christmas!  A stress-free time of joy.  That doesn’t mean that our circumstances are all perfect, at all times.  For many years our celebration centered at our home, and I fed a lot of people.  Granted, sometimes I felt a bit stun-gunned when the season was over, because I had spent physical and emotional energy far beyond any that I possessed.  But God has always given me what I needed, to serve Him by serving people.  And stun-gunned though I was, it was with a sense of purpose and great blessing that I “collapsed” into a quieter routine (as quiet as a routine can be when raising six children).  I knew that God was the center of my giving (as well as my “giving out”) and I rested in Him.  I still do.  It’s the only way to live, and it’s the only way I want to live!

We have had poignant holidays in the wake of bereavement over loss.  We have had tearful Christmases when circumstances were nearly devastating due to a loved one’s rebellious decisions.  Four Christmases ago Joe and I were a wall apart in hospital beds, beginning the arduous recovery from major surgeries both occurring in a space of a few hours a couple of days before Christmas.

But it was still, and always will be, Christmas.  The Grinch can’t steal it and neither can illness, family sorrows, death, economic circumstances, or any of the world’s weighty problems.  Christmas!  If a metaphorical Grinch were to come on Christmas Eve and confiscate our trees and our lights and our presents, it would still be Christmas and we would still be giving—because in all of our giving we are giving ourselves, and giving to our Lord the thanksgiving and glory which He deserves.  If we have nothing to give, we will still give somehow in some way.

Christmas is stress-free and joyous—a time to celebrate the loving and giving that we treasure around the year.  We love because He first loved us.  And we give, because He has given us THE GREATEST GIFT.  It would be unthinkable to do anything else but give when we have received so much!  Merry Christmas!

Margaret Been, December 23rd, 2014

Note:  On the bottom left side of the above photo, you will see a charming manger scene created out of popsicle sticks, bits of cloth, and miscellaneous odds and ends.  This was custom-made for Joe and me a few years ago by four great-grandchildren under the supervision of their Mom—our granddaughter, Alicia. 

If you look closely on the bottom left, you will see little bits of white and purple under or beside the people:  Joseph, Mary, Baby Jesus in His manger bed, and a shepherd.  The little bits are sheep, fashioned from pipe cleaners and dabs of white material, by Alicia’s youngest child—less than two years old at the time if I recall correctly.  Now that is a gift to treasure forever!

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Here's what it's all about sans GB

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for as such is the kingdom of Heaven.’ ” Matthew 19:14 (NKJV)

Today in church we had our annual Thanksgiving worship service where testimonies are shared.  This is always a time of praise and joy, but also a heart-rending time for our congregation—as stories are told of God’s grace at work in seemingly impossible circumstances.  Relationships are healed, in some cases illnesses are miraculously cured, and Jesus’s life is affirmed in many unique ways.

At today’s service, a young couple got up to share on the microphone.  In hand the couple brought a sweet (obviously girl) toddler, dressed in a pretty dark velvet dress with pink trimmings and a matching headband.  The couple gave testimony of how they had decided to raise the large family which they wanted through adoption, only to find out how incredibly costly it is to adopt just one child, let alone many!  (How tragic is that!!!)

So finally, God had steered the husband and wife to the path of foster care—which in some instances can lead to adoption.  Knowing that God was in charge and directing them the couple proceeded, and within a few months this precious little girl had been entrusted to their loving care.

While the husband and wife were sharing in church I experienced a déjà vu of long ago pain as my mind raced back to 1973 when I was forty years old, a fairly new Christian believer, and a contented wife and mother of five.  Our children were growing up fast.  Because I loved and enjoyed being a mother so much, I wanted to go on with the career which had brought me joy and fulfillment since I’d had my first baby at just under 21 years of age.  Thus, quite naturally, Joe and I began to think about doing foster care.

So we signed up with Milwaukee County Welfare Dept. to receive foster children.  In those days the wheels moved fairly quickly, and within a few weeks we were given three beautiful blonde sisters, ages three, six, and eight, to care for.  Like many foster children, these sisters came from an atmosphere of chaotic dysfunction.  What is more, unspeakable things had happened to them that should never happen to anyone—anywhere.

The girls brought their chaos into our home and we had some dicey weeks with them, weeks marked with severe temper tantrums and manifestations of fear.  But the love and the order in our home did wonders.  After a couple of months it seemed like the girls were our girls.  We sincerely hoped we’d be able to keep them forever, and perhaps we would have—BUT, Milwaukee County discovered that the girls’ father and step-mother had paying jobs which could support the children, so the county insisted on returning them to the father’s home.

Never mind that we told the Milwaukee County Welfare Dept. we did not want their money—Joe and I would gladly support and raise these children without any outside help.  No matter that the step-mother had been heavily addicted to controlled substances, and had an iffy background.  No matter that the step-mother had (in the home with the girls’ father) two unruly sons who started fires and thought of other ways to terrify the three sisters (as one of them used to confide in me:  “Them’s naughty boys!!”).

Never mind that Joe and I and our five children loved the girls, and had so woven them into the fabric of our home that we would miss them terribly.  Within a few days, suddenly the three sisters were gone.  A week later, the six year old called on the telephone and said to me, “Maggie I wish I could come to your house!”

We were a bit whacked from these events and thought we would need a long break from foster care, when a couple of weeks later the phone rang and a distraught sounding social worker asked, “Can you take two little boys?”  The following dialogue has its humorous side.  So here it is.

Me:  “How old?”

Social Worker:  “One and two.”

Me:  “When would they come?”

Social Worker:  “NOW!  They are sitting on my desk!”

In retrospect, I really suspected perhaps that social worker had told me a windy about them sitting on her desk.  Those little boys did come to live with us, and to our knowledge they never BOTH SAT ANYWHERE at the same time!  They were always in motion.  (This was long before children were incarcerated in car seats in transit.  You can imagine what a pleasure ride was like in those days!)

Again, we lost our hearts—but this time we were worn to smithereens, physically as well as emotionally, in the process.  Finally, we decided to remove the option of foster care from our family scene.  Meanwhile, many questions have surfaced, in the past as well as today.  What ever became of those children?  Where are they today?  What kind of people (mid-lifers no less!) are they?  Do they know the Lord Jesus?

It goes without saying that I shared our Lord’s love with the foster children every day, in every way I could.  Yes,  I hope to meet these now-adult people again, in Glory!  I believe that, somehow, I will recognize them.

Margaret L. Been, November 2014

Note:  The above-pictured players re-enacting a familiar scene are two of our daughters, Laura and Debra, and one of our sons, Eric, plus an obliging doll—circa 1963.  Excuse the gender confusion of the doll.  We were not really confused.  We simply couldn’t come up with a boy doll at the moment.  🙂


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Remember the 1946 film by the above name, starring Jimmy Stewart?  I’m not inferring that you were around in 1946, although I certainly was.  But the movie has been shown on TV nearly every Christmas season for years, so you may recognize it.

I’ve been musing on how wonderful life is for many of us, even today when the world is so messed up!  Recent reflections have been inspired by the community of friends I’ve discovered over the past few years, friends through blogging.  (I gave up on the FACEBOOK friends because I just didn’t have the time and energy to keep up!  Younger, peppier folks can go that route.  They stay up later at night!  🙂  )

It has dawned on me that my blogroll list is like a magnified trip to the mailbox every day that I go online.  This “trip” includes uplifting reading, and beautiful photos and/or art which someone has been delighted to share—just as I love sharing with you.  

As I enter another Wisconsin winter, sharing is especially precious and comforting.  Wisconsin winter is lovely, scenic, and “breath taking”.  (At minus 10 F, it actually takes your breath away!)  For months I miss digging in the garden and lounging on my patio.  As for lounging outdoors and sipping iced tea in January here, I think you’d regret trying to do it!  🙂 

Meanwhile home, family, our corgi, houseplants, and a plethora of hobbies make a huge difference, and winter is a beautiful time for me—despite the long cold months.  Friends mean so much:  friends who live nearby and drop in for tea; friends from far away, who come occasionally. 

And now, the kindred souls I’ve discovered online.  Through these friends I can savor the kind of life Joe and I enjoy, set in the context of a different locale.  That’s really a trip, without standing in line at airports!  For readers who enjoy visiting cyber friends, here is one more kindred spirit that I’ve just added to my blogroll:  Roberta at http://inotherwordsandpictures.wordpress.com/ 

Roberta lives in Southern California.  Ahh, that’s a world apart and afar—even with our Badgers’ upcoming journey to the ROSEBOWL!  But we have a granddaughter, Nancy, living in Long Beach, CA.  Nancy grew up in Washington State.  Now I can read “In Other Words and Pictures” and get a glimpse of Nancy’s new environment.  Roberta writes about things Joe and I love—scenic drives, pleasant restaurants, arts and crafts, antiques and wonderful junk, snail mail, and everything homey that makes for a wonderful life. 

