Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

What I’ve learned about prayer April 27, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
Tags: , , , ,

I WONDER IF GOD ever tires of hearing my prayers.

He doesn’t. Not even when I repeat myself.

A billboard along U.S. Highway 14 between Janesville and Waseca, MN.

A billboard along U.S. Highway 14 between Janesville and Waseca, MN.

Scripture advises continuous and constant prayer. Pray without ceasing.

I didn’t always pray the way I should, praying in a more me-centered manner than asking for God’s will to be done. But I figured out awhile ago that this is not about me getting what I want, but about God figuring out what is best for me. He is in control, not me.

This doesn’t mean I can’t pray for specifics. I can. I do. Often. But in the end, I realize that whatever the answer, it is as God intends.

Do I always like the answer? No. At least not until I determine why God responded as He did. And sometimes I never can quite decipher what He’s thinking. I’m pretty certain, though, that God is way smarter than me. Way smarter.

Patience and trust, I’ve learned, are keys to a healthy prayer life. I’m still learning. God is patient and a good listener. For that I am grateful.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Hello, God, it’s me March 1, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:02 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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

 

Hello, God, this is May 1, not March 1 May 1, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 4:37 PM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

SOMETIMES I NEED a reminder.

And in this year of the Minnesota winter which never ends, I’ve needed multiple reminders.

May Day message

Wednesday morning, I received this note attached to a May Day treat bag deposited on my front steps:

This is the “May” that the Lord has made.

Indeed.

As I write, heavy snow is falling. Parts of Minnesota, including my area, are under a winter storm warming until 7 p.m. Thursday. The National Weather Service is predicting a “powerful winter storm” with snow accumulations of six to nine inches.

Happy first day of May!

But thanks to our friends, the Lerass family, this whole day has become brighter, more bearable, with that pointed message and a sweet homemade treat tucked inside an artfully decorated paper bag. To have such friends, reminding me that I should rejoice in whatever day I’ve been given, rates as a wonderful blessing.

Owl card

Added to that May Day delight, my husband and I received an early wedding anniversary card from our future son-in-law’s parents. Another reason to smile on this dreary day, this May 1 which the Lord has made.

Apparently God has a sense of humor.

Daffodils

A few days ago He blessed me with daffodils and sunshine, a redemption, I suppose, for the snowfall to come.

May Day candy

UPDATE 6:59 P.M.: Since publishing this post late this afternoon, my doorbell rang for the second time today. I opened it to find another May basket, this one from the Weeg family. My friends clearly know that I love chocolate and the color green. (Right, Billie Jo?) How blessed I am to have such thoughtful friends.

Weather-wise, snow continues to fall, as shown in these two photos just taken from my bedroom window. No taking the camera outside during snowfall.

Happy March May Day, everyone.

My backyard in the foreground with Willow Street and my neighborhood beyond.

My backyard in the foreground with Willow Street and my neighborhood beyond.

When I showed you my backyard a few days ago, it was snow-free. Not so this evening.

When I showed you my backyard a few days ago, it was snow-free. Not so this evening.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

“I hated myself”: Journey to recovery through Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge April 30, 2013

A member of the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge Choir sings a solo during a presentation on Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault.

A member of the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge Choir rehearses his solo before a concert on Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault.

SHE’S FOUR MONTHS to graduation, this mother of four, this 13-year meth addict.

Jill speaks with passion, sharing her downward spiral into addiction and her remarkable recovery through Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge. Her voice raw with emotion, Jill reveals how, as a single mom trying to raise a son and a daughter, who had cystic fibrosis, she gave her girl up for adoption. That pushed her over the edge.

Later, she would marry, have two more children and, eventually, her husband would enter treatment at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, a faith-based recovery program for those with drug and alcohol addictions. “I watched him turn into a godly man,” Jill says. “Our lives are unbelievable. We love each other. It’s amazing what God can do when He’s in your life. He restores.”

Praise and personal testimonies highlighted the choirs performance.

Praise and personal testimonies highlighted the choir’s performance.

By age 13, James from my community of Faribault, was smoking crank out of a light bulb. The son of a teacher and social worker, he had no direction or purpose in life. He was using and selling drugs and breaking into places. By age 22, he’d been to prison twice, had a son. “You try to manage and have as much fun as you can before you get locked up again,” he says.

He also used heroin. Then his brother died. “They’re thinking they’re going to bury two kids in the same month,” James says of his parents.

In 2011 he graduated from the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge treatment program. “I found God and feel God. I have the joy of the Lord.”

And then James shares more. He was once best friends with a 27-year-old Faribault man charged last week with first-degree attempted murder and first-degree and second-degree assault in an attack on his fiance, stabbed more than 30 times. She survived and is out of the hospital.

“Bad things happen…God sustains you,” this former addict says.

Heartbreaking and inspirational stories were shared.

A soloist performs with the choir.

Heidi, 22, the daughter of divorced parents and an alcoholic father, grew up in a small town. She started drinking, eventually wracked up two driving under the influence charges, was in and out of court-ordered treatment.

She turned to abusing prescription drugs, yet managed to go to college, even held a job in sales. She stole from her family, got into heroin.

By her admission, Heidi says, “I threw away opportunities in life…I hated myself…I was sitting in my apartment all day getting high.”

Then she overdosed, suffered a seizure.

Heidi is set to graduate in May from Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge. “I needed a relationship with God,” this young woman says.

IF YOU’VE NEVER attended a Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge presentation like the concert/personal testimonies I heard at my church, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault, on Sunday, I’d encourage you to do so. You will never forget the stories of these courageous individuals who have overcome so much to reclaim their lives and their families and forge new relationships with God.

Choir members line up and dish up at the potluck after the service and concert.

Choir members line up and dish up at the potluck after the service and concert.

At the potluck dinner after the concert, I sat with Tyler, a 20-year recovering heroin addict and father of two boys, 9 and 13. When his wife died two years ago, Tyler knew he needed to change. You’d never guess, just looking at and talking with this well-groomed and articulate young man, that he’d once been into drugs. He’s been in and out of treatment several times. But this time, in the longer one-year faith-based recovery program, Tyler’s succeeded.  He’s set to graduate soon, will start college and work, and get his boys back.

Tyler, Jill, James and Heidi and about 35 others, through primarily song and those few personal testimonials, brought their messages of hope, joy and recovery to my church through the center’s community outreach program.

Anthony Bass, who played for the Minnesota Vikings from 1998-2000 and is now the church relations manager for Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge and is planting a church in northeast Minneapolis, says the on-the-road programs are part of an effort to help fight heroin, meth and prescription drug addictions, showing “how God’s power has helped and restored.”

Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge has eight facilities in Minnesota—in Minneapolis, Brainerd and Duluth and one soon to open in Rochester. The name was changed last October from Minnesota Teen Challenge to Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, more accurately reflecting the ages of program participants. Eighty percent are over age 18.

Bass also asked for prayers and financial support.

The Trinity Quilt Makers gifted the group with this stash of quilts.

The Trinity Quilt Makers gifted the group with this stash of quilts.

As I sang the hymn, “Who Are You Who Walk in Sorrow,” with the congregation and choir members, I considered how fitting these words:

Great companion on our journey,
Still surprise us with Your grace!
Make each day a new Emmaus;
On our hearts Your image trace!

FYI: Click here to learn more about Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

(Note that I may or may not have the correct spellings of names referenced in this story. I did not check the spellings. And, yes, I asked and was given permission, to photograph the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge Choir.)

 

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

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:18 AM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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

 

When your day fails to go as planned January 27, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:30 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

I RECENTLY READ somewhere—and I read a lot—if you want to make God laugh, plan your day.

Well, God must have been rolling on the floor, laughing until he cried and his belly hurt on Thursday because I had one of those days. You know, the kind that veers completely from your intended course of action.

My main goal for the day was to finish pulling together financial information for the professional who completes our taxes. Now those of you who know me, either personally or via this blog, realize how much I detest numbers. Math whiz I am not. And to add to the stress this year, I once again need to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid after a two-year respite. I despise forms, especially when numbers comprise the bulk of the required information.

I never got to the numbers on Thursday.

Rather, I spent most of my morning researching information for a document my husband needs for a church meeting on Sunday. I’m happy to help him, but I never thought the project would consume hours of my time.

I expect God was getting a chuckle out of that, his subtle reminder that perhaps I should give just a little more of my time to him.

The rest of the day slipped away in work-related issues with precious little time for writing.

Have you noticed the repeat of the word “time” in all three of the above paragraphs? Why am I so obsessed with time?

