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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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BB - Precious Bridget and Grandpa

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words!  Here is Grandpa Joe holding our 14th grandchild, Adetokunbo Bridget Josephine Adesokun.  Our wee one was 5 hours old when we first met her on 6/4, and she was sleeping off her jet lag while visitors played Pass the Baby.  But since yesterday at 24 plus hours old, Adetokunbo Bridget has been eating almost non-stop—or as her mom, our daughter Martina, says:  “using me for a pacifier”. 

What a treasure!  For Joe and me, and undoubtedly all who have met our treasure, it has been love at first sight!

Names are tremendously significant in our son-in-law Sanmi’s Ebira Tribe Nigerian culture.  The names are chosen primarily for their meaning, and every person will call a child by which ever of the names he or she prefers.  The child grows up knowing that the different names are an important part of her; they signify facets of her personhood.  Beautiful!

In a couple of weeks, we’ll share in a Naming Ceremony at our condo community clubhouse where family members and friends will gather to add to the list of our baby’s names, and pray over her.  After the ceremony, we’ll gather beside the pool at our daughter Debbie’s home.   

Sanmi’s brothers will join us in celebration, from Toronto and Cleveland.  How I wish their mom could be with us.  She is in Nigeria, and her sons hope to bring her to North America soon.  (Bridget, are you reading?  WE LOVE YOU!!!)

So now I have added words.  But the essence is in the photos:  New Life in Spring!!!  Precious new life!

BB - Bridget is 5 hours old

BB - Mother and Babe

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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Recently I read an article in Time Magazine titled “Chore Wars”.  The piece began by describing something most of us recall:  how when large numbers of women began working out of the home, they would come home at night and have to do all the home and family duties as well.  These were the “Super Women”, and many of them were understandably frazzled until their husbands realized that keeping a home is not only “woman’s work”. 

When a woman is away from her home for many hours each week, she does need help—especially when there are children to care for.  Fortunately for me, my husband has never been uncomfortable with helping.  At various periods when our children were growing up, I did the bookkeeping and office work for our family business.  My office was at home, so I could always be on hand.  Yet the work was time consuming, and vitally important.  Joe often pitched in and fixed a Sunday pancake breakfast, or a yummy supper of Swedish meatballs so that I could take a “time out” during those busy years. 

Joe continues to help me a lot, even now that we are retired with lots of leisure.  He cheerfully vacuums and folds laundry when needed—which, given my chronic spinal issues, is quite often.  But formerly many men of our generation (and older) would have considered their manhood compromised—and wouldn’t have been caught dead doing “woman’s work”.  It was a blessed break-through for women with outside careers, when their husbands began to carry a share of the jobs at home.  When a husband and wife share their duties, “home” can always be a place of refuge and refreshment.

Meanwhile, back to the “Chore Wars”.  Even though I’m an analytical reader, I found nothing in that magazine article with which I could take issue—except for a “vibe” that I picked up on my “attitude radar”:  a sense that the writer of the article puts most aspects of homekeeping in the category of drudgery.  I was annoyed by the author’s subtle inference that homemaking is a burdensome “chore” rather than a precious privilege to be savored and nurtured in a spirit of creativity, with the priorities of providing comfort and a creative quality of life. 

As I read the article, I recalled those years when I worked as an office person.  I remember the tremendous relief that swished over me whenever I finally finished balancing the ledger for the day.  (Yes we had ledgers where, just like Scrooge, we entered the Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable and balanced each page with our head math rather than by calculator—while detecting and correcting even the slightest discrepancy, be it only 7 cents.) 

How liberating it was when I could close the huge ledger, leave my office, and go for a walk with a child.  How refreshing it was to prepare a meal for the family and guests, wash my china and polish the silverware, make a batch of soap, putter in the garden, or hang the clothes on the line outdoors.  How relaxing and soul-satisfying to iron vintage tablecloths and pillowcases—while inhaling the fragrance of line dried linens, steamed and pressed. 

I was blessed to have a husband who was willing to help when necessary—and I was thankful that, in the later years, I could hire a cleaning lady to assist me on occasion.  But my home has always been my sanctuary—the only place on earth where I consistently want to be!

