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Posts Tagged ‘Family Matters’

Hymnbook

All of the arts in some way reflect human culture, but perhaps the mirror of music is outstanding.  Most every person on earth is aware of some kind of music, either as a participator, an appreciator, or simply an unthinking “bystander” who takes the current state of the musical art for granted.

Centuries of music are layered into the human experience, and the layers I love are often those which represent memories—times of life I delight in recalling and preserving over the decades.  Such is the case of the Gospel hymns which my Grandfather Longenecker played nearly every day on his violin.

And Chopin!  I grew up in a gracious home where Chopin’s Nocturnes and Waltzes resounded from room to room, thanks to my beautiful mother who was a classical pianist.  Today I play some of these.  Although I lack Mom’s highly trained skill, my passion and determination to play Chopin’s music is boundless and he is the composer whom I love the most.

Recently I met a new-to-me composer, Erik Satie—a contemporary of another of my favorites, Debussy.  I don’t know why I’d never met Satie before—except that my parents disliked discord of any sort.  I had to discover and fall in love with composers such as Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Mahler on my own.  Satie has some uniquely discordant moments, so Mom might have considered him to be a bit off.

But Mom would have loved Erik Satie’s waltzes.  These poignantly exquisite melodies speak volumes to me of the era in which I grew up, a world which some individuals today may never even know existed—that tea-garden world of formal dances and gentility.  That time in history when boys and men still rose attentively when girls or women entered a room—a time of family dinners with cloth napkins and gracious apparel and behavior, formally set dinner tables where girls and women were carefully seated at the dinner table by boys and men.

In my home of origin, the grace and manners prevailed not only at the dinner table but throughout the days and years.  People respected other people enough to dress and look their best, with more slipshod attire appropriate only for fishing, gardening, and heavy or messy work projects.  People respected other people enough to really listen to them, rather than sit on the edge of their chairs waiting for a chance to barge back in and seize control of the conversation.

Along with Chopin, ongoing considerate conversation and a lot of laughter were the sounds of my childhood.  I was rather shocked when, as an young adult, I came to realize that some humans frequently yelled at occasions other than sporting events—and that I, myself, was unfortunately very capable of a yell.

In fact, I’d heard in-home yelling only one time in all my growing-up years:  when my UW-Madison student older sister, Ardis, brought home a Communist boyfriend named Benny.  Benny told my father that there would be a revolution in the USA, and that he—Benny—would have to assassinate his industrialist father if said father opposed the revolution.

My father YELLED!  (As a 9 year-old who regularly fed on mystery stories and spy movies, I found the yelling to be quite exciting!)

Human nature has not changed over the centuries; we are born flawed and in need of Christ’s redemption.  But outward human behavior—certainly in the USA—has changed in my lifetime of only 83 years!  And I truly believe that music heard and absorbed again and again does make inroads—whether benign or malignant—into the human psyche.  How grateful I am, for Gospel hymns, Chopin, and Eric Satie!  And the power of music, to mirror our memories and human values.

Margaret L. Been  —  June 20th, 2017

Note:  Sixty-four years ago today, I married the most precious husband on earth; and my love for Joe Been will never stop growing.  🙂

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It’s All about LIFE!

beautiful silly Dilly

 

beautiful wool 2.JPG

More SW

More G

More Fun

More FA

Leo again again again again again

Now more than ever before, we need to focus on LIFE.  As a FOX NEWS follower, I pray constantly to refuse letting the news depress or stress me!  Much of the news is so horrible, that it simply must be a matter of prayer.

Much of the news is all about death:  death by ISIS; the death of our American culture due to Godless immoral laws and deluded government leaders; and the spiritual death of a self-serving, self-centered, humanistic and materialistic worldview which has pervaded every area of American life from schools and universities to churches which once glorified God but no longer honor Him or His Word.

Without the Lord Jesus Christ—who took our sin to the Cross, suffered a cruel death for us, rose to conquer death, and LIVES to share His eternal LIFE with any and all who will trust in Him—I would certainly be depressed and stressed!

But I know that God is in control.  He is fulfilling His plan from eternity past:  “Thy will be done on earth as well as in Heaven.”  In the midst of this crazy world, His LIFE prevails and He will return to reign and bring justice to earth.

In our home, Joe and I have two identical hymnbooks.  Often, especially on Sundays, I play the beloved old Gospel hymns on the piano and Joe sings along with his hymnal.  What a joy this is!

We always include the hymn “Wonderful Words of Life”, by P. P. Bliss.  Along with its upbeat, catchy melody this song takes me back many years to when I sang in a junior choir as a child.  I recall continually bugging the director by begging her for us to sing “Wonderful Words of Life.”  The director tried to explain that we couldn’t sing the same song every Sunday and there were other good hymns to share.

But I still remember the joy I experienced when my wish was granted and our little choir belted out:  “Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life.  Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life . . . .”

Yes, it is all about LIFE!

music 2

Margaret L. Been — July 31st, 2016

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Grandpa Longenecker and his racer

The above racing team consists of my paternal grandfather, George Washington Longenecker (1864-1951) and one of his American Standardbreds.  Grandpa George may be considered an obscure poet; but he was far from obscure in Neillsville, Wisconsin where he served for decades as a preacher in the 1st Congregational Church.

Along with “pastoring” (actually Congregational preachers* are called “Reverend” rather than “Pastor”), Grandpa George raised American Standardbreds and competed in sulky races at local fairs.  This activity raised a few legalistic eyebrows in the small Wisconsin community—probably due to the possibility of spectators gambling on the races.  But Grandpa’s recreational passions involved horses and poetry, not money.

Having made poems ever since I can recall and pursued a lifelong study of poetry as fine art, I need to mention that most literary poetry aficionados would consider my grandfather’s verses to be doggerel.  Although Grandpa was raised on classical literature, his course of study was theology—not the fine arts.  Like many Congregational Reverends in his era, he graduated from Ohio’s Oberlin Seminary.

Grandpa George loved the Lord Scripturally, with all his heart and mind.  His poems reflect his love, and that’s good enough for me!  My grandfather also loved music, specifically the great hymns of the Christian faith which he played on his violin.  Much of Grandpa’s poetry contains the cadence and meter of a hymn.

In 1947 Grandpa self-published a book of his work titled SUNSET POEMS—named after my grandparents’ home, “Sunset Point”, on a bluff overlooking Wisconsin’s beautiful Black River.  Here is one of the poems:

Grandpa's Poem

George W. Longenecker

No feature concerning Grandpa George would be complete apart from mention of his beloved life partner, Emma Rosina Ernst Longenecker (1866-1952), my grandmother.  In past blog entries I have celebrated Grandma Rose who was known for her abundant garden produce, homemade bread, and frequent litters of kittens generously shared with people around town.

Here is Grandma Rose when she was a young, Victorian era girl:

Grandma Rose

*A contemporary novel, GILEAD by Marilynne Robinson, centers on three generations of small town Congregational Reverends from the Civil War to Mid-20th Century.  I was riveted to this book and want to read it again, as it reflects my roots.  Potentially classic, GILEAD is a quietly-powerful piece of fiction.  Marilynne Robinson’s storytelling gift is poignantly beautiful.  Two more of her novels, HOME and LILA, form a trilogy with GILEAD.

Margaret L. Been — April 6th, 2016

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January Sunrise

On the third Sunday in January forty-five years ago, I was catapulted into God’s family by believing in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ—who was crucified for our sin and resurrected to give to anyone who will believe, His everlasting LIFE!

That January day is etched in my heart and head; never before had the sun been so bright and the snow so pristine white.  In the morning I went to a new-to-me church where I heard the Gospel preached.  I had heard God’s truth on other occasions, without response.  But on that day forty-five years ago, I was ready to believe.  It had to be true; there was no other answer to life!

As I walked into the church service on that Sunday, the congregation was singing a hymn—and the sound of that singing shocked me.  I’d attended church services in “quiet” Protestant churches all my life.  Never before had I heard hymns sung the way that congregation was singing.  Suddenly it occurred to me:  these people really mean what they are singing!

I believe the hymn singing marked the beginning of my new birth process that day.  When the Gospel message was preached, everything clicked.  It was true, and I knew it.  I was a sinner.  I needed salvation, and the Lord Jesus is real.  He died and rose for me, and now I belonged to Him.  I could sing the hymns, and really mean what I was singing.

How I love the old Gospel hymns.  Thankfully, the church where I now attend has not discarded the old favorites, although we do have contemporary praise music as well.  But there is nothing like the hymns, because so many of them teach as they sing—reinforcing the truths of Scripture, implanting these truths in our minds, challenging, encouraging, comforting us with every line.

Just a few of my favorites are:  “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” (Joseph Scriven and Charles C. Converse), “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” (Helen Howarth Lemmel), and of course John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” which, according to my wishes and depending on God’s will, is scheduled to be played by a bagpiper in kilts at my Going Home Celebration;  I have my Celtic heritage to thank for that desire.

My paternal grandfather was a Congregational preacher who loved the Lord Jesus with all his might.  I know that my grandparents’ witness and prayers were among the many factors which God used to draw me to Himself.  Grandpa Longenecker loved hymns.  In his last years on earth he played through his hymnbook on his violin, nearly every day.

I can still picture Grandpa fiddling away.  Sometimes he would pause, rest his violin on his knee, and preach at me about the coming glory when he would be face to face with the Lord.  At the time, I was a clueless teen-ager thinking about the coming high-school dance (or my coming violin recital) rather than the Lord.

But the shine on Grandpa’s face was not lost to me.  His face literally glowed when he talked about the Lord—and his snappy, deep brown eyes sparkled.  If I’d been into musing beyond dances and recitals in those days, I might have wondered about the shine and the sparkle!  To me he was just “Grandpa”.  But how I loved him!

Now, like Grandpa Longenecker, I play through my hymnal frequently—enjoying my favorites and occasionally trying a selection which is new to me.  But unlike Grandpa, I play the hymns on my piano.  A broken left arm and dislocated wrist curtailed my violin playing back in the 1990s—after I’d finally begun to retrieve some of the technical skills I’d put in storage for decades of raising a family and doing other things.  Meanwhile, I never put music per se in storage;  I’d kept right on singing and playing my piano through the years.

Today, at age eighty two, I simply do not sing like I once did—unless you call a one-octave tenor bass range “singing”.  At least you can call it a “joyful noise”.  But I can play my piano, and play I do.  It’s great therapy for the soul, as well as for arthritic fingers.  “Great is Thy Faithfulness!”

And often while playing I recall that cold Sunday many years ago, when I first heard hymns sung as if the singers really meant it.  The power of the hymn!

Hymnbook

Margaret L. Been — January 13, 2016

NOTE:  The above sunrise photo was taken in our front yard this very morning.  Too beautiful for words.  Fortunately I grabbed my I-Pad immediately and took pictures of the sunrise over our park.  Five minutes later, the colors had disappeared into normal morning daylight.  Lovely, but not so spectacular as those first moments of dawn.

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Who can deny that some of life’s most memorable events are spontaneous—those unplanned occasions which we would not have dreamed up in a million years?  Such was a recent serendipitous party in our home, with our granddaughter Leah and her four children.

They dropped in at 3:45 p. m. on the way home after Leah had gathered up the older children at school, to pick up (now 10 year old) Olivia’s birthday gift.  There was no question in my mind, that the visit would be short.  Leah puts in long hours with her family, with helping out at the children’s school—plus riding shotgun on her very endearing but rambunctious 3 year old, Carter.  Still ahead in a long day for this sweet family was a 25 minute ride home, dinner for the children and Daddy Jeff who would soon be at home waiting, and then all the evening rituals—homework, baths, bedtime stories, etc.  (After all these years, I still remember when!)

Olivia’s birthday gift was a St. Vinnee’s mint condition treasure:  a cookbook with 175 recipes for cookies made with cake mixes.  How fun for a 10 year old girl!  And, as it turned out, fun for an 83 year old great-grandpa—my Joe!

Joe was almost as enthusiastic about the cook book as Olivia was.  Right there on the spot he announced, “We are going to make peanut butter cookies NOW!  Although not a gambling woman, I would safely put money on the hunch that Leah’s reaction and mine were in sync.  Yikes!  Late in the day.  Tired.  And, in the beautiful words of poet Robert Frost, “. . . miles to go before I sleep.”

But both Leah and I realized that a spur of the moment cookie party would provide a signature memory for the children—and adults as well.  So into the kitchen went Joe, Olivia, and younger sister, Brynn (in red) who likes to be in the center of any action.

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Over the years, Joe has focused on being a wonderful Husband, Dad, Grandpa, and now Great-Grandpa.  He has cared for us diligently and lovingly.  While he has worked hard at bread-earning, I naturally have tended the affairs of the kitchen.  Joe is very adept at some kitchen jobs.  He makes coffee, measures the carbs in his breakfast cereal (he is diabetic so carbs matter), makes wonderful peanut butter and jam sandwiches, mixes a fantastic soy milk chai for me every night, micro-waves soup or left-over dinners, and sometimes creates yummy Swedish meatballs.

But baking?  The mad search for utensils amid requests of “Where’s this, where’s that?” was too humorous.  We no longer have a gargantuan Kitchen Aid mixer on the counter; all cakes are mixed with a 5-speed hand blender which hides in a  round-about cupboard between assignments.  All dry ingredients live in decorative tins scattered hither and thither; I automatically memorize the contents by the designs on the tins—but since Joe normally has no need for stowed dry ingredients, he has not learned the code.

Thus Joe looked to the dining room table for the small amount of sugar needed in the recipe.  I just happened to wander into the kitchen a split second before he dumped Sweet and Low into the mix—thinking it was real sugar.  I have Sweet and Low in a sugar bowl on our table, for our daughter Judy’s coffee.  How was Joe supposed to know it wasn’t the real thing?

Understandably Joe had not thought of the fact that cookies take a bit of time to prepare, given the rolling of balls—and in the peanut butter cookie instance, criss-crossing with a fork.  Upon my mentioning that the old, battle-seasoned cookie sheets would need a covering of oil, I again forayed into the kitchen just as a pan of cookies was oven-ready—and the raw cookies were swimming in olive oil.

Joe is amazingly proficient at cleaning up as he goes; for this reason I never shudder when he does KP.  In college he earned his meals as a “Pot and Pan” boy, and to this day he loves the challenge of washing up.

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While history was being made in the kitchen, Leah and the boys—Lucas and Carter—played a game at the living room coffee table.

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Well, no one can make cookies without immediately testing them to make sure they are “fit to eat”.  So we are right back to the first photo:

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The coffee table was cleared for a party with cookies and milk.  Delicious!  And thanks to a wonderfully imaginative Great-Grandpa, a good time was had by all.  Joe has always been loaded for fun.  That’s one of the countless reasons why I love him!

Serendipity!

Margaret L. Been, February 2015

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