Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Here's what it's all about sans GB

This precious photo takes me back to 1962, when our daughters, Laura and Debbie, plus our son, Eric, reenacted an historical event which needs no explanation—as a part of our Christmas Eve celebration at home.

We had another daughter, Judy, somewhere around—and a real live baby, Karl, who for some reason was not available at the moment, so a doll took the place of Baby Jesus.¬† Obviously we overlooked the fact that we had no boy doll to fill in the gap. ūüôā

I think some of our children understood the Christmas message better than I did in 1962.  Children can be so receptive to the simplicity of it all!

I was reminded of this last evening, at our church’s annual special Christmas worship:¬† Scripture readings from the Genesis 3:15 first mention of our Messiah, prophecies concerning the Lord Jesus from Micah and Isaiah, the beautiful account of Jesus’s birth in the Gospel of Luke, and the joyous climax in the book of Revelation when God’s glorified people will be worshipping the Lamb Who was slain—KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.¬† All of the readings were interspersed with the singing of beloved Christmas Carols.¬† As a finale, we lit our individual candles and sang “Silent Night”.

It brought tears to my eyes, to think that people all over the world would be replicating this service of worship and adoration:¬† people of countless denominations, in many languages and in every possible setting—be it a cathedral, church, public venue, or at home either in safety and comfort or at risk of arrest, incarceration, and/or torture and possibly death.¬† Scriptures, carols, and candlelight.

When singing the carols, I thought of all of you who may be reading this blog—brothers and sisters in Christ in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, UK, Ireland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Portugal. Australia, New Zealand, India, Myanmar, Hong Kong, Nigeria, Gabon, South Africa, Afghanistan, and other places around the world.¬† All lighting candles and singing praises to the Lord Jesus Who is the Light of the World!

Today we are united in love, through His Holy Spirit.¬† Someday we will be united in person, praising our LORD OF LORDS, KING OF KINGS—thanks to His message of Salvation, Redemption, and Eternal Life:¬† a message so beautifully simple that even a receptive child can understand and believe it.

To all of you readers, wherever you are, I pray you will have a blessed Christmas!

Margaret L. Been — December 22, 2018 ¬†

Note:  I am adding Ghana, Russia, Turkey, and Switzerland to the above international list.  Welcome friends!!! 


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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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I can only smile when I think of an incredibly wonderful classic for all ages—HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, by Doctor Seuss.¬†
For the uninitiated, here is how the story went:¬† the Grinch stole the Christmas tree, the trimmings, the trappings, the toys, and I believe I recall that he even opened a refrigerator door and stole the “roast beast”.¬†¬†Then, on Christmas morning when the nasty creature thought he’d really pulled off a job he heard a sound from the village which he had plundered—“the sound of music”.¬†¬†
The entire village was singing.¬† It was CHRISTMAS, and nothing of consequence had been stolen—nor will it ever!¬†¬†Nothing could stop Christmas from coming!¬† As the Grinch listened from on top of a mountain (or whatever), something snapped.¬†¬†His heart grew (by I can’t exactly remember what dimensions)¬†until it all but popped.¬† Then the¬†Grinch returned everything he had stolen—all the material goods which are really not Christmas at all, simply our way of celebrating Christmas.¬† I recall the lines, “Maybe Christmas didn’t come from a store.¬† Maybe Christmas means a little bit more!” Mr. Grinch¬†realized that Christmas means¬†everything more!¬† And the story’s finale is beautiful.¬† The Grinch himself “carved the roast beast” for all¬†to enjoy!
I can remember my family Christmases as far back as 1937, when I was 4 years old.¬† I recall my parents taking me¬†out shopping in the late afternoon or early evening, when of course it was dark in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.¬† Those were pre-seatbelt days.¬† Being a kid who loved to be alone, and always tried to find secluded hiding spots, I sat on the floor of the back seat while the car radio beamed out, ‚ÄúIt came upon a midnight clear‚ÄĚ.¬†¬†I ¬†listened¬†to those words and wondered:¬† ‚ÄúWhat is a ‚Äėmidnight clear‚Äô?‚Ä̬† Unlike the Grinch who caught on within minutes, it took me 33 more years to actually understand and receive the meaning of the¬†midnight clear‚ÄĒthat I was a sinner who needed Salvation by the Only One who could provide Eternal Life for me!¬† But I recall that backseat floor event as an epiphany.¬† It marked the beginning of my spiritual consciousness and an albeit vague concept that indeed¬†there was something more‚ÄĒa free gift for¬†anyone who will confess their need for salvation and trust in Christ‚Äôs finished work on Calvary!¬†
Never before in my lifetime has there been such a blatant war on Christmas.¬† Atheists are posting disgusting signs in public places.¬† School music directors are being bullied and intimidated into omitting the name of Jesus in their “holiday” programs.
Chain store employees are mandated to answer¬†“Happy Holidays” in response to my very cheery and overly-audible “MERRY CHRISTMAS!”¬† (Actually, this last week one checkout clerk smiled and said “Merry Christmas” to me, in what was almost a whisper!¬† I had¬†a tragic sense that this woman was cowering in fear of reprisal!)
Depressing?¬† Yes,¬†but . . . !¬† But for the fact that I know and understand the meaning of the Midnight Clear, I would be depressed.¬† But because I know the Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God of the universe, as my very deeply personal Saviour, I am rejoicing—even as the darkness¬†thickens and spills out all over our country and world.
In a¬†sheep shed¬†2000 plus years ago, in a tiny country overwrought with darkness and oppression, the Saviour of the world was born—born to die on a Cross (the cruelest of Roman executions) and rise from His grave in¬†triumphant victory over all the powers of darkness and oppression then and forever more!¬† King of Kings and Lord of Lords.¬† Period!
The darker and more¬†depressing¬†our¬†nation may grow, the more we Christians¬†can look Heavenward and SING!¬† When mankind utterly fails, plummets to the bottom of the universe, and gives up in abject desperation—that is precisely when the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ can (and I believe WILL!)¬†flood our land with¬†His cleansing¬†rain of revival and rebirth.¬†
It is not too late for a widespread recognition of the “Midnight Clear” in all¬†its glorious¬†meaning!
Margaret L. Been, Christmas 2013

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Colour 1

Two doctors, our primary physician and an ENT specialist/surgeon, were concerned about the lump in my neck—concerned enough to set up a complete removal of the lump in the O.R. under a general anesthetic as soon as possible, which turned out to be on December 24th.¬† After that scheduling was in place, there was even more concern when these doctors learned that I also¬†had another lump in a thigh—and that I’d had a malignant melanoma removed in 2006. before we moved down to Southern Wisconsin.¬† The ENT surgeon agreed to remove the thigh lump as well.

With all of this concern, I had total peace.¬† Had the lumps been on one of my loved ones, I would have sorrowed and prayed for healing (if that were God’s will) as well as for the presence of the Lord Jesus to be especially manifested in that person’s life.¬† But I never pray for “healing” for my own (several!)¬†health issues, and I do not sorrow because of them.¬† My body as well as soul are committed to the Lord and whatever happens to me is completely in His hands.¬† I want His will in all events, and I know that His will is perfect.

Obviously, illness and¬†“death”¬†are¬†according to God’s plan—as well as thriving health and a continuation of life on earth—when “death”¬†means an entrance into the incredibly wonderful Eternity with the Lord.¬† In His Word God has said, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”¬† Psalm 116:15 (NKJV)¬†

Rather than praying for healing, I always pray that the Lord Jesus will be magnified and glorified in my life and my death—in health or illness.¬† I love life on this earth, and I certainly am not in a hurry to move on—yet that time has been established in Eternity Past.¬†¬†I desire to rejoice when it comes.

Meanwhile, I went through the surgical preparations which included a thorough physical, a CT scan, and a stress test (already scheduled for me due to another health issue).¬† Joe and I checked in for my surgery, and I anticipated getting the whole thing over.¬†¬†Another pre-surgery prayer which I’d consistently offered was this:¬† that I’d be able to attend the Christmas Eve service at our church.¬† But since my surgery was set for around noon on the 24th, I’d resigned myself to¬†probably being a bit “out of it” for the 5:00 p. m. church service.

Just before the IV was to go into my wrist, the surgeon stopped to¬†do a final inspection which would include marking the surgical site with his pen.¬† Perhaps you have already gleaned the miracle.¬† The surgeon probed, squeezed, and checked my neck for several minutes—and finally he concluded, “The lump is gone!”¬†

What a lot of laughter and rejoicing took place in the pre-op room.  Two nurses and an extra surgeon were on hand with Joe and me, and the mass concensus was that indeed this was a Christmas miracle!  Later I did attend the Christmas Eve service with Joe.  Friends were surprised to see me there, as they had been praying about the surgery.  Joe eagerly share the news about our miracle, and there was more rejoicing!

Miracle?¬† Yes, but isn’t all of life exactly that?¬† What is more of a miracle than the fact that God took on human flesh, and was born as a helpless baby in a humble stable?¬† What is more of a miracle than the blood which Christ shed for our sins, at Calvary—and the magnificent victory of the empty tomb.¬† We serve a Risen Lord, a Lord of miracles!

There is still a thigh lump to be removed.¬† Since that’s not in a dangerous place for surgery, the thigh lump will be removed in a normal clinic setting.¬† Yes, I have peace about that one as well.¬† No, I am not praying for it’s disappearance—or for healing in the event that it would be malignant.¬† Yes, my prayerful desire is that the Lord Jesus will be glorified in whatever lies ahead!¬† ūüôā¬†

Margaret L. Been, 2012

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Clean Palette 2

Except for¬†last minute baking, I’m ready for Christmas.¬† Tree lights are glowing.¬† Gift bags,¬†stuffed with presents¬†and labeled according to family groups, are neatly arranged around the tree.¬†¬†Our out-of-town family members’¬†gifts (to Colorado, Washington, and California) have arrived at their destinations.¬†¬†

With¬†approximately 46 family members, Christmas preparations are no small accomplishment.¬† But, by God’s grace, I’ve managed to do it¬†again.¬† Online shopping and the plethora of available gift cards¬†have made Christmas¬†traditions incredibly easy.¬†¬†And it’s fun¬†to shop throughout the year—finding gifts¬†at art fairs, antique shops,¬†and bookstores.¬† Some of the items have been¬†produced (painted, grown and dried,¬†knitted, etc.)¬†right here in our home.¬†¬†By December my storeroom is groaning with bounty, eagerly waiting to be wrapped or¬†bagged.¬† A¬†sense of¬†order reigns.

While savoring the process of preparation, I focus on the Greatest Gift of all: our Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation He has provided through His shed blood, for all who will believe.  God Incarnate died to pay our sin debt, and rose to give us Eternal Life.  Through the Abundant Life of His Indwelling Holy Spirit, we have peace in the midst of turbulent times.

As the earth turns . . . !  Now that may sound like a silly soap opera title.  But the revolving of the earth around the sun, season after season and year after year, is far more exciting than any human meladrama ever imagined!  The revolving of the earth is a God drama, and it never grows old. 

Some individuals are acutely sensitive to the turning of the earth and seasons, and I’m grateful to be one of those people.¬†¬†In our souls, we actually feel¬†the turning which¬†accompanies¬†seasonal¬†changes in the amount of daylight.¬† The turning¬†surges¬†in our blood and bones, and we respond with anticipation and joy!

Thus when we plummet headlong toward the darkest day (approximately December 21st this year),¬†those of us who turn with the earth anticipate the very next thing—an increase in daylight which will begin shortly after the solstice.¬† By Christmas Day, we’ll have gained one minute of daylight.¬† According to my charts, New Year’s Day will bring¬†an additional 4 minutes!¬† The sun rises later for awhile¬†after the solstice, but daylight compensates by increasing substantially at sunset.

This after-solstice turning is illustrated by the above photo:¬†a clean palette representing a new year.¬† Recently I got up in the night,¬†determined to make a fresh start at my¬†bridge table studio.¬† I really do believe in setting New Year’s goals, because (reasonable) goals¬†inspire me to¬†new adventures.¬†¬†

My art goals for 2013 are:¬† 1) slow down, deliberate more thoroughly, spend¬†days (or possibly weeks) on a single painting and 2) work bigger.¬† The sheet of ARCHES 140¬†lb. cold press paper pictured above is larger than I have successfully¬†negotiated so far.¬† I’ve tried working on a sheet this size, only to botch up part of it—resulting in cropping and matting smaller renderings from¬†my initial attempt.¬† Perhaps the goal of slowing down will facilitate a shift in the size of my “masterpieces”.

I know I’ll start in on the¬†sheet and clean palette before January 1st.¬† When I’ve learned to paint this size¬†to my satisfaction, I hope to graduate to¬†the American¬†standard full sheet of watercolor paper which is 22″ x 30″.¬† For that undertaking, I’ll¬†outgrow my bridge table and will need to clear off 2/3rds of our dining room table—leaving a commodious 1/3rd on which my husband can relax over his meals.*¬† (I’ll sandwich my miniscule servings into a space at the edge of my palette—while being careful not to crumb up¬†the work in process.)¬†

Human¬†goals notwithstanding, only God knows what¬†2013 will bring!¬† Someone recently posted the following comment on one of my blogs:¬† “I think Obama was re-elected so Americans will put their trust in God rather than politicians.”¬†

A wise statement!  Perhaps this will be the year when our nation returns to the premise on which we were founded.  Perhaps 2013 will be the year when our Lord returns for his own!  God is faithful and He will fulfill His plan as promised in Scripture, as the earth turns . . . !

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*Praise God, I have a husband who heartily applauds my makey lifestyle.¬† He has been apprised of my desire to paint big, and he’ll be interested¬†in whatever is going on at his dinner table!¬† I could set up an art camp in the middle of our living room, and he wouldn’t mind a bit.¬† But he does have his very own room for lounging in a LAZY-BOY, resting on a daybed if desired, viewing whatever sports are in season, and working at his own paper-inundated computer¬†desk.¬†

It comforts me to note that some geniuses (among them, reportedly,¬†Albert Einstein!) have had messy desks like Joe’s.¬† My desks are picky neat, so I’m¬†obviously not¬†very brilliant!¬† But I never mess with¬†Joe’s space, other than the occasional perfunctory swipe of the woolly duster on his TV screen and around the pictures (my art) on his walls.¬†¬†

Joe’s room is his domain—although he did buy a comfy chair on wheels which can be rolled out of a corner so that I can join him¬†to watch National Geographic lions, or whatever.¬† We are highly compatible!¬† ūüôā

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Our east-facing patio which opens directly off our living room is one of the greatest joys that Joe and I have ever experienced in a home.¬† We are sequestered in a¬†courtyard,¬†sheltered on three sides, and our neighborhood has been mosquito proofed.¬† Last summer I think I saw¬†three mosquitoes—and¬†so far this year, none.¬†¬†The daytime and early evening quiet¬†is punctuated by the sounds of trains and happy voices from the¬†nearby park.¬† In the¬†night we hear¬†trains and¬†wind, all of which we love.*¬†

The above-pictured fountain is a new feature on our patio.¬†¬†The water runs constantly, powered by a small pump which is hidden beneath the top pile of surrogate rocks—actually fiber glass.¬† Knowing that Joe and I currently live in challenged bodies, people have asked me how we set up the fountain.¬† For me, it was the proverbial piece of cake.¬† I transported the box of parts from van to patio on my 4-wheeler walker, and assembled the whole bit¬†as instructed by the clerk at the store.¬† An outdoor electrical outlet is conveniently situated in the brick facing, behind the bench next to the little girl and her ducks.¬† Voila!¬† Cascading water!

So enamored am I with this fountain that I get up at least once each night and slide the patio door open, so I can listen and make sure the water is still falling down those fiber glass rocks.

Along with watching and listening to the waterfall, what else do we do on our patio?¬† All the things that make one’s summer sing.¬† We drink iced tea,¬†slurp rapidly-melting ice cream sundaes,¬†gaze at¬†our patio garden, read, snooze, watch the clouds, visit with family members and friends, and snooze some more.¬† Sometimes I bring a spinning wheel outdoors, and spin a yarn.¬†

And I¬†knit.¬†¬†A die-hard knitter never breaks due to weather, regardless¬†of 90 degree heat.¬† Winters are long and often severe, and¬†we knitters¬†realize that warm garments constitute the bulk of our wardrobes.¬† What better time than summer, for “knitting up” the next winter?¬†¬†I’m¬†knitting hats—one for each of our great-grandchildren who presently number fifteen.¬† The hats will be Christmas gifts.¬† (Maybe the children are wondering why this Great Grammy is always staring at their heads!)¬†¬†

Below you can see my progress thus far—thirteen completed hats,¬†number fourteen on the needles, and number fifteen about to begin.¬† The boys’ hats have a plain ribbed edge, while the girls’ hats are embellished with a crocheted ruffle on the ribbing.¬† Hats¬†are easy¬†and¬†constitute a wonderful summer agenda,¬†in addition to watching the waterfall and all those other¬†summer patio delights!¬† ūüôā


Margaret L. Been, ©2011

*We’ve added coyotes to our list of thrilling local¬†sounds.¬† Last week, deep in the night, I heard a pack of yelping youngsters—just like we¬†frequently heard in our northern home.¬† Coyotes abound¬†in our county, and the wildlife sanctuary on the far side of our park affords¬†good habitat.¬† Our Dylan slept through the night¬†chorus.¬† When it’s his sleepy time, he couldn’t care less what his wild¬†cousins are doing.

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For the first time in 56 plus years of marriage, we’ve submitted¬†a “normal” claim¬†to our homeowner’s insurance company, for repairs in our frozen and water damaged guest house up north.¬† We’ve had the same insurance company for 5 decades, and although we’ve only made 2 previous claims we are well known to that company.¬† Here is why:

Back in the 1980s, we had an unseasonably warm Christmas Day in Wisconsin–and our visiting grandchildren raced outside to play after opening their presents.¬† The children begged their grandpa to let Jimmy out of his pen, to play with them.

Jimmy was a Wisconsin State Champion Corriedale ram, whom we had rented for a few weeks to cover our ewes.¬† He was a large, powerful animal and he loved people–especially children.¬† It was fun to see Jimmy follow the kids around, like a giant dog.

Our daughter, Debbie, and I were the only ones left indoors when we heard a shattering crash and felt a tremor which rocked our bi-level home.¬† Terrified, we¬†wondered if the house would collapse–and we expected to hear screams of pain.¬† Instead we heard a chorus of shouts and giggles.

While playing in the backyard with the children, Jimmy had spotted his¬†reflection in our¬†lower level patio glass door–and he thought it was another ram.¬† Jimmy charged at his reflection with all his magnificent heft, and splintered the heavy duty door into¬†thousands of fragments.

Since no people were hurt, I was¬†immediately concerned¬†about Jimmy.¬† Was he okay?¬† I didn’t want him to suffer, and moreover he was a valuable animal entrusted to our care.¬†¬†But Jimmy was just fine.¬† God knew what he was doing when he created rams’ skulls!¬† The men cleaned up the glass and fashioned a temporary door out of plywood.¬† We¬†decided that we were celebrating¬†the funniest Christmas ever.

Even funnier was the visit from our insurance agent–a new¬†recruit to the firm.¬† His eyes grew larger and larger as I related the incident of Jimmy and the patio door–until suddenly the agent went into hysterics.¬†

This agent had heard about our family the very first day he went to work for that company.¬† We were a legend there, because our only other claim had been 34 years previous when one of our sons–18 months old at the time–had accidentally shot his pee into a wall outlet.¬† The urine, containing ammonia, had triggered a small fire in the wall.¬† The fire department was involved,¬†and no serious damage occurred–just a few¬†holes in a mattress, caused by¬†sparks flying from the outlet.¬† The insurance company replaced the mattress.