Despite my day failing to go as planned, I knew I had a delightful evening ahead. My husband and I had been planning for weeks to attend a presentation by Minnesota photographer Doug Ohman who has published a series of “Minnesota Byways” books.

But then, 50 minutes before Ohman’s talk, my husband called. The car had broken down on his way home from work and he needed a ride and a tow.

Long story short, we missed Ohman’s 6 p.m.presentation. (Who chooses these times anyway?)

After a late supper, kitchen clean-up and e-mail catch-up, I finally kicked back in the recliner to finish the final chapters in Still Standing: The Story of SSG John Kriesel by John Kriesel as told to Jim Kosmo.

About then, God must have been muttering to himself, “Well, she thinks she’s had a bad day…”

He was right, of course. Put in the perspective of all the problems and tragedies a day can bring, my Thursday rated as just fine, thank you. My legs weren’t blown off in a roadside blast. I wasn’t fighting to live. None of my friends had been killed in Iraq.

Minnesota National Guardsman Kriesel had dealt with all of that and managed to overcome, to be positive, to move forward with his life. His story is about as inspiring as any you’ll ever read.

And then, when I finished that book Thursday evening, I picked up Conversations with the Land by Jim VanDerPol, a Chippewa County farmer and writer. I’m only a few essays into his book, but already I appreciate the approach he takes to the land and to life in general. He pauses to notice, to savor, to value his land and his role as tender of the earth. His writing resonates with me, reconnects me to the prairie of my youth, the land that still influences my writing.

And so my Thursday ended and a new day has begun with a sunrise so splendid that my husband called to tell me about it, as he often does when the morning sky is especially beautiful.

The remnants of today's sunrise as viewed from my office window.

Several weeks ago, I started penning this poem after pausing to watch the sunrise:

Jam on toast

My fingertips lift within a mere whisper of the keyboard

as I halt, half-thought, words interrupted mid-sentence,

to tilt my head toward the window and the sunrise

spreading gold and pink across the sky like jam on toast.

#

In that morning moment, I want nothing more

than to dip my fingers into the jar of dawn,

to sample her sweetness, to taste of her earthy goodness,

to delight in sunshine and rain and succulent fruit plucked from vines.

#

PERHAPS TODAY should be the day I finish this poem.

Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Snapped out of complacency November 23, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:48 PM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Globes and flags decorated tables at a missions appreciation dinner Sunday in Faribault.

YOU KNOW HOW EVERY once in awhile someone says something and you suddenly appreciate your life a whole lot more than you did only minutes earlier?

Take me on Sunday, when I spent an hour at morning worship services, another hour in bible study, 2 ½ hours at a mission gathering and another 3 ½ hours at a mission-centered appreciation dinner.

You can bet I heard enough in those eight hours to realize I have it pretty good living right her in Faribault, Minnesota, in a three-bedroom mortgage-free home with one bathroom.

Good because—

  • Even though I have an outdated kitchen with a brown sink, leaky faucet, vintage countertops and yellowing cupboards, at least I don’t cook my meals outside over an open fire and I don’t live in a yurt.
  • I don’t rely on the generosity of a missionary to supply me with two bags of rice so I have something to eat.
  • I can speak freely about, and live, my faith without fear of reprisal. Missionaries in Iran would be killed for doing so if they were caught.
  • Even though I’m unhappy with the high costs of health insurance and medical care, at least I have healthcare, unlike so many in Third World countries. Tears edged my eyes when I saw the photos and heard the story of 11-year-old Emay who died from an inoperable tumor.
  • I am blessed to have been raised by Christian parents.
  • I can read a bible that has not been censored and/or edited by the government.
  • God is my boss.

To those who spoke and sang during the “Let the People Praise!” Mission Event on Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault, and to Gary Thies of Mission Central in Mapleton, Iowa, thank you for snapping me out of my complacency.

The timing couldn’t have been better, coming right before Thanksgiving.

HOW ABOUT YOU? Have you heard or seen something lately that made you more appreciative of all that you have?

FYI: Click here to learn more about Mission Central, the largest mission supporting agency in the U.S. for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Credit goes to Thies for the “God is my boss” phrase cited above. Like a company president’s portrait in a corporate boardroom, Christ’s portrait hangs in Gary’s office, above his desk.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling