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Posts Tagged ‘Amazing Grace’

of gluten, that is!

After a lifetime of tetchy symptoms which sometimes I haven’t even wanted to describe to my family doctor, after ER visits and colon surgery, after still more years of symptoms I finally got a brainstorm:  why not go gluten-free?!  The only other alternative was a colonoscopy—ASAP.

We have a granddaughter, Jamie, with celiac and her dad—our son, Eric—tested positive for that disease.  Although Eric had no symptoms, he immediately went gluten-free upon receiving his test results.  His other daughter, Nicole, had symptoms and has been thriving on a gluten-free diet for several years.  These are some of my close-of-kin.  It occurred to me that maybe the GI health issues started with my family line—so what not follow their dietary example?

It took thirty gluten-free hours for me to feel better than I can recall feeling for years.  I woke up one morning, and simply laid there in the bed thanking God and being AMAZED at how relaxed and “whole” my body felt.  I seemed (and still do seem) lighter than a summer breeze, and “float-y” without GI troubles.  Never mind my ortho issues which, like true love, go on and on,  When the gut is okay, other things fall into perspective.

And the food is GOOD!  Of course fruit, veggies (including potatoes), rice, dairy, eggs, peanut butter, chocolate, honey, candy and syrups, cornstarch gravies, plus meats are gluten-free.  Additional items—breads, cookies, crackers, gluten free pastas, flours, snack-y stuff, etc. are more readily available than ever before.

I can make coffee cakes from rice, tapioca, and sorghum flours—with cooked rhubarb or overripe bananas, eggs, sour milk, salt, baking powder and baking soda, brown sugar, and sometimes chocolate chips.  When I omit the chips, I drizzle a buttercream maple flavored frosting over the top.  Can’t be beat!

And a favorite dinner, Shepherd’s Pie:  a well-buttered casserole of cooked ground lamb and cooked mixed veggies mixed with gluten free gravy and topped with a humungous mound of buttered and seasoned mashed potatoes—baked until the potato mound is deliciously browned.

And another favorite dinner:  Cornish hen stuffed with onion, brown rice, salt, butter, and white pepper—topped with gravy.  (Gluten free packaged gravy is available, but one can easily bang out gravies and sauces with meat stock or whatever, and cornstarch.)  A whole new world of fun in the kitchen!

Joe enjoys the food as well.  I keep his sandwich bread plus ingredients for his favorite wheat flour desserts on hand.  We are not huge eaters, so the extra expense for special food goes a long way.  In fact, never having a full tummy is part of the solution for my GI comfort.  An occasional piece of fruit for a snack, and tiny meals—VOILÀ.  A new me, at age 82!  ↓  (I’m the one with the long hair.)

Margaret L. Been  —  September 27, 2015

art statement photo

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Birches II

In recent years, I find myself giving more advice—breaking a lifetime policy of rarely inflicting personal opinions unless requested to do so, or in situations where someone’s wellbeing is threatened apart from my input.

Always having found advice-givers to be highly annoying, I’ve militated against joining their ranks.  But now I’m holding forth because I believe that most anyone’s wellbeing is jeopardized without the following, standard bit of wisdom:

Find a passion!  Don’t grow old without it.  And especially if you live with chronic illness or pain.  Don’t neglect those creative aspects of life that make aging and chronic health issues not only do-able, but downright enjoyable—even exciting!

I’ve been blessed with many passions:  family, friends, my precious corgi Dylan, books, writing, knitting, wool spinning, music, gardens indoors and out, and now painting.  Art making is new for me; even ten years ago I did not have the foggiest idea that I’d be able to enjoy a lifelong dream.  God saved that one for me to launch when—along with all the other passions—I needed it most.

Most essential to ortho and other health issues, is to keep this body moving! Sitting for any length of time is a huge challenge.  I’ve even learned to stay home from church and other chair-confined events on the most dicey “no sit” days.  Lying in bed (supine or even with pillows) is the second greatest challenge, and for those sleepless nights painting is my great friend.  I paint standing up, and incorporate whole-body motion into the piece of work.

Art making would be wonderful enough if it ended right here, in my cozy bedroom corner studio beside a husband who is contented to sleep through soft lighting and my nocturnal whims—along with George Winston providing a mellow piano background.

But also, painting has led to a spate of new friendships, activities, and opportunities for sharing my art in our community.  Meanwhile, the history of art movements and artists has become a fascinating, inexhaustible area of study.

Thus I feel not only justified in giving advice, but actually responsible for sharing.  Don’t forget your passion.  Don’t grow old without at least one, and every day will be a fantastic adventure!

We are created in the image of a Creative God.  He desires that we somehow reflect His creativity.  Yes, He will answer prayers concerning ways we can honor him with the gifts He has given us.  When God moves, He brings a whole new quality of refreshment to an already abundant life!

Margaret L. Been — September 9, 2015

Note:  If art rings your chimes, you can check out my MESSY PALETTE blog:   https://northernview.wordpress.com/

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Bee

Long time, no blog!  From April till way into Autumn, my heart is outdoors.  But that has never kept me from writing before.  This summer has been different—perhaps one of the loveliest summers ever.  With the exception of an occasional entry on my art blog, journaling, letter writing, and jotting Bible study notes, I decided to take a vacation from writing.

Now our white hydrangeas/turning pink are at full tilt and awash with beautiful bees. So much to love about summer!  Six years ago to this very day (Saturday August 29th, 2009) our son Eric and grandsons Joshua, Adam, Jason, and Jeff (grandson-in-law, but a true grandson indeed!) loaded a large U-Haul, our family business truck, and a some vans with our belongings.  We were moving from our up-north “permanent” home of eight years to Southeastern Wisconsin where we’d originally lived for decades and where much of our family has lived and still does.

The banter between our family moving helpers was hilarious.  They did a perfect job with no damage to our furniture or the walls of the home we were leaving—and most importantly, with no damage to my precious piano.  The day was pleasant and memorable.  But please forgive me for using a cliché:  My heart was in my throat.  We were abandoning the place we’d thought we’d live “forever”.

Two months earlier Joe had suffered serious health complications which immediately mandated the change of locale in order to be close to family and easily-accessed excellent medical care.  In late June we’d walked into our present condo home for the first time.  We placed a down payment on the condo after twenty minutes of inspection.  So July and August of 2009 were filled with packing.  Anyone who knows our lifestyle understands that the packing was a piece of work!

Over those weeks I consistently walked Dylan (corgi) on a leash so that he’d make the transition from running freely around fourteen plus acres to being a proper condo dog who wouldn’t be a nuisance to neighbors.  As I walked our wild woodsy trails, I wondered:  How will I be able to get along without all this? 

Yes, we’d be surrounded by beloved family.  I had missed the family between visits.  Down in Southeastern Wisconsin the great-grandchildren were coming pop/pop/pop like popcorn.  Joe and I love and enjoy the little people.  I certainly understood that children are more special than bears and wolves.  But . . . . ?

Nonetheless—after two months of packing, walking, and wondering—that moment of departure six years ago was amazingly pain-free.  Weary as Joe and I were from the process of moving on short notice, we experienced a mutual, growing sense of excitement; it occurred to both of us that we were coming home!

And we came home to boundless blessings.  Family!  Long time friends!  A carefree four room, ground floor condo—just right for our time of life.  Several gardens to tend and love—ours and those of neighbors who don’t want to bother with gardening.  And trains frequently roaring back and forth on the busiest track in the area—from Milwaukee west to the Rockies and north to Canada.  My passion for the sight and sound of trains is no secret to anyone who knows us.

What have I learned in the last six years?  More than I can squeeze into a blog.  But for starters:

  1. People in their “mature” years, do not need a large home.  Compact and cozy are delightful adjectives.  I enjoy cramming lots of stuff into small spaces, and I love the task of efficient organizing.
  2. It is very nice to have garbage collection at our garage door.  Up north we took our garbage to the  dump—a fun experience but not when it was twenty below zero!
  3. It is wonderful to have snow removal.  Joe did that himself up north, with a snow blower.  It took two hours or more, to clear the driveways at the two houses there—the one we lived in and the guest house we had built up the hill.  Now on a blizzardy winter morning we awaken and savor our coffee to the scrape/scrape of plows on our lane and shovels on the walkways.
  4. Here is a vital lesson:  One does not need to own land, to enjoy it.  We have a lovely community park over the berm outside our courtyard, and a woods and prairie preserve with foot trails beyond the park.  These fulfill my hunger for natural beauty.
  5. In the last six years, health challenges have become the norm for Joe and me.  These challenges are Holy Ground.  Always, I experience God’s “peace that passes understanding” .  With the Lord Jesus in my heart and life, every day is Holy Ground.  But health issues—Joe’s emergencies and my chronic concerns—are a showcase of God’s Grace.  Some friends understand this, but others simply do not.  The “others” are those who say things like “Oh you poor thing!”  When I hear that I want to scream, but I try to stay calm.  My answer is, “In Christ we are never a ‘poor thing’. We are “more than conquerors.”  Holy Ground!
  6. No home on earth is “forever”.  Although I love where we are, and I am totally contented and grateful, I anticipate with profound excitement that final “move”—right into the presence of my Lord Jesus!*

Six years in retrospect.  Understandably, I sometimes think of “up north”—especially when strolling outdoors after dark.  Here, twenty-five miles west of Milwaukee, we have a moon and sometimes part of the Big Dipper in the night sky, and rarely much more than that.  I recall many evenings of sitting on our lake-facing porch up north, enthralled by millions of stars:  so many that there was more starlight than black space between.  The stars reflected on the lake so that the entire expanse—Heaven and the water below—was one huge lit-up sky.

But happily now, six years later, we sit in the front row at church, surrounded by children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  They are my stars!  🙂

Margaret L. Been—August 29, 2015

*Nearly every day I reflect on a family story I first heard when I was a very little girl.  My great-grandfather had been bed-ridden and unresponsive for days—surrounded by family members during his slow process of dying.  Then suddenly one day he sat bolt upright in bed.  His face was glowing as he loudly exclaimed, “Oh Glory, Glory!”

Immediately after that, Great-Grandfather Longenecker moved to his final, glorious HOME!

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Piano Musings, Recollections, and Resolution . . . .

music 2

In a good week I have four or five of them:  piano days.  I never sit down to play without thinking of childhood.  How pleased my mother would be with this daughter who, when young, preferred to putter in the shallow creek at the base of our property (crunching on ice floes in winter and catching pollywogs in the summer) to the discipline of piano and violin.  Yet practice I did, many hours per week.  Mom gave me no alternatives.  I had to do a couple of hours of music before messing about in the river.  Mother was passionate about music.  She was a classical pianist, and sat me down at a piano long before I can remember.  At age eight I began my 10 year stint of violin lessons.  I thank Mom for her music passion.  Throughout adulthood, music (especially vocal and piano) has been one of my passions as well.

Mother was unique—so different from some Moms, and how I praise the Lord for that!  Now and then I was allowed in the kitchen to make chocolate chip cookies.  After every meal I helped with the clean up; Mother washed the dishes and I dried them and put them away.  (That was special bonding time.)  But I NEVER cooked a meal.  I picked up a few tips from kitchen observation, but I was not taught to cook.  Mom’s famous words were:  “Soon enough you will grow up and have to cook, and since you can read you’ll be able to manage!  Anyone can cook!” 

I was taught to work.  I had to clean the bathrooms and do the ironing (both of which I absolutely love to this day).  But Mom was the cook.  We frequently had company for dinner and my job—my wonderful job!—was to get out the silver, china, and stemware, and set a beautiful table.  The centerpiece was my domain; I had free reign to arrange flowers, candles, and whatever else I could dream up.  Even when there were only the four of us at the table—my parents, my sister, and me—I dressed the table and took enormous pride in the job.  I still do!  My mother wanted me to invest time in reading, knitting, stitching, and doing other creative things along with the music—rather than cooking.

Obviously, as a wife and mother of six children, I did end up doing a lot of cooking and baking over the years!  My mother was wise.  She schooled me in the even more vital, life energizing creative things that bring grace, beauty, and elegance to those chores we have to do in the midst of life’s inevitable challenges.

I’m eternally grateful for both of my parents, and the older I get the more I think of them.  My father traveled frequently because the company he worked for (Lauson Motors in New Holstein Wisconsin/the company eventually became Tecumseh) was knee deep in wartime production.  But when Dad was home, he was my Dad!  He frequently came home with the gift of a book for me, and he always wanted to read whatever I had been writing.  The greatest boost I can recall was when, at age 11, I showed Dad an essay I’d written for a school assignment.  Dad read the text carefully, and said:  “You really think thoughts!”

I could go on forever and bore you readers to distraction about my delightful life, but I won’t.  I hope to stop short of causing abject ennuni!  Meanwhile, much as I have always thought New Year’s resolutions to be rather silly, I have set a goal for the coming year:

To constantly evoke a rather maudlin, corny old Bing Crosby tune the lyrics of which went:  “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative . . . “.  Not that I subscribe to “the power of positive thinking”.  Mankind is fallen, and without intervention of the life of Jesus Christ we are lost.  The power of positive thinking is hogwash.  I cannot eliminate ISIS by thinking.  We cannot change our nation, by just thinking; we must pray and WORK—and then only God’s Spirit will make a difference!  Just “thinking” will never deal with the horrendous world issues which our clueless, muddleheaded, and/or downright evil President refuses to acknowledge.

Only God can change the world, and eventually He will—as He has promised through ages of Old Testament prophecy confirmed by the Lord Jesus in the Gospels, as well as in the New Testament Epistles!  Meanwhile, as I pray and live as the Lord leads, I can—as old Bing crooned—“Accentuate the positive”.

Here is an example:  rather than continuing to spout off about Obama’s idiotic State of the Union address, or grousing about the Packers’ failure to complete their great start against the Seahawks last Sunday I can (and am!) robustly cheering Speaker John Boehner for his classic End Run around our President, by inviting Benjamin Netanyahu to address The House of Representatives on the threats of Iran and Islamic terrorism.  Clearly, the Seahawks—even Obama’s speech—fade into the back of my mind, next to Boehner’s Play of the Week—maybe the play of the year!

To summarize, my goal is to continually and faithfully focus on and publish good news.  But specifically, what do all these musings have to do with a piano day?  Simply this:  On my piano days I begin by struggling over the few Chopin nocturnes I can even dream of playing, adding some easier classics such as George Winston’s arrangement of Pachelbel’s beloved Kanon, lightening up with a Scott Joplin rag or two, and ending with my treasured book of Gospel hymns including Amazing Grace. 

AMAZING GRACE!  Forty four years ago almost to this very day, I was catapulted in the Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  It was a bitter cold day in January of 1971 when I entered the Kingdom.  The sun pounding down on the pristine banks of snow was so bright, so exquisite, so unspeakably and amazingly beautiful that I still experience a flush of joy when I think of it.  And every time I play Amazing Grace, the wonder, brilliance, and joy of that day is new—all over again!

Salvation and eternal life in Christ.  That is the “positive” to accentuate, the Good News which tops all else—yes, even John Boehner’s Fabulous End Run around our misguided, muddleheaded, and possibly (quite probably!) evil President!  🙂

Margaret L. Been—January 22, 2015

Note:  Here is an aside:  my pick from the cast of GOP contenders for nomination is Dr. Ben Carson.  Someone new, someone non-political, someone with real straight arrow values—although others in the list, including our own Governor Scott Walker, project straight values as well.

In his book, ONE NATION, Dr. Carson begins by demonstrating how “political correctness” has undermined our nation, as it is literally killing freedom of speech and promoting dishonesty at many levels.  I can accentuate the fact that I positively agree 

Dr. Carson is outspokenly Biblical in his views on the sins of abortion and homosexuality.  He is not afraid to quote Scriptural references, and point to God’s Word as the ultimate authority.  Coming from a distinguished man of science, this is especially refreshing!

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Frog daysDahlia

I don’t want to let go.  Our summer has been so ineffably sweet, I will hang on to it forever. 

Beautiful weather.  No need to run the AC—except that we occasionally put it on for Baby Dylan when we have to leave him for a few hours in the closed-up home.  Okay there were a couple of times when at home, that we broke the humidity by turning on the AC for very short spells, but always with the doors and windows wide open to the out-of-doors.  And due to the ubiquitous AC in most every indoor place, our favorite summer restaurant has become a local pub with outdoor seating. 

Leisurely early morning strolls around our park.  Visits with friends.  Plenty of summer knitting, which always brings woolly recollections of being 8 years old and learning to knit on the porch of our family cottage at Lake Winnebago.  Bookish naps on our shady afternoon patio.  And best of all, mellow days with the three generations which have resulted from our marriage of 61 years!

Too too sweet

More pool

Leo again again again again again

Mia Mia 2

musician

Recently Joe and I had the (probably once in a lifetime) experience of having our portraits painted by a friend, Janet Roberts, who is a professional artist.  We didn’t have to sit it out, as Janet works from photographs.  You can check out our portraits (“Joe in Winter Hat” and “Margaret in Summer Hat”) on Janet’s website.  Just GOOGLE “Janet Roberts, Brookfield Wisconsin Artist” and click on “Gallery” from the home page menu,  Voilà!

Our portraits have inspired a lot of mulling and musing.  With all the wonderful photos I have today—hundreds in albums and hundreds more in my computer files—a painted portrait is something unique.  I reflect on how for centuries paintings and sculptures were the only way a person’s image could be captured and preserved.  I think of the court painters such as Holbein, sent out by Henry VIII so he could visualize a future wife.  (I’d sure hate to have been one of those!)  And commodious stairwells lined with ancestors in great houses down through history.  Photography is an amazingly wonderful art, yet there is something ALIVE about paint in the hands of an accomplished artist such as our friend, Janet.

Mellow days, and a summer to remember.  A summer of quiet contentment and simply joys.  A summer of plenty in a world that grows more crazy, more sin ridden and tragically brutal every single day.  A summer in which I feel compelled to share at every possible opportunity, the one and only LIVING HOPE—that hope which is more real than this keyboard on which I type. 

In the midst of a world where an American journalist is decapitated against the background of an American president deeply engrossed in golfing and fund-raising, Our Lord Jesus Christ will return!  As He came to earth 2000 plus years ago to die for our sin and rise victorious over evil, He will return—to gather His own to Himself, and finally to reign for 1000 years in Jerusalem:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Margaret L. Been, September 2014 

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“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”  Ephesians 1:7 NIV

Looking back over a lifetime, I’m overwhelmed!  Looking back a year, I’m overwhelmed.  Even looking back over the last couple of days, I am awash with the sense of God’s presence and His grace!  

Over the decades God’s grace has worked miracles in relationships, in circumstances, and in medical wonders—the most recent being a “whole new pair of eyes” for me via the simplest of all surgeries, the removal of cataracts and replacement of lenses in both eyes.  In times which are obviously “good”, and in crisis times of stress and concern, God’s grace abounds.  Our upcoming month of Thanksgiving underscores an ongoing lifestyle of thanksgiving enjoyed by any and all who understand the reality of God’s “Amazing Grace”!

Blessed with a large family, I share the reality of grace with numerous loved ones.  We laugh and cry, pray for each other, and rejoice in the fact that we are together in all of our joys and sorrows.  Currently we are sharing the prayerful anticipation of two more family members:  1) a new baby girl, Mia, due in December and 2) a new son-in-law-to-be, Sammi, due to arrive from Nigeria.

In 2006, our daughter Martina embarked on a 4 year adventure of teaching at the American School in Abuja, Nigeria.  There she met Sanmi (pronounced “Sah-mi”—the “n” is silent) and they eventually became engaged.  Now Martina has been back in the USA for over a year and she is teaching in Spring Green, Wisconsin.  In the fall of 2010, Martina and Sanmi began the long process of procuring a fiance’s visa that he could come here to live.  The “powers that be” are thorough, and the process of obtaining a visa can be lengthy. 

Now Sanmi has his visa, and only a few business details remain before he can fly to Wisconsin where he and Martina will be married.  Both of these young people are in their mid 30s.  Neither one of them has been married before.  They have waited a long time for each other.

Needless to say, our family is tremendously eager to meet Sanmi.  Many of us have chatted with him on the phone, but if you have ever experienced a phone conversation to Nigeria you know how spotty and fragmented that connection can be!  Soon we’ll visit in person, and rejoice in the marriage of Martina and Sanmi (pictured below)!

And then we’ll all look forward to welcoming the youngest member of our family—baby Mia.  Amazing grace!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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Tomorrow Joe and I plan to take our daughter, Judy, and her husband for lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant–Casa del Rio, in Waukesha.  Three weeks ago today Judy was in ICU following a cardiac arrest.

Yesterday Judy and her husband took a batch of yummy homemade cookies to the Waukesha Fire Department, as a “thank you” to the Rescue Squad instrumental in saving Judy’s life.  There it was discovered that Judy was without a heart beat for 15 minutes, not the 8 or 10 minutes which we had originally thought.

Fifteen minutes!  And now this woman is home reading books, welcoming company, and eager to get out and do things.  Mexican restaurants are among her favorite things to do, along with cruising local antique malls–which Judy and I expect to do together soon.  The Waukesha Rescue Squad was on the ball.  But only God can restore an individual who has checked out for 15 minutes!  It’s truly AMAZING GRACE!

In view of Judy’s experience, and the recent disaster in Haiti, I’m especially aware of how life can change drastically in minutes or even seconds.  This awareness is currently underscored by a novel I’m reading:  THE TREMBLING HILLS, by Phyllis A. Whitney–set in San Francisco in 1906.  The author devotes several well-researched chapters to the violent earthquake that wracked the San Francisco Bay area in April of that year.  Always, when I read historical novels or documentaries, I do my own research via GOOGLE–to assess what I’ve read in the novel, and also to learn more about the period and subject.

Here is a clip from http://earthquake.usgs.gov/regional/nca/1906:  “At almost precisely 5:12 a.m. local time, a foreshock occurred with sufficient force to be felt widely throughout the San Francisco Bay area. The great earthquake broke loose some 20 to 25 seconds later, with an epicenter near San Francisco.  Violent shocks punctuated the strong shaking, which lasted some 45 to 60 seconds. The earthquake was felt from southern Oregon to south of Los Angeles and inland as far as central Nevada.”  Bill Ellsworth 

The website lists the following 1906 California earthquake statistics:  lives lost–over 3,000; buildings destroyed–28,000; monetary loss–more than $400 million.  Much loss was due to fires that raged in the wake of the earthquake.

Only God knows what will occur next month, next week, tomorrow, or even a few seconds from now.  Again and again I think of the motto:  “Life is fragile.  Handle with prayer!”

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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