We were told that¬†the pee incident was the funniest report this company had¬†ever had–and the company made a legend of it.¬† Every person who came to work¬†there heard about the little boy who had started a fire in an outlet.¬† And now, 34 years later, this same family was presenting a claim because a ram had destroyed a patio door.

Of course we got the new door.¬†¬†Jimmy went back to his owners after providing us with some nice lambs–and plenty of entertainment!¬† ūüôā

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

The above true story won 1st place in¬†SHEEP Magazine’s
“Funniest Sheep Story Contest”, and was published in that magazine.

The illustration is courtesy of Dover Copyright Free Clip Art.

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This is an unusual holiday season!¬† Normally by now I have stashed away the ornaments, tree, and other Christmas trimmings.¬† Not so, this year.¬† I don’t want to hurry the season along.¬† I’ve decided to leave the tree up for at least another¬†two weeks–and maybe four or more!

Many factors enter into this unprecendented decision:¬† the tree is pretty, and it fits nicely into our lifestyle without taking up too much space; the ornaments are lovely to look, and I want to prolong the visual experience; the tree is a Walmart special so it¬†won’t dry out and shed.¬†

But here is the BIG reason:¬† we¬†simply are not through celebrating.¬† We have more family members with whom we haven’t yet¬†been able to share Christmas in our own sweet¬†home.¬† Although we’ve¬†celebrated with¬†our loved ones at¬†other homes, I want everyone¬†to gather at OURS!¬†

Celebrations crowded into a¬†2 weeks’ time span can only make for exhaustion and¬† illness–especially for those with small children.¬†¬† As one wise¬†adult granddaughter put it, “Christmas gets too busy!¬† Next year we should start our Christmas gatherings at Halloween!”¬†

Maybe we won’t actually start celebrating Christmas in October, but¬†at this time¬†our family¬†will feature Christmas well into the new year.¬†¬†

*As my friend Sandy says, Joe and I don’t have a “family”–we have a “tribe”.¬† We¬†have 43 immediate family members (last count) including ourselves.¬†

Only 36 of us were able to be together over the last 2 weeks–yet that’s a sufficient number to warrant additional celebrations after¬†the Christmas weeks are over.¬†¬†(Come next August, we¬†pray that all 43 of us can join in celebrating our granddaughter Nicole’s wedding!)¬†

Now¬†our Christmas¬†tree continues to warm our hearts.¬† And I intend to¬†keep the festive spirit blooming–as others¬†will be joining us for dinner, music, games, and sharing.¬†

Sometime in the next few weeks¬†the cardinal will “cheer, cheer, cheer” and the mourning dove will “whoo-whooo-whoooo”.¬† When that happens,¬†I’ll know it’s finally time to lovingly tuck away our Christmas decorations for another year.¬† Then¬†we’ll begin celebrating SPRING!

Meanwhile, it’s still Christmas!¬†

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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. . . it’s CHRISTMAS!¬†

This morning I read the Airstream Communications weather report:¬† “Winter storm, snow batters west,¬†heading east.”

I ache for travelers, as I recall countless¬†snow filled Christmas holidays when we were on the road or waiting for loved ones at airports.¬†¬†My husband and I have driven on¬†treacherous highways¬†and lingered for hours in¬†midnight airports,¬†clogged due to delayed or cancelled flights.¬† Indeed, it¬†seems¬†like an unwritten law that planes from Denver to Milwaukee will be delayed for hours around Christmas–and invariably at night!¬†

Yet no matter what the weather, it’s Christmas!

We have experienced some Christmas¬†holidays¬†which were far from “merry”–times shadowed by the death of a family member, or the rebellion of a loved one.¬†¬†And¬†there were¬†celebrations where I went through¬†all the festive motions with a¬†broken heart due to fractured relationships!

Yet no matter what our circumstances,¬†it’s¬†Christmas!

Recently we attended a preschool Christmas program held at a huge church, once known for upholding the Gospel and God’s Word.¬† The program featured a manger scene with all the main players entering in their turn.¬† When it was time for the wise men to join the group, they were announced as “wise people”.¬†

Evidently it’s no longer “correct” to refer to wise men–even though the Biblical travellers (who¬†didn’t actually arrive on the scene¬†until about 2 years after Jesus’s birth)¬†were historical figures, and men! ¬†

Then¬†the adult narrator of the program talked about “Jesus”, but I’m not sure which Jesus he meant.¬† He¬†spoke of a Jesus who wants to come into our hearts¬†“so that¬†we’ll know how much we are loved by God”.¬†

Well, good, and true!¬† But the life changing message of¬†the Christian faith, the very core of the Gospel,¬†was omitted.¬† Christmas is the prelude to Calvary and Christ’s resurrection.¬†¬†However the narrator never mentioned¬†mankind’s innate sin condition and our desperate need for salvation.¬† The¬†children’s program presented a bloodless gospel,¬†in other words no good news at all!¬†

Yet¬†no matter what the world says or does in¬†its attempt to¬†obscure¬†or distort God’s truth, it’s Christmas!¬† Our Lord has come.¬† He is risen!¬†¬†He will come again as promised.¬†

‚ÄúFor unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David‚Äôs throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.‚ÄĚ Isaiah 9:6-7

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved
Note:¬† Now it’s 12/27, and I’ve read the ominous news of events on the plane arriving from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day.¬†
Our daughter, Martina, travels from Nigeria to the U.S. via Amsterdam–sometimes coming through Detroit.¬† (This Christmas, Martina is on a safari in Kenya.)
Here is the sobering bottom line:  one never knows!  But Christmas is still Christmas!   MLB

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We plan, we shop, we wrap, we bake, we greet our guests wreathed in smiles–and all of this is good, providing we are blessed with boundless energy.¬† But realistically speaking, how many of us have boundless energy?¬† ¬†¬†

Like everything else on this earth, human energy has bounds.¬† I write¬†a lot about the joy of hospitality and giving, but please note this:¬† I’ve learned that all my hospitality and giving must be based on my limits–those¬†human limitations¬†ordained by the Lord who made me¬†to be whom I am!¬†

Before my energy dwindles to crisis level, before my physical health is compromised, my “hospitality and giving” must be suspended.¬† I must respect¬†my God-ordained limits.¬† My ears must be closed to the outside voices–those¬†“shoulds” and “pleas” of “will you, would you, can you?”

In view of accepting human limitations of health and energy, my mouth must also be closed:  I must never think I need to apologize.

Easy to say at my time of life, when less is expected of me than in past years!¬† Not so easy for¬†mothers with young children; I know because I was there.¬† Forty¬†years passed between the birth of our 1st child and the day when our¬†6th child went off to college.¬†¬†Many times during those 40 years, especially at Christmas, I had to say “No more!”¬† “Enough!”

Even now, in my 7th decade, reverberations linger and expectations (normally imagined rather than actual) threaten to cloud my view of Christmas.¬† After all, isn’t it more blessed to give than receive?¬†

The answer is an unequivocable “NO!”¬† The greatest blessing of all is to receive what only God can give–the gift of salvation through the blood of Christ.¬† In shedding His blood on Calvary’s cross, our Lord¬†completed¬†the only finished work ever accomplished on earth:¬† that perfect work of reconciling sinful man to¬†an all-righteous God.

I plan and shop, wrap and bake, and entertain–but am I really finished?¬† Will I ever be finished?¬† Can I ever be a boundless giver?¬† Can I ever outgive God?¬† Of course not!¬† I am needy.¬† We are all needy, only able to¬†produce in proportion¬†to whatever physical and emotional stamina we’ve been given.¬†

What a¬†freedom, what a “break through” to realize that–in the eternal scheme of things–I can only receive, with joy and thanksgiving, from the One Who has given ALL!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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