If you visit Roberta, you’ll be very glad you did!  Her site is heartwarming—and much more “warming” all around, than trying to drink iced tea outdoors in January in Wisconsin!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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I frequently meet for lunch with friends from high school; now we are talking about friendships of 60 plus years!  Old friends are comforting and comfortable.  One never needs explain oneself to old friends.  They know who you are.  They know who your parents were.  They recall your youthful endeavors and dreams.  If you’ve kept in touch with old friends as I have, they’ve tracked with you over the years.  They still know who you are today!

New friends are delightful as well.  Often they come from different locales and family backgrounds. New friends share our interests while widening our perspective and understanding of other places and traditions.

My wise mother once said, “Throughout the years you will have a variety of friends.  Each one will be unique in a special way.”

How true!  I have a friend who shares my love for gardens, rummaging, and English cottage decor—and another friend with whom I could literally spend a long day into the evening, discussing books and films:  not only the plots or subjects of books and films but the characterization, character development, character changes, psychological overtones and undercurrents, humor and pathos, irony and subtle innuendoes, historical significance, literary allusions, and metaphorical content.

I have friends who share my love for God’s Word, friends who are fellow fans of dogs and cats, friends who identify with my passion for nature and the out-of-doors, kindred poet-friends who savor gathering for a morning of reading aloud, friends who entertain me with tales of their travels, knitting friends, spinning friends, music-loving friends, friends who relish meeting for a day of making art, friends who share my passion for Israel and Ireland, friends with whom I can laugh, and friends with whom I can cry. 

A friend is one who knows your heart, and encourages you in those creative pursuits which mean the most to you.  A friend is never sarcastic.  A friend desires what is best for you, and responds accordingly in actions and speech.   

Daily I pray that I can always be a friend!  🙂

©2011, Margaret L. Been

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He (the infamous “weather man”) was wrong again.  According to yesterday’s TV map, a rainy belt ran through our Southern Wisconsin counties, with snow piling up in the north. 

Joe and I have an entire day at home, with no clinic appointments.  This is a treat.  I’d planned to grab an umbrella, and walk in the rain.  Then I got up and looked out the window.  Well, I’ll just change the plan a bit and walk in the snow and ice yet one more time!  

Later today I’ll pull my little “rebellion and denial” act which consists of brewing super strong Earl Grey tea, cooling the tea, and pouring it over—you’ve got it—a tall glass full of ICE!  Iced tea is my very favorite beverage on the face of this earth.  Drinking iced tea on a cold, snowy day is a means for my rebel soul to say “Okay, life goes on—and I’m going to enjoy it!”

I’m recalling a Saturday back in 1999.  I ‘d arrived at Mitchell Field, supposedly to board a 7:00 a.m. flight to Denver for a week’s visit with our Colorado son and his family.  The weather was much like today, and conditions were odd.  Planes were taking off from Mitchell, but they were not able to land.  My plane to Denver was stalled just a few air minutes away, in Madison, Wisconsin—waiting for the “all clear” to land in Milwaukee.

It was a congenial bunch of people who sat in that concourse for—I kid you not—8 hours!  What else can you do, but make the most of a delay!  We read, snoozed, ate, and visited the day away.  It was like one of those novels where a bunch of diverse people are thrown together and become “friends” for a short, once-in-a-life period of time.  Stories are shared along with destinations and reasons for travel.  One is definitely “part of the human race” on a day like that!

But one woman could not relax and make the most the occasion.  She was dressed for the slopes, and had planned to meet friends in Breckenridge around noon.  The woman kept fidgeting, frowning, grousing, and running up to the check-in clerk—spilling out the reason why she had to get on a plane to Denver that very moment.  The clerk’s patience was legendary.  He kept apologizing (as if the weather conditions were his fault!) and trying to smooth the feathers of this woman who wouldn’t stop quacking.

Finally, I strolled up to the counter where the unhappy traveler was pestering the clerk and said to the woman, “You know, you are talking to the wrong person about the weather.”  I pointed heavenward and added, “You should talk to SOMEONE UP THERE!”

I don’t know whether or not my two cents worth made any difference in the unreasonable woman’s thinking, but I’m sure it helped the beleagered clerk know that he was not alone!  🙂

The weather is a microcosm of life!  Tomorrow Joe goes for his (we hope!) final surgery—a rotator cuff repair on the shoulder which literally stopped the front left wheel of our large, rolling HONDA® van last October.  Although the 4th degree burn on his leg has been the most life-threatening of Joe’s injuries, the 2 torn shoulder tendons have caused the most pain—excruciating pain! 

Facing surgery is like waiting at the airport for a plane to land or take off.  We select our surgeon, just as we select our airline—with research and that necessary degree of trust in human invention, as well as intervention!  But we relay all of our concerns, and our thoughts on the matter, to the ONE who is in control:  SOMEONE UP THERE!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

Note:  Due to ubiquitous unwanted input on my 5 blogs, I am dis-allowing comments at present.  I can’t go back over 2 and 1/2 years of entries and dis-allow comments on each one, but I can start with the most current. 

It amazes me that so many people have nothing better to do than: 1) advertize where advertizing is banned; 2) promulgate trash; 3) indulge in arrogant pontification out of pure cussedness and a contentious spirit! 

So it’s “spam aloft”!  However, I am not sending the edible variety aloft.  I give my readers credit for being cerebral enough to eat all things circumspectly, delicately, sparingly, politely, graciously, fastidiously, thoughtfully, intelligently, and in moderation. 

If you enjoy your occasional canned product (or deli sandwich which often is equally packed with sodium) you will receive no supercillious judgments from me or anyone else on this page!

Regarding Hormel’s world famous product recently reviewed on this site, there’s an Israeli rendition of SPAM®—beef rather than pork shoulder, which inspires me to mention another once-in-awhile comfort food treat:  HEBREW NATIONAL HOT DOGS, blessed by a rabbi.  Mmmmmmm, good!  🙂   

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The young ladies pictured above are not really old enough in years to be called “old friends”–yet in essence they are exactly that.  Chrissie (left) and our daughter, Martina, are currently 34 years old, and they’ve been friends since 9th grade.  At present, their lives are separated by an ocean.  But when they do get together, once a year or so, it’s like no time has elapsed.  Chrissie and Martina will always be “old friends”!

When I was a Girl Scout, back in the 1940s, we had a song we sang in a round:  “Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver, the other gold.”  As time passes, I realize more and more the truth of those words. 

This week I’m scheduled to entertain my “gold” friends for a luncheon at our home.  There are nine of us left in the group, which has met monthly since circa 1962.  Each of us takes a turn hostessing a luncheon once a year, and on the leftover months we meet at a restaurant.  But gathering in the homes is the best!

We call ourselves, “Talk and Eat”, or simply, “Club”.  Most of us went to Wauwatosa high school together–and some of the ladies have been friends since grade school days.  During the years when Joe and I lived away from this area, I missed my friends–but we kept in touch.  Now I’m back in the loop.

I’ve reflected a lot on the subject of friendship, and have come up with some “givens”–qualities and characteristics that build strong friendships and transform them from silver to gold as the years pass.  Here are a few of those givens:

1) Friends respect one another’s space.  Little considerations count, like asking “Do you have time to chat?” when calling on the phone.  We do not barge into each other’s kitchens, unless asked to help.

Good friends do not ask personal, blunt, or crass questions–or bring up a sensitive topic unless encouraged to do so.  Good friends do not consistently dump their personal problems on others.  Good friends do not try to dominate, monopolize, manipulate, or in any way use other people.  Considerate friends do not stoop to meaningless flattery, nor do they draw attention to other people’s appearance with airhead comments  such as “You are so tall!” or “You are so short!”

Occasionally, during one-on-one visits between close friends, heart to heart sharing is appropriate–and there are times for speaking the truth in love, even when the truth is unpleasant.  Honesty is vital to a friendship.  But saying whatever pops into one’s mind is rarely edifying.  The person who is consistently “frank” is probably just trying to attract attention and dominate others with her thoughtless, head-on comments.  We do well to avoid people like that!

Frequently, conversation must be serious–and a meaty exchange of ideas can be especially stimulating.  But good friends also like to talk about subjects that are simply creative and fun!

2) Friends reciprocate.  Reciprocity is essential in all areas of friendship.  Perhaps the most obvious area is that of conversation.  One simply cannot relax and enjoy the company of a person who is driven to dominate a conversation.  It is hard for many of us women, myself included, to deliberately stop talking and listen thoughtfully to others.  When another person is talking, we want to load our guns and get ready for our next barrage of words–rather then listen assiduously.  But NO!  Conversation is worthless (and totally exhausting!) when it is not reciprocal!

Reciprocity is also important in the area of entertaining.  In our ladies group, each member enjoys serving the luncheon–yet we all love to visit the other homes as well.  If I were to hostess tea parties and luncheons decade after decade or serve coffee mornings for friends who never bothered to invite me to their homes in return, I’d begin to think I was not greatly valued as a friend! 

Sometimes people don’t reciprocate because they think they don’t have what it takes to entertain.  This is totally understandable when poor health limits one’s activities.  No one expects anyone to go beyond his or her physical limits. 

But to worry about the size of one’s home, or the quality of the dishes or silver, is stupid.  It is the gathering that counts, the opening of one’s home and sharing in a spirit of hospitality.  We can have tea parties on cardboard boxes (I’ve done that plenty of times when in the process of moving!)–and dinner soirees in crowded rooms, on paper plates.  

When my time and energy is limited, or when I invite an especially large group of people, I sometimes feature a “Bring Your Own Lunch” party–where all I do is supply the hospitality of home and coffee.  This is loads of fun, with virtually no effort on my part.  So long as we welcome people and thrive on sharing whatever we can, our guests will enjoy their visits! 

The issue is to enjoy rather than to try and impress. Graciously serving a lovely meal–be it on china or paper plates–flows effortlessly from a heart of love.  Welcoming friends on a “Bring Your Own” basis is gracious too.  The spirit of hospitality prevails in an open home!

3) Friends value considerate manners.  Manners and social customs have been bad-mouthed in our casual age where sloppy clothing and crass behaviors are rampant.  What a tragedy

Manners, for instance table manners, are marks of care and consideration for others!  I’m not talking about ostentatiously curving one’s little finger in the air when sipping from a tea cup.  I’m referring to the obvious marks of loving consideration:  saying “Please pass . . . .” rather than reaching in front of someone and grabbing; not eating until the host or hostess is seated and has begun to eat; not talking with food in one’s mouth, and not chewing with one’s mouth open.

4) Friends share life experiences.  This takes time.  The women in my luncheon group have shared joys and sorrows for more than half of our lives.  We grieved over the loss of two members who died in 1997, just a few weeks apart from each other.  We’ve recently shared the sorrow of members who have lost family members.  Going back over the years, we encouraged each other when our teen age children rebelled and we rejoiced as these young ones got their lives back together.  We frequently laugh (long and hard!) over our memories and escapades.

5) Friends share values.  Members of our ladies’ group may differ in political persuasions, but there is always the underlying value of home and family.  We care about our families, and we care about each other as a family of friends. 

Although our homes vary drastically in architecture and decor, one constant prevails:  a sense of order.  Each member is creative in her own way.  This creativity is enabled and enhanced by an atmosphere of order in the members’ homes.  We are created in the image of God–a God of order.  When order is reflected in a home, visitors are refreshed and edified.

6) Friends don’t gossip!  “DUH”!

7) Friends share a cultural heritage.  This “given” is flexible.  It’s certainly desirable, enjoyable, and life-enriching to cultivate friends from many cultural backgrounds, and I’ve been blessed over the years to do that.  I love to learn about other cultures and make new friends from far-away places!

But those “gold” friends, those individuals who are thoroughly comfortable to be with–as comfy as a pair of old shoes–are frequently people who grew up under similar circumstances.  Just as family members have the family of origin in common, long-standing friends tend to share a cultural background.

My “Talk and Eat” group is a case in point.  We ladies had mothers who loved to serve a nice luncheon party for their friends, and for us when we were little girls.  Now we are “big girls”, happily carrying on the rich traditions of friendship!  We are gold!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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Our praises never cease!  Our daughter Judy is out of ICU, and settled into a spacious single room on the cardiac floor at Waukesha Memorial.  She began eating soft foods today, and sipping coffee.  Even hospital coffee is better than nothing, although Judy prefers STARBUCK’S.

Judy knows all of us by name (and there are a lot of us!), even her young grandnieces whom she doesn’t see all that often.  Today she whispered the lyrics of some of her favorite country tunes on her IPOD.  I brought Judy a book of devotions with lovely art illustrations, and she was pleased–as reading is one of the great joys of her life.  (The saying,”The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” applies here.)

God has done a huge thing for our family.  Judy loves to witness to His grace–and now she has a whole new arena for sharing His love.  The cardiologist in the ICU commented, “We just don’t see anything like this very often!”  And there we were–from 10 to 20 family members and friends at a time–gathered prayerfully, united in a common desire for God to bring our Judy back!

God is GOOD!  Yet it has occurred to me that even if the last few days had not turned out so beautifully, even if we had lost our loved one, God would still be GOOD!  We would be grieving, big time, but He would be welcoming His own and comforting those left behind.

Two of my very closest friends have lost an adult son and daughter in recent months.  I’ve prayed that my friends will know–and I long for them to know–that God is GOOD even in the midst of their loss.  His wisdom is perfect, and His plan is always right.  This is easy for me to say when I’m on a pinnacle of rejoicing.  But there will be valley days ahead.  Sorrow and loss are a part of the human scenario.  Even as our family has so many reasons to thank God, I pray I’ll always remember that God is GOOD!  No matter what, God is GOOD!

Meanwhile, I’m taking a few days’ hiatus from blogging.  Something has happened at our guest house up north–something actually laughable in view of the trauma of recent days.  Our furnace went out there, pipes burst, the house got down to 4 degrees, a wall buckled in, and water froze under the carpets.  How we discovered all of this is another story–too lengthy to bother relating.  Let’s just say our discovery was a testimony to the goodness and personal concern of “up north” people.

So now that Judy is stabilized, and since her husband and daughter are at her side nearly every moment, Joe and I are going up north for a few days to survey the work being done by a crew that specializes in thawing and drying frozen and flooded houses.  We’ll stay in our own dear little home up there, our home on the bog. 

I thought of taking my computer (it’s a laptop), but NO!  I’ll take Dosteovsky’s THE IDIOT, as I’m glued to that novel and welcome hours and hours to stay glued.  Like my beloved Charles Dickens, Dosteovsky is a genius at exposing the evils of the human heart, compounded by man in society.  I will also take watercolors, brushes, 140 pound watercolor paper, and my writing journal.

Joe and I plan to visit with our neighbors, dine at our favorite restaurants, watch for deer and the lynx we saw in our yard there last November, look for steaming brush piles indicating a bear’s winter den, check out the latest wonderful old stuff at the antique shop owned by my friend Terry, and RELAX!  And of course Baby Dylan will go with us, back to the wild 14 plus acres which he loved for the first 5 years of his life.

I know that God can change our plans, if they don’t fit into His program.  No matter what, God is GOOD!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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“People who need people are the luckiest people in the world . . . . ”  Thus sang Barbra Streisand a few decades ago.

I don’t agree with the luck bit, because I don’t believe in “luck”.  But God has made us for relationship–with Himself and with other people.  Perhaps I’d rephrase the song to read, “People who need people are the most blessed people in the world”–although quite obviously that rendition would not fit into the beat of the melody.  Oh well, I never said I was a song writer!  Just a writer.

Pictured above are my husband Joe and me (the “mature” ones in the middle) flanked by our 6 children–from left to right:  Karl, Debbie, Laura, Judy, Eric, and Martina.  The picture was taken last summer, when we were all together due to Joe’s cardiac emergency.

Now, as you undoubtedly know, we’ve just had another cardiac emergency.  At the moment Judy (pictured in the tie-dye shirt with a big heart) is in ICU–having been brought back from a cardiac arrest. 

Since early last Thursday, I’ve spent many hours in the ICU waiting room with family members and friends–and many more hours will be spent in the hospital as Judy recovers.  We take turns standing at Judy’s bedside for short stints, talking quietly to her and saying “I love you!”  Then between stints, we sit with each other in the waiting room.

During these days of sitting, I’ve reflected on how unique each person is–and how precious!  This unique-ness is highlighted during an emergency, as each of us handles stress in our own way. 

Some individuals grow incredibly quiet in emergencies.  These folks need all of their strength to meet a challenge, and they simply cannot deflect their energies into chatter.  Other people talk constantly during crisis times.  Conversation is a tension reliever for some, just as stillness is for others.

God created us to be whomever we are!  Each of us is different, each of us is valid.  We are, as Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote, “islands in a common sea.”  We need our “space” and our solitude.  But we also need each other.  We are “people who need people!”

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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