Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Practical ways to serve others in the new year January 3, 2020

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Several years ago, family friends planted shamrocks in our yard on St. Patrick’s Day. What a joyful gift. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO that will bring joy to others? How can you help others? How can you make a difference in your family, your neighborhood, your community?

Those are all questions I expect many of you contemplate, especially at the beginning of a new year. I brainstormed the topic for a post that published earlier this week on the Warner Press blog. I work as the blog coordinator for this Indiana-based Christian publisher and lead a team of three other writers.

In crafting this piece, I created a month-by-month list of specific ways to serve others. I used examples from my own life. I have been blessed by so much kindness and by many opportunities to serve.

Just yesterday, for example, a small package arrived from a friend. Inside I found a lovely gratitude journal that encourages me to make note of daily gratitudes. I’m not surprised Beth Ann (also a blogger) gifted me with this. She is one of the most positive people I know and has always encouraged and supported me.

And last week a blogger from Pittsburgh sent me an Instant Pot after reading an earlier blog post that included my crossed-out Christmas wish list. I’ve never met Ruth. But I follow her blog and know her to be a kind and caring soul.

Days prior I received a cash gift from an equally kind and caring soul who remains anonymous to me.

For me, serving others on a daily basis comes primarily in listening and offering words of encouragement. I also give of my time to volunteer whenever such opportunities arise. It’s not only the right thing to do, but an honor.

As 2020 begins, we have 366 days to connect with others, to offer support and encouragement, bring joy, help in hands-on ways. I’d love to hear how you are making a positive difference in your world or beyond.

CLICK HERE to read my Warner Press post, “A Year of Serving Others.”

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Thoughts as I welcome 2020 January 1, 2020

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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

TODAY THE SUN rises and sets on a new decade, 2020. That number sounds so surreal to me, someone who came of age in the early 1970s, at the end of the Vietnam War, a time of unrest and discord, of young people raising their voices.

But has anything really changed? The sun still rises. Discord still exists. And if it didn’t, I’d worry.

These are certainly trying times. But every generation has faced challenges. The difference now is the instant speed at which we become aware, how close our world has grown (or maybe not) due to technology, how rapidly untruths spread. I remember my mom telling me once how frightened she felt following the attack on Pearl Harbor. As a nine-year-old living in rural Minnesota, she had no concept of place, of distance. She thought the attack occurred only towns away.

I am, of course, simplifying the differences between yesteryear and today. One could argue more points about the ever-changing world. And I likely would not disagree.

But at the very basic, we are all just human beings with wants, needs, desires, hopes and dreams. For some those are grand and far-reaching and social media attention grabbing. For others, life is less complex. I, for example, am content with a quiet life, with loving and being loved, with serving others, with experiencing joy in everyday moments, with finding delights in the simple. A sunset. A sweet, “I love you, Grandma.” A good book. A Sunday afternoon drive. A hoppy IPA from a local craft brewery. Chats with friends after church.

In 2020, I desire more of those moments that frame a life of contentment. I desire, too, more time with my adult children and their families; I’d love for all of us to spend a few days together. I pray for improved health for family members.

Whatever happens in 2020, I am grateful for another year. To live. To love. To write. To photograph. To be the best person I can be. To treat others with respect and kindness. To show care and compassion. To listen, an art that seems in short supply in a me-driven world of talking over others. To empathize and make a positive difference whenever and wherever I can. Thank you for being a part of my life, for embracing my creative endeavors and for all you do to make this world a better place.

Happy 2020, dear friends!

 

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Words matter & my hope for 2018 December 29, 2017

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Some of the quotes posted on my refrigerator.

 

WORDS HOLD INCREDIBLE power—to hurt, to heal, to build, to tear down, to discourage, to embolden, to darken, to enlighten…

 

A wall of quotes…I love this public posting of inspiring words discovered this past September inside the Jack Pine Center in Pequot Lakes.

 

During my life, I’ve felt the sting of unkind words unleashed by teen bullies, by a teacher who should never have been a teacher, by individuals angered with my writing, by those who spoke (or wrote) without first considering how deep their words would wound me. Oftentimes it is those we love most who hurt us the most.

Perhaps you can relate. And if you can’t, I am thankful you can’t.

I expect my words have also at times hurt others. And I’m sorry for that.

 

 

As a professional wordsmith, I strive to use words in a positive way. I realize the power in the words I write and in the words I speak. I accept that responsibility.

 

 

 

 

Often I turn to words to inspire me, to give me hope and refocus my thinking when I need a shift in mindset. With that thought, I want to share some of the quotes currently posted on my fridge and in my office.

 

Inspirational quotes posted on my desk, on the shelf above my desktop screen. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all. —Emily Dickinson.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. —Philippians 4:13

Keep your heart brave and your imagination wild. (from a Hallmark bag)

Let your roots grow down into Him and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught and you will overflow with thankfulness. —Colossians 2:7

Without a love for books the richest person is poor. —unknown

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.— Romans 12:12

Sometimes it’s nice to get an unexpected hug for no other reason than just because you’re loved. So while you’re reading these words, don’t think of them as just words…Think of each one as a hug for your heart from mine.  —Barbara J. Hall

It is my hope that in 2018 we as individuals, as communities, as a nation, as a world, will grow kinder in our use of words. I hope we will think before we speak/write, considering the power of our words.

Thoughts? Or a favorite quote you’d like to share?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Silence is not always golden January 10, 2017

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Powering into a new year, symbolism in a locomotive photographed along US Highway 14 between Owatonna and Janesville.

Powering into a new year, symbolism in a locomotive photographed along US Highway 14 between Owatonna and Janesville.

A NEW YEAR BRINGS introspection, the opportunity to start anew, to face challenges head on, to build up rather than tear down.

That can be applied on a personal level and on a community level. In Faribault, my home for more than 30 years, I’ve never felt a stronger sense of caring for one another. That message of “you are not in this alone” has repeated itself in words and actions following two murder-suicides here in December. My community is choosing to be there for one another. That uplifts and empowers.

When life throws us a curve, we need to be there for another, linked by the commonalities of care and compassion.

When life throws us a curve, we need to be there for another, linked by the commonalities of care and compassion.

Yet, it takes more than a community reacting to tragedy to effect real and long-lasting change. And that starts with each of us. But we get busy. And we forget about the individuals in our circle of family and friends who are grieving, battling illnesses, struggling financially, facing unimaginable challenges. I try to be cognizant of the needs of others, especially those closest to me. Sometimes I fail, though, to extend much-needed care. There is no excuse. I have enough time to pick up the phone, send an email, jot a note in a card and/or simply ask, “How are you doing?” I can listen and encourage without injecting my opinion, my advice, myself.

We can

In a harvested cornfield, we choose to walk around the stubble to avoid physical pain. In life, we need to acknowledge the painful stubble in others’ lives and not avoid it.

By ignoring an issue, by failing to address the difficulty a friend or family member is facing, we add to the pain. Silence is not always golden.

Sometimes we must intentionally choose to keep at arm’s length those who fail to support us. That failure can come via omission or via hurtful words and behavior. We are all adult enough to realize when words encourage and when words hurt.

So many times I’ve observed people shift a conversation to themselves, as if that’s going to help whomever is struggling. This is not about ourselves; this is about the person sharing his/her concern.

A strong visual that we can help one another. Photographed near New Ulm.

This strong visual shows that we can help one another. Photographed recently near New Ulm.

Bottom line: We need to hone our listening skills, to show genuine compassion, to be here for each other.

TELL ME: How do you help family and friends who are struggling with challenges in life? What do you find helpful and hurtful when you are dealing with a difficulty? Please be specific. We can all learn from one another.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A metaphor as we transition into the new year December 30, 2016

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abandoned-building-near-foley-32

 

I’VE ALWAYS BEEN DRAWN to abandoned buildings. They hold a certain mystery, an unknown story, a metaphor.

When I view this recent photo taken near Foley, I become introspective. Perhaps it’s the ending of 2016 and the beginning of a new year that prompt such thoughts. Or recent events in my community. Or simply me being my creative self.

But I see more than a neglected structure with missing windows, peeling paint, a sagging roof line. I see, too, the solid concrete block construction, the strong glass block windows and that surprise red door.

There’s a metaphor here to life. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by the difficulties and challenges that life throws our way. We despair, give up, wonder how we can handle one more thing. We want nothing more than to reclaim our uneventful and normal lives—to replace the broken panes, to cover the peeling paint, to fix the falling roof line.

The task seems impossible until someone steps in, offering words of support and encouragement, pointing to the solid construction.

Then thoughts begin to shift and an inner strength builds. The door to hope cracks open.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Thoughts as the year ends & a new one begins December 31, 2015

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MY DEAR READERS,

I hope your year has been a mostly good one. Hope. That was my chosen focus word for 2015 and will remain my focus word into 2016.

My great niece Kiera painted this stone, which I got at a recent family reunion.

My great niece Kiera painted this stone, which I chose as a BINGO prize at a family reunion. Since then, I’ve had her paint a similar HOPE stone for a friend going through a difficult time. This HOPE stone sits on my office desk.

A strong visual reminder of hope sits on my office desk. It is a HOPE stone, crafted by a great niece.

There are days when we all need hope. Whether you are dealing with financial challenges, health issues, relationship difficulties, a personal loss, grief or anything else that weighs you down, may you see HOPE in the New Year. The flip of the calendar offers the opportunity to begin anew.

In four months, a baby girl will be born, making me a grandma. She is reason for joy. A new life. A new beginning for my eldest and her husband. A new beginning for me and my husband as grandparents.

May you, too, dear readers, find such joys in 2016.

Thank you for being a part of my life, for sharing your thoughts, for encouraging and supporting me and my writing and photography. I am grateful as 2015 closes and a new year unfurls full of possibilities and hope.

Audrey

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Hope, my word for 2015 January 1, 2015

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Inspirational quotes posted on my desk, on the shelf above my desktop screen.

Inspirational quotes posted on my desk, on the shelf above my desktop screen.

HOPE. It’s a four-letter word that holds so much promise.

Hope will be my mantra for 2015, after a year that’s been especially challenging.

How do you define hope?

I’d like some synonyms to stash in my memory bank, to pull out, to examine, to consider when life presents seemingly insurmountable challenges, when grey prevails, when I need encouragement. We all have days when we need nothing more than hope.

My blogger/real-life friend, Sue, awhile ago posted this quote from one of my favorite poets, Emily Dickinson:

Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul,
and sings the tune without the words,
and never stops at all.

Beautiful. That quote is posted on the shelf above my computer screen. A reminder of hope.

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HAVE YOU, LIKE my friend Beth Ann who blogs at It’s Just Life and inspired me to choose a focus word, selected a word or phrase that will take you into and through-out 2015?

For you, my loyal readers, I wish a year of contentment and true peace, days brimming with happiness and the love of family and friends, and an appreciation for the simple joys of life. Happy New Year!

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling