Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Spread a little sunshine with words of gratitude July 26, 2019


GRATITUDE. How do you define that word, express it, show it?



I express my thankfulness mostly in words, written and spoken.



For that reason I was especially drawn to a tree on a hillside outside the Northfield Public Library. Upon the branches dangle colorful tags. And on those paper pieces, people penned their responses to this prompt: What are you grateful for?





I filtered through some of those answers last Saturday when heavy rains ended and the sky broke to partially cloudy. To read those responses brought more sunshine into my day, I expect exactly as The Spread Sunshine Gang intends. The Gratitude Tree is a project of the group, “a non-profit with the mission to share goodness, kindness and generosity to the Twin Cities metro area and beyond,” according to the Sunshine website.






That mission makes me smile as do these additional thoughts from the website:

The Spread Sunshine Gang believes the world needs more love, happiness, forgiveness and kindness. We are a motley crew of hard-working people who make time to spread a little sunshine. Through random acts of kindness and dedication to paying it forward we create events for others to do the same.





I love this, absolutely love the purpose behind projects like The Gratitude Tree. In a world where selfishness and meanness and anger seem sometimes all too prevalent, we need to pause and ponder gratitude. And then we need to act on that word and shine our thankfulness and love.



TELL ME: What are you grateful for? Have you seen a Gratitude Tree or something similar? I’d love to hear.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Grateful for my right hand man, literally June 6, 2017

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AWHILE AGO my friend Patty gave a white board to Randy and me and to others in our circle of friends. She advised us to exchange loving, caring and encouraging messages with our spouses, just as she does with her husband, Doug. Their white board is posted in their kitchen.

This couple inspires me with their love, their positive attitudes and their resilience. They have been through many difficulties, losing their first spouses to cancer and dealing with their own serious health issues.

Yet, they are not defeated and exude joy in living a happy, faith-filled life.

Following Patty’s directive, I previously penned words of gratitude to Randy, propping the white board on the dresser where he drops his billfold, change and pocket knife after a long, hard day of work. But it’s been awhile since I messaged him via marker.

A few days ago, not quite two weeks into my recovery from a right shoulder fracture, Patty suggested I jot a note of thanks to my husband. I’d forgotten about the board hidden behind a pile of decorative pillows on the bedroom floor. Our bed doesn’t get made now given more important tasks consume Randy’s time.

Patty was right. I needed to thank my husband in writing, not just verbally. So with great effort and some pain, I managed to print my thanks.

It is during times like this that I fully realize how vulnerable we all are, how one minute we can be walking down a flight of stairs and then the next moment our legs are fighting air and we are plunging into a hurting heap upon concrete.

But, in the afterward, love rises to new heights—beyond a kiss or a dozen roses or dinner out. It rises to easing my arm into a sling to swabbing deodorant under my armpit to putting earrings in my lobes to carrying my stack of library books to closing the van door to simply being there when tears of frustration occasionally overtake me.

To my husband, my right hand man, thank you.



And to Patty and Doug, who Monday evening delivered a bouquet of garden peonies to me, thank you. I am blessed by your care, your love, your prayers and your friendship.

TELL ME: How have you expressed your thanks to a family member or friend who has helped you through an especially difficult time?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Thanksgiving Day thoughts November 24, 2016



WHEN I PHOTOGRAPHED this bulletin board at Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church in Faribault, I failed to notice the missing “s” on THANK. Not until I viewed the image on my computer did I see the letter near the pilgrim man’s shoe.

Was this intentional?

I suppose it doesn’t really matter, because the message posted here is to share our blessings and to be forgiving. The creator of this display also expresses gratitude for that giving.

So how do you share your blessings?

To answer that, you first must recognize those blessings. Are they family, friends, health, wealth, food—what?

Add to that list your talents. We all have them, whether it be the ability to sing, the ability to sew, the ability to care for others, the ability to repair or build, the ability to create, the ability to teach, the ability to..

We can use our gifts for good purposes or not so good. We can choose to focus outward rather than inward. We can choose to be kind rather than combative. We can choose to listen rather than to talk about ourselves. We can choose compassion and empathy over mean-spiritedness and I told you so.

Today, on this national day of Thanksgiving, I hope you will choose not only to reflect on all the goodness in your life. But I hope you will also reflect on what it means to use those blessings in ways that will benefit others.

Strive to listen and to care, genuinely care. At the dinner table, ask about those who are absent, who live far away, who would love to be with you. If a friend or family member is dealing with a challenge, be attentive and supportive rather than pretending everything is alright or totally ignoring the issue. Something as simple as “How are you doing?” can bring comfort.

We each have the opportunity to stretch this day beyond simply being thankful for everything we have. Rather, we hold the opportunity to extend grace, love and compassion to others. May you be the recipient of those blessings today and may you also share them.

Happy Thanksgiving, my dear gracious readers!

FYI: To inspire and uplift you, consider subscribing to weekly messages of encouragement from Twin Cities based Christian radio station KTIS. Click here for more information.

And click here to read Hands & Feet, suggestions for serving and encouraging others.

Finally, please click here to listen to an uplifting message in the song “Beautiful” by MercyMe.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


A Psalm of Thanksgiving November 27, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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A harvest basket, photographed in the entry to Trinity Lutheran Church, Faribault, Minnesota.

A harvest basket, photographed in the entry to Trinity Lutheran Church, Faribault, Minnesota.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through the generations.

MAY YOU BE BLESSED on Thanksgiving day by the presence of those you love. May your table be full. And may your heart overflow with gratitude to God for all you have been given.

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Thanksgiving Eve goodness November 22, 2012

FIFTY MILES FROM FARGO, he called his dad. His words were garbled, cutting in and out.

So he hung up, dialed my cell. “Give me Dad,” he snarled.

I waited, listening to one side of a conversation that did not sound good.

After my husband clicked off my phone, he told me that Julie’s car had broken down near Fergus Falls. Our son’s friend had managed to steer the smoking vehicle off Interstate 94 at eastbound exit 50. There they sat, four North Dakota State University college students stranded along the interstate on Thanksgiving Eve with nearly 250 miles to go.

Interstate 94 sometimes seems to run right into the sky as you drive west toward Fargo. (File photo)

What to do? We offered to drive the four hours north and west to Fergus Falls. But Caleb told us to wait, that they were trying to figure things out, to find a tow truck and perhaps hitch a ride from another friend back home to Faribault.

At one point, in several exchanged phone calls, my son ordered, “Stop freaking out, Mom.”

Alright then.

I asked Caleb to keep me posted. And eventually they worked it out, securing a tow and ride, walking from the mechanic’s shop a short distance to a nearby convenience store, waiting for the friend to arrive from Fargo. By 9 p.m., they were back on the interstate, 2 ½ hours after that initial SOS to my automotive machinist husband who was trying to long-distance diagnose problems with an aged Honda.

Shortly after our son and three others left Fergus, Julie’s dad phoned saying her car had already been repaired. (Phil didn’t know the specific diagnosis.) Julie had insisted on staying with her vehicle, sending the others on their way home.

My husband doubted anyone would repair the Honda on Thanksgiving Eve, or anytime prior to Friday. He was, obviously, wrong.

So we waited, me reading, my husband nodding off as the television blared and the minutes crept into hours, past midnight and then 1 a.m.

Shortly after 1 a.m., our son arrived home and we embraced in fierce, tight hugs. I was so relieved to have my boy home early Thanksgiving morning.

But there is more to tell, for this is also a story of thankfulness.

Thank you to the good people, the many strangers, who stopped to check on the stranded travelers at eastbound exit 50 by Fergus Falls. There were many, our son said.

Thank you to the mechanic who repaired Julie’s car on Thanksgiving Eve.

And thank you to the young woman who was willing to drive three other college students 250 miles home.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I am a grateful mother.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Four reasons to be thankful November 21, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:01 AM
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FOUR. It’s a four-letter word. One. Two. Three. Four.

Today I present to you four good reasons why I am thankful.

My husband, Randy, left to right, daughter Miranda, son Caleb, daughter Amber and me in a photo taken after Caleb’s high school graduation in June. The photographer is Marc, Amber’s boyfriend, another blessing in our family this year.

FAMILY: Hands down, family is among the most treasured of my blessings. I have a husband who loves and supports me (in more ways than one) and always, always encourages me. My three children (now all officially adults) are also loving and caring and just the best, and fill my mother’s heart to overflowing with love.

My extended family’s pretty great, too. I credit my mom, who turned 80 this year (so thankful to still have her in my life), for passing along her faith and compassion to me.

FRIENDS: For years, a group of us have met for bible study twice a month in each others’ homes. We’ve shared laughter and tears, given each other support and hope and prayed for one another and for those we know and love. Comforting peace comes from being held in the circle of such deep and caring friendship.

I have been blessed with many more friends, beyond this close group, who have woven their way into my heart and life. And that includes many of you readers out there whom I’ve never met.

A photo of Christ’s face from a stained glass window in my church, Trinity Lutheran, Faribault.

FAITH: Short and simple, my faith in God sustains me and gives me hope and joy.

A screen shot of the Tuesday, June 12, 2012, Freshly Pressed on the WordPress homepage. My post is featured in the bottom center. I’ve been Freshly Pressed twice since I began blogging, meaning my posts were chosen, for a single day, as among the top 10 WordPress posts in the world.

FANS: Perhaps “fans” is not the correct word for you, my readers. But since I’m going with “f” words here, I chose “fans.”

Because of you, I am encouraged daily to continue blogging, to share via words and photos the discoveries I make and my thoughts on life. You pushed my total monthly views to an all-time high of 28,467 in October and to a current average daily view of 940. I expect to surpass more than one-quarter of a million total views for 2012, more than 250,000 views in just this single year.


Thank you.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


New Year’s thankfulness January 3, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:57 AM
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The sun begins to set as we drive west on Interstate 90 near St. Charles on New Year's Day.

FOR EVERY MILE WEST my husband and I drove Sunday afternoon, I felt as if the bully wind shoved us two miles back east into Wisconsin. The wind, raging in from the northwest on January 1, seemed that forceful. It was a long 300-mile drive back to Minnesota from our daughter’s Appleton, Wisconsin home, bucking winds of 30 – 45 mph, at our estimate.

Whipped by strong winds, snow sweeps across farm fields along I-90 in southern Minnesota Sunday afternoon.

Despite the powerful winds, I was thankful for the minimal snow cover. Any more snow than the two inches or less covering the ground between eastern Wisconsin and our southern Minnesota home, and we would have been stranded in Appleton. As it was, the occasional snow squall reminded us just how quickly visibility can become an issue.

Not until we reached the two-lane section of U.S. Highway 14 between Dodge Center and Owatonna, on the final stretch of our journey, did drifting snow sometimes become a concern. The highway wasn’t blown shut, but conditions left me wishing we’d taken our usual U.S. Highway 52 from Rochester to Zumbrota then State Highway 60 to Faribault route.

Despite the gas-sucking travel on Sunday, we drove on mostly snow-free roadways, a bonus on a weekend when two separate snowfalls created occasionally hazardous driving conditions through-out Minnesota and Wisconsin.

High winds pushed eastbound traffic, like this car, along I-90 late Sunday afternoon.

Late Friday morning while traveling along Interstate 90 east of Rochester, we encountered a partially-closed traffic lane due to an earlier accident. A flat-bed semi trailer was parked along the east-bound shoulder with the driver loading debris scattered in the median.

We would learn upon our return Sunday evening that a family member was injured in a crash with an enclosed semi along I-90 on Friday morning. We’re not sure whether the scene we passed by was the site of the accident involving our nephew’s wife. But we do know that Heidi was traveling from Winona to work in Rochester when her car hit an icy patch as she was changing lanes, spun out of control into a semi and was then struck by a pick-up truck.

She had to be cut out of her car.

Thankfully, Heidi was not seriously injured and is apparently going to be OK. She was transported to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, where she was diagnosed with a concussion and held overnight for observation. She’s bruised, sore and now back home recovering.

Heidi’s car, according to her mother-in-law (my sister-in-law) did not fare so well. The passenger side was pushed in and the back end was shoved into the back seat leaving only the driver’s seat, where Heidi was sitting, intact.

That’s how bad this accident was in terms of potential for serious injury, or death.

You can bet my extended family is offering prayers of thanksgiving that Heidi, the mother of two young children, survived, and survived without serious injury.

“The Lord,” says my sister-in-law, “was with her (Heidi) all the way.”

The County Road 32 overpass over I-90 near St. Charles slices across the wide sky as the sun sets on Sunday.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling