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Archive for the ‘The Joy of Blogging!’ Category

Wisconsin natives have no illusions about the weather outside, and we should certainly not be surprised by inner weather changes as well!  The above digitally altered photo of our river in our years ago up north home shows the next thoroughly predictable November weather development–due to land tomorrow, just outside our patio door in Southern Wisconsin.

My inner weather change is due to a complication following last summer’s hip replacement:  a femur in that leg which was silly enough to tear itself away from the prothesis, creating all sorts of unpleasantness.  The subsequent second surgery wasn’t all that much fun, but hey–with 4 weeks left of a 6 weeks no walking sentence (expect for hopping on the good foot, via a walker) I am having FUN.

In our living room we have a roomy sofa, and a compact one.  For this one leg duration, Joe and I are sleeping on the living room sofas–large and small.  Joe has always loved sofa sleeping and often has retreated to it when his restless legs tire of thrashing on our bed.

For me, while recuperating, the small sofa presents a special world.  Next to the sofa are 2 small tables and space beneath, all of which contain my current life:  Bible and notebook, books in progress, art books, mixed media art supplies and papers, letter writing needs, knitting projects, a space for the ubiquitous coffee and diet ginger ale, cosmetics and primping paraphernalia, a mirror–of course I am no longer (never was!) fairest of them all, but only the wicked witch would care about that and I don’t want to be anything like her.

Also sofa-side, my I-phone (source of frequent enjoyment including Amazon Priming) and my I-pad for news, French lessons, and–along with a lot more–the PBS Passport App with its world of science, history, amazing documentaries, and fantastic fiction (where I am currently engrossed in a review of the convoluted plots and subplots at DOWNTON ABBEY).

If that were not enough, I have on my I-pad 2 wonderful British art magazines with monthly additions and the capacity to read several years of back issues.  The artist in me is continually fed by these publications and my art books.

Along with these percs, both I-pad and phone connect me to the greatest music of Western Civilization, streamed through 2 fine speakers in our living room.  At the moment, Van Cliburn’s recordings of Rachmaninoff and Grieg top the list of my very most beloved.  There is something about PIANO, and in my estimation Van Cliburn’s was (and remains) the most passionate and earth shaking of all!

And, as of today, my laptop.  Oddly, I have never thought of this appliance as a portable friend.  But it has dawned on me (DUH!) that the word “laptop” means something.  Now I am putting it to use.  It has taken its place as a part of my sofa home rehab center.

If there is anything of depth to share with you in all these mundane details it is this:  I refuse to feel sorry for myself.  It would be sin to do so,  I am delighted with the people in my life (a family of 53 immediate members counting generations–no cousins, etc.) and the fact that I am as comfortable as possible in our lovely warm home, with plenty of excitement at hand.

And now a typical Wisconsin November weather promise.  Snow tomorrow.  In general, we are a hardy lot here–descended from brave pioneers.  Life is all about different kinds of weather–indoors and out.

Margaret L. Been — November 8th, 2018

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May Day.JPG

Who hasn’t experienced the pain of saying “Good-Bye” to someone dear—either a separation due to a move, common in our global age, or worst of all the last good-bye we will ever say on earth?

Every loss of a family member has been wrenching for me.  Much of the wrenching occurs inside my soul, invisible to all but the most sensitive people in my life.  Perhaps that is the DNA which I thought would be Scottish, but turned out to be Scandinavian.  My mother kept her grief close to her heart as well, and she was of Scottish-Irish descent.  And we all know how the Vikings invaded those countries in the 9th and 10th centuries.  Anyhow, as “talky” as I can be on social occasions I’m at a loss when trying to express profound emotion verbally.  Spoken words just can’t cut it!

The children pictured above have been close and precious to Joe and me since they were born.  Their Dad, Jason, is a grandson who grew up giving us countless beautiful memories—many of them whimsical and hilarious, and some of them poignant.  Jason, his wife Sandy (whom I count as a friend), and the children (James, Lyla, and Deacon) are moving, from their home nearby in Southern Wisconsin, to Michigan.

Most everyone knows that Wisconsin and Michigan are separated by a “pond”—one of the Great Lakes, namely Lake Michigan.  We will not be a continent or even the entire USA apart.  There will be visits.  But we are a family where, metaphorically speaking, members are attached at the hip with Gorilla Glue.  Life will be different for all of us.

Far more profound is the grief of permanent loss.  I have a family history of longevity, so my grandparents and parents were aged when they died.  (My father lived to 102)  But one family member, George William Longenecker died “young”, at age 69.

For the public life of this man, you can access the following link—one of many pertaining to his life’s work at the University of Wisconsin, Madison:  https://wpt.org/Wisconsin-Gardener/Segments/longenecker-gardens.  Professor Longenecker was a landscape architect and naturalist beginning in the period when he served at UW-Madison with Aldo Leopold.

But to me, this very special man was simply “Uncle Bill”.  His death due to a rare illness, possibly caused by pesticides or other chemicals related to his work with plants and plantings, hit me where I live—as I love most anything that lives, grows from the ground, prowls our wild forests, or flies in our skies.  Uncle Bill was a kindred soul, as were most (probably all!) of my family of origin.  It was just that Uncle Bill left us too soon!

At the time of that loss, I did something out of the ordinary.  I found some poster paints that we had on hand for family craft projects, and spent hours deep into the night painting (or rather trying to paint) birds.

I lost myself and part of my anguish into those birds—realizing that of all Uncle Bill’s areas of expertise, birds were high on the list.  He was known for creating gardens attractive to varieties of birds, an example being acres in the Madison Arboretum bearing his name:  “Longenecker Gardens”.

Painting birds, or anything for that matter, was an unusual thing for me to do because I simply did not paint very often in 1967.  Art was something I absolutely loved viewing, reading the history of, and dreaming about.  But never, never would I seriously paint, I believed.  No talent!

Meanwhile, the fact of losing myself and my grief in color, on paper, planted a seed inspired by Uncle Bill.  The joy of color spilling out, however amateurishly, resonated and kept hounding me until the seed finally sprouted in 2006 and I said, “Who cares about talent?  I’m just going to have fun.”  And I’ve been painting ever since.*

Where am I going, with this ramble?  Thinking of three children who are moving to Michigan, three children who have enjoyed visiting us in our home, three children who have gladdened our hearts beyond expression, I am going straight to the end of our dining room table which currently serves as one of my in-house art studios.

There is a start here.  And I’ll include some birds!

Margaret Longenecker Been — May 1st, 2018

*I can’t resist adding a bit of encouragement, actually opinionated essaying, so please forgive me.  My soapbox message to all and everyone younger than I am is:  “Don’t grow old without a passion.  Don’t grow old without something you LOVE to do and can physically do even when you are ill or beset with body pain.  Don’t go another moment without the solace of a do-able passion to recharge your soul’s battery even when circumstances seem like they are falling apart.”

Of course a relationship with our living Lord Jesus, and ongoing immersion in His Word and prayer are essential at all times.  And God has given us boundless options for creativity, life therapy, and joy—tangible options, things to do with hands, heart, and mind.  Reasons to pop out of bed enthusiastically in the morning, even when it hurts too much to pop out fast!

God has momentarily placed us on a material planet.  He has given us tangible resources to refresh our souls and beautify our brief time on earth as we know it today.  Praise Him! 🙂

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Us

“Finally, Brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”  Philippians 4:8

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time as the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:15-16

One would have to be clueless, to doubt the fact that the days are evil.  The days have been evil ever since the game-changing fiasco in the garden.  But Eden did not have cell phones, a worldwide internet, FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and billions of people—starving, warring, and suffering unspeakable horrors.  Eden’s evil was not so sophisticatedly organized, so widely and criminally justified by evil national majorities—so whitewashed to appear humanitarian, reasonable, rational, “kind to the planet” and altruistic, as the convoluted sin of these days.  It took thousands of years to get here.

Those of us who prefer keeping our heads in Scripture rather than sand believe we are nearing the book of Revelation, when the Lord Jesus Christ will return to earth to establish justice and reign in His Holy City, Jerusalem.  No we are not to name the day or the hour.  But YES, we are to watch for the signs prophesied by Old Testament Prophets, the Lord Jesus in His Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25), and New Testament letters culminating in Jude and Revelation. 

The days are evil, and we are nearing the end of the Church Age.  In the words of beloved Christian brother, Francis Schaeffer, “How do we then live?”  How am I to respond or react to evil times?  Am I to go high stress, slap-dashing about in a fervor of Chicken Little-ish behavior?  Wrong!  Am I to think about nothing else than the fact that the days are evil?  Wrong again!

Am I to eschew beauty and instead fashion a drab, lackluster world around me, an environment which says nothing about creative living?  How horrible is that!

So what is Right?  My quest for an answer always comes back to the above quotes from Philippians and Ephesians, and countless other passages having to do with gracious, Spirit-filled living.  Joyous living.  God is still in charge.  God has always been and will always be in charge.

Yes, we are to speak up and out whenever we can.  Yes we are to pray with compassion for those who suffer all over this crazy, convoluted earth.  Yet it is still God’s earth.  As well as being fully God, Jesus was fully human—modeling the perfect humanity intended for people on earth, until man and woman (not in that order) blew it in the beautiful garden which God had provided for them.

Our Lord Jesus Christ will return, to reign on earth for 1000 years.  Scripture predicts a New Heaven and New Earth.  Certainly we will not fathom details until they unfold, but nowhere in the Bible is “earth” left out of the equation.  God created earth, and He loves His creation.  In light of that truth I can only gather that we humans, the most valued of His creation, are to go on living and loving the life He has given us on earth.

That means gratitude rather than gloom.  That means serenity rather than stress.  That means pure, down-to-earth appreciation for and pleasure in His boundless gifts—people to love, gardens to plant, creative hobbies to pursue, art, music, poetry, sports, sunshine, fresh air, the list is endless.  Earth gifts!

There is a pathetic “hangover” from past Christian eras and persuasions which taught that physical and soul pleasures were intrinsically evil.  Hence:  the monks who starved themselves or didn’t converse with each other, those Christians who wear drab clothing because anything eye-catching might lead to idolatry (or immorality), and believers who avoid the enjoyment of any pastime without blatantly “spiritual” overtones.

Asceticism is NOT BIBLICAL.  It NEVER WAS BIBLICAL.  Asceticism is a boring, yet potentially devastating ploy invented by the Evil One who—if he cannot get Christians to throw in the towel and quit, will instead lure them into nurturing a sense of pride in not doing this and not enjoying that.*

The paradox here is that within God’s creative, expansive and wholesome arena of “this or that”, we are to walk with joyous confidence; it is the pride inherent in asceticism which God hates, and holds us accountable for.  The person who lives by asceticism may be bowing before the idol of pride!

Life on earth is to be loved, savored, celebrated, and enjoyed to the max while never losing sight of our Creator, never forgetting that He is the Creator of all things—every breath we inhale, every flower we plant and gather.  With our heads full of God’s “whatsoever things”, our lives will shine out to the lost souls who desperately need to know about our Saviour.  As long as God’s people remain on earth (His earth!) and continue to redeem the time, there will be some light, and some good, although the days are evil.

Margaret L. Been — January 26, 2016

(First posted in “God’s Word is True”, September 25, 2015)

*THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS, by C.S. Lewis provides a witty and wonderful treatise on the pitfall of asceticism.

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Always Time for Tea

“Always Time for Tea” is the title of the above rendering.  Tea Time in March is charged with anticipation, excited about change, and zesty with the invigoration of fiercely raging wind and ever-stretching sunlit hours.

Today’s wind is not kind; it’s raw and bitter to the taste, like afternoon Earl Grey Tea when it’s been allowed to over-steep.  Today’s sun is glorious—redolent of fragrant places where ripe and mellow leaves were harvested for an “Irish Breakfast” most anywhere in the world.

Along with the joy of anticipation, my St. Patrick’s Day Irish Breakfast musings (in Nashotah, Wisconsin, USA) are shadowed by things that are lost:  a Malaysian jet carrying over 200 passengers, and perhaps millions of people in our culture who haven’t even the faintest comprehension of the importance of solitude—or whose once-valued serenity has gone missing.

How many of us are there left in this crazy culture, who still understand (and prioritize!) the serenity of spending time alone/alone/alone.  I don’t mean always being physically alone/alone/alone.  I speak of mentally/spiritually/emotionally investing time alone and nurturing that soul solitude and serenity which can only come from a depth of completion—the integral completion which we can receive from God’s Grace through the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in one’s life as revealed in Scripture.

How many individuals still treasure time alone:  perhaps really alone for a few hours or minutes—strolling in a sheltered woods, basking in a sunny window, lounging on the patio in the summer—with the ubiquitous iced tea (Earl Grey or Irish Breakfast) in hand?  Alone in one’s mind, unfettered by the worries and potential issues that surround anyone who is breathing and thinking?

Alone.  Apart. Soothed by the realization that the heartbreaking issues of the day are a bleep in Eternity.  Solitude, serenity, ALONENESS!  Busy schedules have been common to much of mankind since the beginning of time.  But today life can become even more complex, if we so allow.  In an age of electronic communications and the proliferation of Facebook friends, how many remember the concept of being alone?  And how many even care, or have the foggiest idea of what they are missing?

I love my laptop for shopping, acquiring information, and blogging.  These are refreshing pastimes.  How wonderful to shop without driving to a store where you may or may not find exactly what you want—be it a special garment (most of my clothing is purchased online), a sable paint brush, a new-to-you line of watercolors or gouche in exciting colors, or the base and fragrance oils for your soap-making avocation.  How rewarding to be able to access an endless library of answers in your ongoing quest for learning.  And how fulfilling to communicate via a blog with people from literally every corner of the earth.

But certain other aspects of the electronic world would quickly threaten to undermine my serenity, if I would fail to preserve a balance—and those specific aspects are email and Facebook.  Email has become a kind of necessity in the minds of many, and for business purposes and the sharing of prayer requests it is indeed valuable.  Facebook serves one and only one purpose for me:  that of viewing and sometimes downloading charming photos of the people in my life.  But balance and frequent avoidance of both of these computer areas are necessary to my discipline of preserving serenity and an atmosphere of solitude in the midst of an overflowing life filled with precious people and their needs.  Thus I will often go for at least a week without checking either Facebook or my email.  Anyone who really needs me will find me via telephone or snail mail—or best of all, with a knock on my door.

Today I pray that someone among the 26 participating rescue nations will discover the missing jet.  Every day I pray that I’ll remember to savor as many serenity-inspiring sights and sounds as I can find, with which to greet each day:  and certainly always before accessing email or Facebook.

A pot of tea helps, whether celebrated alone or shared with a kindred soul.  There’s always time for tea!

Margaret L. Been, March 2014

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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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Dylie & Mom

A week after surgery I still wear that pained expression, but Baby Dylan looks great.  Normally terrified of the Paparazzi, Dylan was captured off guard because he didn’t realize that a camera could lurk inside a cell phone.  His “Mommy” is not that advanced, as blogging is the outside extent of my techie-ness.  To me, a phone is a phone and a camera is a camera.  I’m certain this will be the last time we’ll be able to fool Dylan into saying “Cheese”!

Since inserting pictures is easier for me at this point than keyboarding a lot of text, here are some recent ones taken just before my surgery.  The pictures are worth thousands of words—of which I’ll add just a few for clarification:

Joe and a Flat

Any of you parents, grandparents, and great grandparents have undoubtedly had at least one “Flat” in your life.  Above you can see our third—“Flat Ethan”, a facsimile of Three Dimensional Ethan who lives far away in San Diego.  Flat Ethan was not prepared for the quiet life Joe and I enjoy in Nashotah, Wisconsin (who ever heard of THAT?)—but he coped beautifully whether buying produce, eating at our neighborhood Chinese restaurant, or simply perusing books while Joe, Dylan, and I slept.  (Since Three Dimensional Ethan loves books, it follows that Flat Ethan does likewise.)

Tuks & Grammy

Baby Adetokunba Bridget Josephine Adesokun at three weeks old.  (Now she’s nearly six weeks.)  Due to a stand off with MRSA and surgery, this was one of the last times I was able to hold Tuks—(rhymes with books).  But better days are coming, soon!

Been Guys and Grammy's Art

Left to right:  Joe, and our Denver grandsons Joel and Nathaniel Been with two of my paintings (framed in yellow) currently on exhibit at the Delafield Arts Center.

left handed art

With all my present restrictions, a few activities are allowed and encouraged:  knitting (only finger motion is required of my right hand when knitting), limited piano practice (again, fingers only in the treble clef), some keyboarding, and left handed art.  The art delights my heart as more each year I’m realizing that abstraction (with a slight element of representation) is my forté—the “Whom I Really Am” in this recently discovered passion.

A large factor in abstract expressionism is the discarding of presumptions, assumptions, and that human desire for “control”.  What remains?  A serendipitous freedom from agendas or any kind of “other generated” expectations.  This freedom is possible only in the arts!  We certainly wouldn’t want it anywhere else—that would be anarchy!!!

Late June Garden 2013

Finally, our Heaven on earth.  🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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September 2011 marks the third anniversary of my online writing adventure.  Northern Reflections began when we lived up north by the above-pictured wild woods and water.  Shortly after that, I added God’s Word is True, Grace with Salt, and Riches in Glory.  A year later Joe and I moved to the (not-so-wild) woods and water of Southern Wisconsin and I added Northernview (now The Messy Palette) to the mix.

Obviously, Northern Reflections leads the pack in number of readers.  God’s Word Is True and Grace with Salt are close to each other in numbers of viewers, amounting to second and third place respectively.  Riches in Glory comes next, followed by the “new kid on the block” Northernview/alias The Messy Palette.

It’s fun to go back to square one and view the search terms used to access these sites.  The stats show which entries are most frequently read.  Blogging is rewarding for me as a free lance writer, because things I wrote online many months ago are still being read. 

Communication is my whole purpose for writing!  For many years I wrote articles and essays for magazines and newspapers—not nearly so satisfying as web writing because:  1)  When writing for publications, I never knew if anyone actually read my published pieces—feedback was rare; 2)  Magazines and newpapers get discarded, whereas cyberspace writing lingers on!  Writers have to LOVE this technology!  🙂

Here are the topics most frequently accessed, per search terms, on my blogs. 

1)  Northern Reflections:  Life before Antibiotics, Polio and Dr. Salk, English Country Decor, Flea Markets and Garage Sales, Edith Schaeffer, Circus Lore and Circus Topics, Decorating with Junk, and Joyce Kilmer’s Poem about Trees.   2)  God’s Word Is True:  “Converge Worldwide”, Purpose Driven Apostasy, The Emergent Church, Israel/God’s Chosen, and Psalm 23.  3)  Grace with Salt:  Scriptures about Forgetting, Scriptures about Pressing On, Dealing with Toxic Relationships, and Dealing with Verbal Abuse.  4)  Riches in Glory:   Most People Don’t Understand Chronic Illness and Pain, Invisible Illness, Introverts and Extroverts, and (this one cracks me up!) Humphrey Bogart Smoking.  5)  Northernview/The Messy Palette:  English Country Gardens, Garden Junk, and Soap.

What a great adventure!  I enjoy the contacts I make through my sites—the responses from family members and friends, and comments received from new kindred-spirited friends as well.  WordPress is a fantastic web host!  The support people are ever-ready, and have helped me wade through a lot of my cyber confusion. 

Thank you, readers—and thank you, WordPress! 

©2011, Margaret L. Been

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