Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A Christmas message from Fourth Avenue UMC December 18, 2020

Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church, Faribault.

BEAUTIFUL, HISTORIC CHURCHES ABOUND in Faribault. I’ve been inside many, but not all. I appreciate the craftsmanship, the materials, the art, the essence of aged houses of worship.

I appreciate, too, the deep meaning these churches hold for many. The baptisms. The weddings. The confirmations. The funerals. And regular worship. Plus those most blessed of days to celebrate. Christmas and Easter.

For me, church is also about community and family and love and care and so much more. Above all, faith.

Front doors to the church feature paper hearts to show love and support during the pandemic.

Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church has, like many other churches in Faribault, brought the community together, most notably at its annual Community Christmas Dinner. That didn’t happen this year due to COVID-19.

Pastor Greg Ciesluk has focused his community outreach this December on coordinating a virtual concert, “Christmas in Faribault 2020,” which is showing at 7 pm Saturday, December 19, on YouTube and local community television. I’m honored to be part of this project via contributing still photos pulled from my blog posts.

I first met Greg in the fall of 2018 when he joined a team working to clear fallen limbs, trees, branches and debris from my friend’s yard following a tornado. Greg lived nearby and showed up, as good neighbors do, to help. Randy and I have been friends with him since.

A COVID-19 Christmas message from Fourth Avenue UMC.

I appreciate his enthusiasm and energy, his care for others (including us and our family), his deep faith, his love for and involvement in our community, his willingness to serve and more. And I also appreciate the messages Greg posts on the sign board that stands on the corner outside his church along Fourth Avenue. I hold a fondness for messages like these. Electronic message signs do not appeal to me. I’m old school like that.

I love the beautiful wreaths, surrounded by hearts and crosses.

In this year of COVID-19, I appreciated Greg’s latest thought. He’s right. Not even a global pandemic can overtake the meaning, spirit and joy of Christmas.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota’s COVID-19 reality, as photographed in Rochester November 24, 2020

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A message posted along U.S. Highway 52 in Rochester, home of the world famous Mayo Clinic, reveals the current crisis in Minnesota’s healthcare system as COVID-19 rages. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo, Monday, November 23, 2020.
Highway signage directs motorists to the Mayo Clinic and St. Mary’s Hospital.
In the distance, the downtown Rochester skyline, including the Mayo Clinic, as photographed from the entrance ramp onto U.S. Highway 14 west.

NOTE: I took the above photos while riding as a passenger in a vehicle, not while driving.

Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Christmas wishes December 23, 2019

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An historic Nativity in Faribault (edited photo).

 

TO YOU, MY DEAR READERS, a most blessed Christmas! However you celebrate, I wish for you a sense of peace, moments of joy.

I recognize that we all face challenges, that life can overwhelm, that holidays can be difficult. There’s no skirting the realities of life stressors.

But this week, as I celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, I hold hope high. May you, too.

Audrey

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Found poetry April 15, 2019

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A POET FRIEND COLLECTS found poetry.

Larry Gavin’s most recent found poem, read recently at a Cannon Valley Poets Poetry Reading at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault, caused the audience to burst into laughter. He read a short “looking for work poem” collected from a public space. The poster sought babysitting jobs, but stated she’d rather pick rock. Alright then. A potential babysitter who prefers rocks to children is unlikely to get hired by any parent.

Like Larry, I find publicly posted messages interesting and often humorous. Unlike Larry, I’d never considered those notes as poetry. But I understand why he views them as such.

Inspired by my poet friend, I’ve upped my public message board reading, something I’ve done only irregularly in the past. I was quickly rewarded with a unique note tacked onto a bulletin board at the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Owatonna.

 

 

I snapped a photo with my smartphone and then edited out the phone number.

The note inspired me to write this poem:

Missing

She rocks—the cool blonde
with hair sculpted in a do,
stripe ribboned across locks,
eyes shaded behind sunglasses
like Jackie O.
Call if you see her.
She’s missing.
Last seen at the Salvation Army Thrift Store.

 

TELL ME: Do you read publicly posted messages like Larry and me? If yes, please share an interesting/humorous/bizarre one you’ve spotted.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

What’s the point of this message from Blue Point? June 28, 2018

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SOMETIMES I WONDER, what don’t I understand? What am I not getting here?

 

 

Isn’t it obvious that when you want to drink a bottle of beer, you need to twist or pop off the cap?

 

 

Maybe it’s an attempt at creative and memorable marketing via humor. That must be the reason New York-based Blue Point Brewing prints Please Remove Bottle Cap Before Drinking on a bottle neck label. Website content convinces me this may be the case. I’m not amused by some of the words published there. But then I’m not a New York brewer.

 

 

Now take a turn. Tell me why you think Please Remove Bottle Cap Before Drinking is printed on Blue Point bottles. Or tell me about an off-the-wall message you’ve read on a label or on packaging.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A cross on my carpet August 7, 2016

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LIKE ME, I’M CERTAIN you’ve had those moments when you’ve stopped, halted by an unexpected scene.

That happened shortly before 9 a.m. Friday as I passed through the living room toward my home office. I noticed shafts of sunlight slanting across the beige carpet in front of the La-Z-Boy recliner.

 

Cross on carpet 004 - Copy

 

The house had been dark and shuttered for days due to high heat and humidity. But on this blessedly cool early August morning, the windows and front interior door were flung wide, though the drapes were still partially-closed. Through those gaps and openings, the bright morning sun angled a cross onto the floor.

I stood there for a moment taking in the scene before grabbing my camera from my office. I needed to document this, to visually imprint the comfort I felt in seeing that cross—a reminder for me of my Christian faith and the hope I have in Christ. He is always with me. In difficult times and in joyful times.

Not every sermon comes from the pulpit. On this beautiful morning, a message came in slants of sunshine upon my carpet.

FYI: Click here to listen to my current favorite Christian song. Eye of the Storm, by Ryan Stevenson.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Rural gratitude December 1, 2014

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ON THANKSGIVING MORNING, between Zumbrota and Pine Island along U.S. Highway 52, I spotted this message:

 

Thank a farmer, along US Hwy 52

 

And I thought how good that this farmer would remind us of his labor, of the crops he grows and the animals he raises, and of the food that sustains us.

Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling