Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Hello, God, it’s me March 1, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:02 AM
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NEVER UNDERESTIMATE the power of prayer. Never.

Prayer provides a powerful personal portal to God. Consider that connection as immediate as a text message or a phone call away.

The thing about God, you won’t get his voice mail. He’s always listening. Twenty-four seven. He is, after all, our heavenly Father. And what parent wouldn’t love to hear from his/her child on a daily basis? Love works that way.

Yet, just like an earthly father, God doesn’t always give us what we want. Prayer doesn’t work that way. God responds in ways that he deems best. He really is a lot smarter than us.

Oftentimes that’s hard for someone like me, who desires to be in control and possesses minimal patience, to accept. I want the issue resolved yesterday, the direction given immediately, the prayer answered right now exactly as I prayed it.

I imagine God wonders sometimes if I will ever learn. I’m trying, God.

Prayer necklace

Recently I began carrying a medallion in my pocket to remind me of the need to always be prayerful. It’s really a necklace, minus the chain, a piece of jewelry I received during my childhood. I don’t recall who gifted this to me, but I’ve had it for nearly 50 years.

On the front side is an image of praying hands, on the back this inspirational prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

Prayer necklace back

You likely know this as the Serenity Prayer adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous. I am not an alcoholic. But I am in need of serenity in my life. I tend to worry and stress about issues. Ask my husband.

I recognize that flaw. So this silver dollar sized medallion slipped inside my jean pocket reminds me daily that God is in control. This doesn’t mean I should sit idly and do nothing about certain situations. God doesn’t expect that. But rather, he needs me to understand that he is the one walking beside me through my days.

Oftentimes these days, I find myself sliding my right hand into my pocket, my fingertips brushing the outline of those prayerful hands, the imprint of the raised letters. A sense of peace fills me as my lips whisper a silent prayer.

Another window shows Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Even Jesus prayed, here in the Garden of Gethsemane. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

DEAR READERS, please join me today in praying for the families and friends of three Carleton College students who died in a car crash Friday afternoon at Minnesota Highway 3 and Dakota County Road 47 just outside of Northfield, three miles from campus.

The trio were killed and two other students seriously injured when their car apparently went out of control on an icy and snowy roadway and was broadsided by a semi, according to news reports.

Dead are James Adams of St. Paul, Minnesota; Michael Goodgame of Westport, Connecticut; and Paxton Harvieux of Stillwater, Minnesota. Hospitalized in stable condition in the Twin Cities are Conor Eckert of Seattle, Washington, and Will Sparks of Evanston, Illinois.

I cannot imagine the depth of grief felt by the families, friends, the Carleton College community and the community of Northfield.

A vigil is being held at 11 a.m. today at Skinner Memorial Chapel on the college campus with counseling staff and chaplains available. (Click here to read a message from the president and dean of students at Carleton.)

Please pray for peace, comfort and healing. Prayer provides a powerful personal portal to God. At all times, in all circumstances.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

“Life can change in an instant”: A Minnesota family in need January 10, 2013

IT IS THE MOMENT we all fear—the late night phone call, the unexpected knock on the door.

For Nina Hedin, a young mother from Glencoe whom I highlighted in a magazine feature about 10 Minnesota bloggers, fear became reality on Saturday afternoon. Her husband, Tom, was seriously injured in a snowmobile accident.

Photo of Nina Hedin published in Minnesota Moments, winter 2012 issue.

I got to know Nina about a year ago, when she was among 10 Minnesota bloggers highlighted in a feature I wrote for Minnesota Moments magazine. This photo of Nina published in that winter 2012 story.

Here then, in Nina’s words, is the beginning of her family’s new reality:

I’ve told this story so many times over the last two days that the words are flying out of my fingers and onto this computer faster than I am thinking them.

Saturday, January 5, Tom left after lunch to ride snowmobile a little bit; he was going to visit a friend just outside of town. Around 3 pm he had still not returned and he had not sent any messages or called. This was VERY unusual for Tom and I was worried. Normally he’ll be out for 30-45 minutes and always, ALWAYS sends me random text messages.

I called friends that Tom sometimes rides with to ask if he had been by.

I hopped online to see if he used our check card anywhere; maybe he stopped for something to eat or there would be another clue.

At 4:30 pm there was a loud knock at the door. My stomach dropped. I knew it would not be good. I knew it. The county sheriff told me that Tom was in an accident and was to be airlifted to HCMC.

Fear, panic, adrenaline…

Nina and Tom Hedin with Jack and June.

Nina and Tom Hedin with Jack and June.

This, dear readers, breaks my heart. Even though I’ve never met Nina or her family, I remained connected to Nina after writing that initial magazine feature (which you can read by clicking here). I continued reading her The Adventures of Artsy Nina blog and we exchanged occasional emails. She is a vivacious, creative (she also runs two Etsy shops, Camp Honeybelle and Nina Baran Upcycled Vintage Jewelry)  and caring individual with a delightful sense of humor.

So when the call went out to Nina’s circle of blogging friends to share the Hedins’ story, I didn’t even have to consider. Helping someone in need, especially a friend, is the right thing to do. And the family needs assistance, both financially and in prayer.

Blogging about an evening out with her husband in early December, Nina wrote:  "We held hands and ran the short block home through the first snow fall of the season, laughing and enjoying the end of a good night."

Blogging about an evening out with her husband in early December, Nina wrote: “We held hands and ran the short block home through the first snow fall of the season, laughing and enjoying the end of a good night.”

Here again, in Nina’s words, are the injuries her beloved Tom suffered:

Injuries listed from top to bottom; brain hemorrhage and complications, fractured orbital (eye) socket, facial lacerations, fractured T6 vertebrae, broken and dislocated right wrist, broken left elbow and fractured upper arm, left knee cap broken with severed tendon and puncture wound, right knee ligament injury.

He faces a long, hard road to recovery. As of yet we are unsure of the extent of damage to the brain, and the recovery time/therapy needed for his limbs and back will take months.

A recent photo of Tom with Jack and June.

A recent photo of Tom with Jack and June.

You can only imagine the insurmountable medical bills this couple in their early 30s, with two children, Jack, 3, and seven-month-old June, will face. An online “Help for Tom Hedin” account has been set up at GiveForward to assist the family with mounting medical and day-to-day expenses. The goal is to raise $100,000 by March 9.

Please consider offering your financial support by clicking here. Together we can make a difference and ease some of this family’s financial worries. Perhaps your friends, church group, family, co-workers, card club, coffee group, etc., can join efforts to collect monies for the Hedins. Every dollar, whether ten or 500, helps.

Because Tom has been with his current employer for only six months, he does not qualify for benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act. He has been his family’s main source of financial support.

Please also pray for the Hedin family and their medical team. I am a firm believer in the power of prayer.

Tom with Jack and June at Halloween.

Tom with Jack and June at Halloween.

In closing, let’s listen to Nina one last time with this excerpt from her January 8 blog post, “Life Can Change in an Instant”:

It’s a cliche. You hear it all the time, think it some of the time, but you don’t really get it until something happens to you and yours.

Life as you know it can change in an instant.

Hug your kids, your husband, your mom, your dad, your neighbor, your friend. You never, ever know what that next moment might bring.

TO OFFER WORDS of encouragement and support and/or to read the latest updates on Tom’s condition, visit his CaringBridge website by clicking here.

NINA’S BLOGGER CIRCLE of friends is already posting her family’s story. Click here to read a post by Montana resident and former Minnesotan Bernie at One Mixed Bag.

Then click here to read a post by Beth Ann from Iowa at It’s Just Life. For every comment posted to her blog during January and February, Beth Ann is donating 50 cents to the Hedin family for medical expenses. This is part of Beth Ann’s ongoing “Comments for a Cause” campaign. So simply by commenting on any of Beth Ann’s posts during the next two months, you will be helping Tom, Nina, Jack and June.

© Text and photos copyright of Audrey Kletscher Helbling and Nina Hedin
Photos courtesy of Nina Hedin

 

My prayer for our country on election day 2012 November 6, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:18 AM
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A message posted on the McNeilus Steel, Inc., building along U.S. Highway 14, Dodge Center, Minnesota. On the company’s website, the family makes this statement: “The McNeilus family acknowledges the providence of God in continued success. We plan to remain privately owned, continue our growth, and provide job security to those who work for us.”

ON THIS TUESDAY, Election Day in the United States of America, I pray that God will bless our great nation and guide those whom we elect.

Exercise your freedom.

Vote.

Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Praying for the tornado survivors March 6, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:19 PM
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ON SUNDAY I ATTENDED morning worship services at Peace Lutheran Church in Echo, the sister congregation of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Vesta, the congregation of my youth.

St. John’s members have been worshipping at Peace since a July 1, 2011, series of downbursts with wind speeds of 90 – 100 mph ripped the south roof from the sanctuary.

St. John's, hours after the July 1 storm tore through Vesta. Photo courtesy of Brian Kletscher.

Just to the north, west and east in this region of southwestern Minnesota, EF-1 tornadoes with winds of 95 – 105 mph wreaked havoc on farms and on the neighboring community of Belview.

Eight months later, St. John’s is still in the process of rebuilding.

Eight months after the storm, St. John's is still under construction with a new addition to the right. Congregants had hoped to be back in the church by Easter, but that likely will not happen until May.

The narthex was expanded and a pastor's office and handicapped accessible bathroom were added on the southwest side of the church built in 1974. This photo and the one above were taken on Saturday.

Despite the inconvenience of driving additional miles to worship and the temporary loss of their church home, St. John’s members realize the situation could have been so much worse. No lives were lost in the storms and their church could be salvaged.

This we—visitors and members of the two sister congregations—understood as we bowed our heads to pray for the survivors of the recent deadly tornadoes.

© Copyright 2012 by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Hurting hearts in need of prayer September 21, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:30 AM
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WHAT DO YOU SAY? What do you say? What do you say to your sister-in-law who has just learned that her father has died in a single-vehicle accident in southwestern Minnesota?

What do you say when your heart hurts, when all you can do is cry and you need to console someone who is hurting more than you?

What do you say?

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry… I love you.”

As your voice breaks and the tears fall and there is silence on the other end of the phone line, you pull yourself together. Not because you can, but because you must. You want your sister-in-law to hear you speak, to feel your love embracing her, in your words, on the worst day of her life.

This was my Tuesday.

First came the phone call early Tuesday morning from my other sister-in-law with the news which sent me reeling, my heart racing, the tears flowing in a river of grief.

“… dad was killed in a car accident last night…”

Sketchy details that don’t matter because they won’t bring him back—the husband, the father, the grandfather, the brother, the uncle, the man loved by so many.

It is my duty to inform three of my younger siblings, my mom… What do I say? How can I tell them?

So I phone my husband first, barely able to still my trembling fingers to punch the numbers into my cell phone. I can hardly get the words out, to tell him the awful, awful news. He offers to call my family. But I tell him, “No, I can do this.”

And I do. First my brother, who is on vacation and whom I am unable to reach. In my voice message I instruct him to call me, that it is important.

Then I speak to my sister, who will contact my other sister.

I call my eldest daughter, leave a message with the other daughter. My son will get the news when he arrives home from school.

And then I must tell my mom. But I don’t want her to be alone, so I call my aunt—her neighbor—to deliver the news in person. I phone my mom 10 minutes later, after my aunt has arrived, and my grief breaks through again in words overwhelmed with emotion.

Later my aunt phones to tell me we reached my mom just in time, before a friend called with the news of Steve’s death. In a small town, word travels quickly.

And so my Tuesday ebbed and flowed with grief in more than a dozen phone calls made and fielded. The message left with my youngest brother, mourning the tragic death of his father-in-law. The husband and father trying to be strong for his wife and their children.

I cry for my young nephew and my teenage niece and their mom and her mom and my youngest brother. All of them. A family hurting.

And then when I can calm myself, if but for a moment, I bow my head in prayer, asking for God’s comfort and peace to bless this grieving family.

It is all my sister-in-law has asked of me—to pray.

And now I am asking you. Please pray.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Oh, blessed summer eve on a Minnesota farm June 30, 2011

If you look closely, you will see the farm dog in front of the 1915 farmhouse to which a machine shed was added.

WIDE SWATHS OF SHADOWS sliced across the farmyard as the sun edged toward the horizon on a whisper of a summer night.

The old farm dog, tethered to a chain next to the 1915 farmhouse-turned-granary-turned storage shed, rose from his resting place on a paw-worn patch of grass. Water and food bowls rested on the single cement step nearby, within his reach.

The dog didn’t bark, didn’t lunge, just let me be as I moved into his territory. He stood, paced and then eased onto his haunches, acknowledging my non-threatening presence as I dropped to one knee to view the world from his perspective.

I wanted only to photograph this guardian of the farm on a summer evening as absolutely picture-perfect as any day you’ll get in Minnesota. Still. Serene. Colors sharp like new crayons. Sunlight, eye-blinding bright to the west, on the other side of the barn, outside the dogs’ reach.

This June evening, for these few hours, this watchdog could not roam the farmyard. He could only eye the visitors seated across the gravel drive at a picnic table. Friends gathered for pizza and lemonade sweetened with fresh strawberries and then more berries atop angel food cake and ice cream topped off with whipped cream.

Laughter punctuated conversation. Then bibles flipped open to words written upon pages thin as butterfly wings. The shrill call of a cardinal pierced the silence between ideas shared and scripture read.

Then, as the farm dog watched, the friends bowed their heads in a prayer of thanksgiving—gratitude to God for protecting the owners of this farm from serious injury in a motor vehicle accident the previous day. A rear-end collision. Truck spinning, tipping onto its side along a Minnesota highway. Glass in teeth and waistbands and hair.

None of this the guard dog knew on this most blessed of summer evenings on a Minnesota farm.

TODAY, JUNE 30, has been designated as “Maroon Day” in Minnesota, historically the deadliest day on our state’s roadways. Since 2000, more fatal crashes have occurred on this final day of June, leading into the July Fourth holiday, than on any other day of the year. Statistics show 30 fatal crashes resulting in 35 deaths.

All of Minnesota’s nearly 600 state troopers, in their signature maroon vehicles, will be patrolling today.

Buckle up. Drive carefully and be safe.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

BibleSticks and battle prayers May 28, 2011

A tattered prayer book carried by my father to Korea, where he fought on the front lines during the Korean Conflict. Touching these pages, I feel the faith of my soldier father.

LAST SUNDAY AFTER SERVICES at my church, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault, we watched a brief video about BibleSticks.

Never heard of them? I hadn’t either, until viewing that clip.

“The Military BibleStick is a digital audio player that is pre-loaded with a dramatized recording of the entire New Testament,” according to the Faith Comes by Hearing website. The organization, dedicated to getting the Word of God into the world, “offers 557 Audio Scripture recordings in 553 languages reaching more than 5 billion people in more than 185 countries.”

Part of that outreach includes the U.S. military. Demand is great for the 3 ½-inch long, less than one inch thick, camouflaged, battery-operated BibleSticks, I learned via the video. For whatever reason, the BibleSticks must be processed through military chaplains.

With a $25 donation, we could give a slip-in-the-pocket, portable New Testament to military men and women.

Although I personally don’t know of anyone who has used a BibleStick, I do understand the importance of access to Scripture, especially for our soldiers.

Flashback to February 1952, when my father, Elvern Kletscher of Vesta, was drafted. Less than a year later, he found himself in the mountains of Korea, a U.S. military infantryman fighting on the frontline during the Korean Conflict.

My father, Elvern Kletscher, preparing to leave his Vesta farm home in April 1952, six weeks after he was drafted.

On February 26, 1953, he was struck in the neck by shrapnel at Heartbreak Ridge. Later, he would be awarded the Korean Service Medal with 3 Bronze Service Stars, the National Defense Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the Combat Infantry Badge and the Purple Heart.

During those combat days, when my dad feared for his life, when he was forced to shoot the enemy or die, he relied on his deep faith in God.

My Dad's worn copy of God Our Refuge.

And he carried with him a 3-inch by 4 ½-inch black book, God Our Refuge. A gift from the St. John’s Lutheran Ladies’ Aid of Vesta, the book includes gospel readings, devotions, meditations, prayers, hymns and more.

Within the pages of that volume, my dad found solace, hope and comfort in the face of constant death.

Now eight years after his death, I cradle the tiny book in my palm, brush my fingers against the brittle, black leather covers, open the curled pages that are loosening from the binding. I think of my father, how he carried this book in his pocket, how he flipped and read the 144 pages, how he prayed while trapped inside the cold earth of a foxhole, while engaging in battle, while lying inside his tent at night.

The inscription reads: To Elvern Kletscher with best wishes from the Lutheran Ladies' Aid at Vesta, Minn.

As I turn to page 117 of my dad’s tattered copy of God Our Refuge, I feel forever connected to him, my fingers touching the paper he touched, reading the words he read 58 years ago as a young soldier in battle:

“In Thine arms I rest me;

Foes who would molest me

Cannot reach me here.

Though the earth be shaking,

Every heart be quaking,

Jesus calms my fear.

Lightnings flash and thunders crash;

Yet, though sin and hell assail me,

Jesus will not fail me.”

HAVE YOU OR SOMEONE you know used a BibleStick? If so, I’d like to hear about your experience with this audio version of Scripture and what it meant to you.

My grandparents, Ida and Henry Kletscher, posing with some of their children, flank my father, Elvern Kletscher, who is about to leave for military service in 1952. My uncle Merlin is the youngest, standing in the front row wearing the bib overalls.

BEHIND EVERY PICTURE, there is a story, including stories about the images of my father and his family, above.

My uncle, Merlin Kletscher, found these two photos in the winter of 2010 while researching for a family reunion. They were tucked inside a worn copy of The Lutheran Hymnal, copyright 1941, published by Concordia Publishing House. That hymnbook belonged to my grandfather, whose name, Henry Kletscher, was inked in gold on the cover. He had taped the edges and binding of the much-used songbook.

The two photos were sandwiched between song 409, “Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus,” and song 410, “Jesus Lead Thou On.”

The latter was one of my Grandpa Henry’s favorite hymns, Uncle Merlin recalls.

“I have not found any other photos or negatives which leads me to think that these pictures were very dear to him,” my uncle says.

Now those photos are also very dear to me. When Merlin handed copies to me last summer, I teared up. Little did my father know then what horrors awaited him on the battlefields of Korea, how his life and death experiences would forever change him.

And my heart ached for my Grandma Ida, standing there beside her soldier son. I wish I had asked her how she felt, how they all felt. Now I have only these photos to show me the close love of a family sending their boy off to war.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

A Minnesotan, safe in Japan, for now March 12, 2011

EVER SINCE I HEARD yesterday of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I’ve prayed for the people of Japan and specifically for a young Minnesota woman living there.

I’ve known Haidee, a Christian outreach worker and English teacher there, since she was born in 1986. She grew up with my oldest daughter, came to my house for birthday parties. She’s the second eldest of my pastor’s children—strong, confident and on fire for the Lord.

So this morning, rather than call her parents lest they give me bad news, I phoned a friend to inquire about Haidee. Thankfully, in answer to my ongoing prayers, my friend shared that, for now, Haidee and her roommate are safe.

You can read about Haidee’s experience by clicking here.

Unfortunately, this native Minnesotan’s home of Fukushima, Japan, is also the site of a nuclear plant. An online news report I just read states that tens of thousands are being evacuated from the area because of the threat of a nuclear meltdown.

I cannot imagine living with such possibilities. But if anyone can remain strong through this epic disaster, it is Haidee with her unshakable faith.

She has managed to maintain her sense of humor. Haidee ends her Friday, March 11, 9:34 p.m. blog post with this: “And now I’m signing out…because we’re going to go walk around and look for bathrooms. People survived walking to outhouses for years, right? :)”

Photos of my 1970s Japanese pen pal, Etsuko Tamura, pasted in a photo album.

IN ADDITION TO HAIDEE, I’ve worried about Etsuko Tamura, whom I honestly have not thought about in decades.

Yesterday after I heard the news about the Japanese disaster, her name popped into my head just like that. She was my pen pal during the 1970s, when writing to someone overseas was a popular hobby for young girls. We stopped corresponding 35 – 40 years ago.

Through her letters, Etsuko showed me the world beyond rural southwestern Minnesota.

Now I am seeing her devastated world through the lens of a news camera and online from citizen-shot videos. And I wonder, all these decades later, whether she’s OK.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Sunday morning message January 23, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:35 PM
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WITH

How would you finish this sentence?

This morning, during the children’s message at my church, the pastor emphasized the point of turning to God for help and strength. He showed the kids a hand-embroidered work of art, exactly like the one hanging on my living room wall.

I bought the piece this past summer at a rummage sale at the local Catholic school gym. I paid only 50 cents for this message that inspires and that was carefully, lovingly, stitched by someone who, like me, values these words.

Here’s how the sentence ends:

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 
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