How do we view our work?  It’s a matter of attitude!

Margaret L. Been ©2011

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my-beautiful-mother

When I was very young, she showed me how to feed day-old orphaned kittens from a medicine dropper.  She taught me to walk quietly, watching for wildflowers and listening for birds.

Mother valued integrity over comfort, and never betrayed the confidences of her family members or friends.  She ignored pettiness, and refused to react to crass people skilled in the “art” of dispensing insults.

Her chin was high but not arrogant, chiseled but not cold.  Her pleasantly mild outward appearance caused unthinking observers to believe she was pliable and soft. 

But anyone with discernment realized that her keen, penetrating mind commanded a backbone of unflinching steel.  She despised gushy sentimentality, and reserved her displays of affection for people she loved.

Of Celtic descent, Mother loved most things Scottish:  the diligence, thrift, reserved attitude, and bagpipes–but not the whiskey.  She had no use for that. 

She was a classical musician.  Her piano refrains are emblazoned in my soul, where the magnificence of Mozart and poignancy of Chopin will endure forever.  I cherish my legacy of Mother’s antique poetry books.  I think of her as I gather armloads of lilacs and let their heady fragrance brush my face.

Although some of the people she loved didn’t know a finger bowl from a flower pot, Mother valued social graces and lovely deportment as marks of consideration for others.  She schooled me in walking with a book on my head (to improve my posture), chewing with my mouth closed, and setting dinner plates one inch from the edge of the table with the designs facing the person dining.  She taught me to use my forks from the outside in–salad, main course, dessert.  She tried to teach me not to talk too much, too often, or too fast.

Despite my love for running barefoot in summer, despite my scruffy knees scabbed over from numerous roller skating spills, despite the fact that I spent much of my girlhood climbing trees, Mother managed to infuse me with her passion for elegant frocks, dressy hats, and gloves.

Alzheimer’s notwithstanding, Mother’s last years reflected the poise of her lifetime.  Not given to ranting and shrieking as some older people do, she sat smiling serenely beside the nurses’ station day after day.  She was dearly loved at the nursing home where she was known as “Ruthie”.  It was my privilege to do her laundry, hold her hand, and sing for her, as she had done for me for so many years.

As her time of dying approached, our youngest daughter and I spent her last two days at her bedside singing spirituals that she loved:  “Where, Oh Where Are the Hebrew Children?”, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, and “I’m Going Home on a Cloud”.

At the age of 93, Mother went to live with a King.  Someday I’ll join them for supper!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

NOTE:  My Mother’s Day tribute appeared on this weblog a year ago, and I am repeating it.  I can’t imagine a better mom than the one God gave me!  MLB

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So much has been written about women and their multiple roles, that I hesitate to approach the subject.  Only because I have enjoyed being a woman (and girl!) all of my life, do I feel qualified to hold forth on the myriad aspects of WOMAN!

Like countless other women I moved from the role of daughter, to college student and young adult making my own decisions, and then on to the significant step of becoming a wife.  Because I married the most wonderful man on earth, I’ve never looked back with regret.  What a blessing my husband has been and continues to be.

Motherhood came easily for me.  I had traveled some as a young person, and I had worked hard at home as well as at school and volunteer jobs.  I had studied diligently, and matured so that I was ready to settle into being myself in the midst of new responsibilities.  

Even as a very young wife and mother, I realized that human relationships were not enough to complete a life.  I knew I should never bank my “happiness potential” on other people, as they—like me—were not perfect.  It would never work, to lean on other people for my ultimate fulfillment as a person.  Thus, I went on being me.  I discovered that homemaking provided the perfect setting for continual growth as a person. 

Music and writing had always been a huge part of my life—and I realized I had to continue being involved in music and writing to stay whole.  As time passed, I acquired additional creative hobbies and some community outlets.  The “busier” I became as a wife and mother, the more I needed to spend at least a few hours each week on personal areas of interest.   

Perhaps that’s why the feminist surge of the 1960s seemed so strange and utterly stupid to me.  Who on earth could possibly have more freedom to live creatively and individually than a stay-at-home wife who was blessed with a fine, sensitive husband—and a mother with children to love and nurture? 

As time progressed, I did need to do extra work—as a bookkeeper and secretary for the construction company which my husband and I formed in 1967.  Although my duties required long hours at a desk, my heart was always at home.  Fortunately my body could be at home, as well, most of the time.  Our office was mainly in our home during those fledgling years of the business.  I soon learned to pen an occasional poem in those small breaks from typing bids and balancing pages in the ledger.

Later my realization that I must continue to be myself, within the perimeters of home and job responsibilities, became a lifeline.  Our family experienced years of heartbreaking circumstances and trauma.  Apart from God’s Grace, our family could have been permanently devastated in the onslaught which occurred back then.  During all that time, God used His gifts of creativity to pilot me through various phases and years of a living nightmare.  God kept me focused on “whatsoever things are good”. 

Here is the proverbial bottom line.  Since human relationships sometimes falter, and adversity often claims our attention and energy, there has to be something more:  first and foremost, a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and then an outworking of His serenity and beauty through those God-ordained creative, upbeat facets of life which will be there for us “no matter what”!*

Meanwhile, when grandchildren arrived, I entered a whole new aspect of life—one that I have enjoyed to the max, and continue to enjoy as our grandchildren grow up and become interesting adults.  What a privilege and joy to be involved with grandchildren.  My cup is continually running over!

Grandmothering implies things to be learned as well as fun to be had!  Unless circumstances demand an exception, and grandparents are called to raise a grandchild, we grandmothers must never usurp the role of the mother.  Mother is Mother, and Grandma is Grandma—or whatever else we might be named. 

We learn to bite the tongue, whenever unsolicited advice wants to fall freely from our mouths.  A talking woman is often a pain in the you-know-what, and a grandmother who advises unnecessarily is especially hard to stomach. 

Only when faced with issues of absolute ethics, morality, human decency and respect, spiritual truth, or proper nurturing and health do we grandmothers have the right to tell a daughter or daughter-in-law what to do regarding their children—and then we must speak up!    

Finally, I’m now exploring a whole new-to-me aspect of WOMAN:  great-grandmothering.  This is a tricky one, as my child-nurturing instincts are with me for life.  As a great-grandmother, it’s easy for me to want to be a grandmother.  But I’m learning!  My daughters are the grandmothers now—and they are doing a fabulous job of it. 

I’m trying to do the Miss Marple thing:  just sitting around with my knitting.  Fortunately, there are no “in house” crimes to be solved so I’m not a “Miss Marple” in that respect.  And there are many times when a Miss Marple can be useful.  I can cook nice meals, and I love to read to the great-grandchildren.  Maybe someday I’ll teach them to knit!  Miss Marple would do that!  🙂 

As we mature, our womanly need to nurture is filled more and more by pets!  Although I have loved all of our dogs and cats over the years, our Baby Dylan receives here-to-fore-undreamed-of attention because he is my “late in life” doggie!  He is almost a person in his own right! 

My current aspect of WOMAN—the aspect of maturity—is tremendously enjoyable.  Joe and I have time, freedom, and sufficient energy to savor our moments together.  We have our family, friends, and hobbies within the context of our home.  And as always, I love being a girl!   

*Years ago one of our daughters (newly married at the time) told me something I’ll never forget.  Our daughter said, “Mom, I’ll always be thankful to you for showing me that a wife and mother can still be a person.” 

What more can I say?!!  Feedback like that makes me close my eyes and lift my heart in praise to our Lord who has made all things beautiful!

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

NOTE:  In keeping with the above topic, here is info on a soon-to-be-released book by my Seattle friend, Lydia Harris:

Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting, by Lydia E. Harris, AMG Publishers, is scheduled for release in June 2010. You can pre-order now at amazon.com or Christianbook.com.
  
This six-week Bible study is suitable for grandparents at any stage of the journey and can be used by individuals, couples, or groups. It can be extended to twelve weeks or longer.

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