Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

One Minnesota family’s emotional story: Graduating during COVID-19 May 20, 2020

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo, May 2016.

 

FOR WEEKS, WE’VE HEARD and read news stories about the Class of 2020 and the disappointment students feel in missing out on so much of their senior year due to COVID-19. It is the tradition of the graduation ceremony, complete with caps, gowns, speeches and “Pomp and Circumstance,” that seems the greatest loss. And the gathering of family and friends afterward to celebrate.

 

Graduates toss their caps following a past graduation ceremony at Faribault High School. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

All of that said, schools are getting creative with their celebrations. Faribault High School is planning a Graduation Drive Thru to award diplomas. That includes inviting students, over the next two weeks, to walk across an outdoor stage and pose for photos with cut-outs of the school superintendent, principal and others. This will be pulled together in a video for a virtual graduation ceremony.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo from Westbrook-Walnut Grove High School graduation in 2010.

 

Down in the extreme southwestern corner of Minnesota, Worthington High School is also planning a virtual graduation ceremony followed by a car parade. One vehicle per graduate and family. Rural Nobles County is among the hardest hit in our state by COVID-19 following a virus outbreak in a meat-packing plant. In a county of just under 22,000, there have been 1,394 confirmed cases of the virus (as of Tuesday).

But this isn’t just another list of statistics. My friend Gretchen and her family live in Worthington. And eldest daughter, Katie, graduates this month as valedictorian of the WHS Class of 2020. She is heartbroken. Her mom also feels the emotional let-down of this long-anticipated day.

Gretchen is also an exceptional writer. When I asked her to write about graduation for the blogging ministry I lead at Warner Press, she quickly agreed. The result is a powerful post that tells her family’s story with uncut, raw emotion. I invite you to click here and read through the pain, the disappointment and then, the words of a high school grad wise beyond her years. I promise, you will feel moved by this family’s story. A story that personalizes the challenges for the Class of 2020 in a way you will remember.

 

A Tufts University graduate decorated her graduation hat in 2016. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo. There will be no high school or college graduation ceremonies like these this year.

 

I encourage you to leave a comment for Katie and Gretchen on the Warner Press blog post or on the Warner Press Facebook page in addition to here. I am grateful to my friend and her daughter for sharing their thoughts. It is stories like theirs that reveal how COVID-19 is affecting the Class of 2020 in a deeply heart-wrenching way.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Sunday inspiration from Burkhartzmeyer Shoes April 26, 2020

 

BY NOW I EXPECT YOU’VE all seen them—paper hearts decorating windows as a way to show love for one another during the COVID-19 pandemic. I smile every time I see those hearts. In a world that has been too often divided, I feel a sense of unity in efforts like #aworldofhearts.

 

One of many windows filled with hearts.

 

In downtown Faribault numerous businesses have joined the movement, including local icon and third-generation family-owned business Burkhartzmeyer Shoes. I love this shop, run by a family with an incredibly kind, giving and loving spirit. Second-generation owner Buck. Cousins Bruce and Brian. And their employees. I consider them more than people who peddle and repair shoes. I consider them part of my faith family, my community family. And they serve the wider community via their services as certified pedorthists, filling prescriptions and providing orthopedic shoes.

 

Burkhartzmeyer Shoes is open from 11-5 Monday-Saturday. Those are temporary hours during the COVID crisis.

 

And then there’s that extra care, a care of the spirit exemplified in the many paper hearts taped to windows in this Central Avenue store. I’ve passed by several times and noticed writing on some of those hearts. On a recent evening, I stopped for a closer look and found exactly what I expected. Inspirational bible verses hand-printed on select hearts.

 

One of the bible verses posted in the window.

 

I snapped a few photos to share that scripture with you.

 

From Isaiah…

 

I also want to share my latest Sunday series blog post at Warner Press, an Indiana-based Christian publisher. I lead the blogging ministry there and we started this series as a way to uplift and encourage people during the COVID-19 crisis. Please click here to read today’s post, “Scripture to Uplift You, From Your Warner Press Family.”

 

From John 16…

 

Have a beautiful Sunday, my friends, and be blessed.

 

Disclaimer: I am paid for my work with Warner Press.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Connecting April 18, 2020

This quarter-sized token, gifted to me some time ago by my friend Beth Ann, lies on my computer desk.

 

IF YOU’RE LIKE ME, you find yourself reaching out daily to check on family and friends. Now, more than ever, it seems important to connect via mail, email, text, phone calls or video chatting. I need reassurance that people in my life are OK and know they are loved and supported. Likewise, people have done the same for me. And more.

 

Face masks crafted by my blogger friend Penny.

 

Earlier this week I received a package from a Texas blogger. I’ve never met Penny, but we’ve followed each other’s blogs for years and also exchanged emails. Inside the padded envelope I found four cloth face masks. Penny, who is an incredibly kind and loving soul, has been sewing masks for people in her community. And beyond. She also included a lovely card and note. Her gift felt like a hug from across the country.

 

Paul Schell, whom I photographed several years ago painting at the park. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

And yesterday I received an equally lovely note from a Faribault artist who grew up in my native Redwood County. I first met Paul several years ago while photographing artists at a summer evening concert. Paul sat far removed from everyone, quietly painting in a corner of Central Park. Since then, his skills as a watercolor artist progressed. Several years back he gifted me with a print of a destination waterfalls in Redwood Falls. And on the card I received Friday was his watercolor of Moland Lutheran Church, which I’ve written about several times on this blog. The card and accompanying note were unexpected. I must add that Paul mentioned a favorite community cafe, Stacy’s Kitchen in Wabasha, per my post the other day about small town eateries. I so appreciate the time Paul took to gift me with his art and his note.

 

The Warner Press blog page shows some of the most recent posts.

 

Cards are a great way to connect. I’ve always been big on sending cards. Last week “Connecting with Cards” was the topic of my blog post for Warner Press, a Christian publishing company based in Anderson, Indiana. I work remotely as Warner’s blog coordinator. I invite you to click here, read that post and then start your own card outreach/ministry.

 

Encouragement from Beth Ann in a mini card.

 

I have one friend in particular, Beth Ann from North Carolina (I met her when she lived in Iowa), who is especially gifted at uplifting and encouraging others. When our family was going through some really difficult times, she sent me cards and extra encouraging items. What a blessing. I felt so loved.

 

Coloring can be calming and therapeutic.

 

We can all spread the love. I think especially of those in nursing homes. Like my mom on hospice and my father-in-law. We’ve received letters from both care centers about ways these facilities are trying to keep loved ones connected via technology. That won’t work for my mom. But I can still mail cards to her. And I’ve thought of coloring a picture, like I did for my two grandchildren for Easter. Sometimes we need to color outside the lines.

And sometimes we need to go old school by picking up the phone and calling those without technology. Voice to voice so we can hear the laughter, the inflections, the worries, the joys. On Thursday I phoned two aunts—one in Missouri and the other in New Jersey. As our conversation grew to a close, my Aunt Dorothy said, “I love you, My Little Princess.” I felt overcome by emotion at those sweet words. “My Little Princess.” It’s the endearing name Dorothy has called me my entire life. She was the big city aunt who occasionally returned to southwestern Minnesota to visit family. Dorothy arrived with tubes of discarded lipstick and jewelry and arms full of love. She would wrap me in a hug and whisper those endearing words, “I love you, My Little Princess.”

Today please take the time to connect with someone who needs to hear that same message—that they are loved.

 

From the front page of the Faribault Daily News.

 

IN LOVING MEMORY

I dedicate today’s post to the Rev. Craig Breimhorst, who died on Thursday due to complications from COVID-19. A resident of my community of some 24,000, Pastor Breimhorst was the first person in Rice County, Minnesota, diagnosed with the virus. He became ill in mid-March, a day after returning from a trip to the Holy Land. He was the pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Faribault for 30 years and currently served part-time as pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, West Concord.

Although I didn’t know Pastor Breimhorst, I have read enough social media comments to see how deeply he was loved and valued as a person and as a pastor. Blessed be his memory.

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Disclaimer: I am paid for my work with Warner Press.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Happy Easter from snowy southern Minnesota April 12, 2020

My favorite Easter hymn. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

GOOD AFTERNOON and Happy Easter from southeastern Minnesota, where the snow falls thick and fast. The setting appears more Christmas than Easter as snow layers the landscape and slicks roadways. We expect up to eight inches in this winter spring storm.

Nearly everything about this Easter has changed. No in-house worship. No gathering with family. No Easter chocolate purchased (because I avoided crowded grocery stores). And now this snow.

But one thing remains unchanged. Christ is risen! Even though the doors of our houses of worship are closed, we can still celebrate. This morning I awoke at 7 to start my day, preparing my usual bowl of oatmeal and cup of coffee before the 8 a.m. Easter worship service live-streaming from my church, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault. (You can now view the service on YouTube.)

As I watched and listened to the service, I noted the lilies and other spring flowers adorning the sanctuary as usual on Easter. I heard the organ and other music and the joyful voices of selected singers. And I listened to the uplifting Easter message about the resurrected Lord.

 

Eggs dyed with my mom many years ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Afterwards I reflected on Easters past—on my favorite childhood Easter hymn, I Know that My Redeemer Lives; on family gathered. Ham dinners. Easter egg hunts.

And I thought, too, about how, today, I expected to have our three adult children (and spouses) and our grandkids here. We haven’t all been together since Thanksgiving. If the power doesn’t go out in this storm, we’ll connect via video later this afternoon.

 

“I am the resurrection and the life.” A stained glass window in the Trinity Lutheran Church sanctuary, Faribault, MN. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

So much has changed. And yet the essence of Easter remains, as shared in my blog post today for Warner Press. Click here to read that post, “Fear Not This Easter.”

A most blessed Easter to you, dear friends. Stay safe at home. Be well. And know that you are loved.

TELL ME: How are you celebrating this Easter?

Disclaimer: I am paid for my work as Warner Press blog coordinator and blogger.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Palm Sunday thoughts & messages from Minnesota April 5, 2020

St. John’s 50th presentation of “The Last Supper Drama” in 2012. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

PALM SUNDAY. It’s a noted day in the church year as we remember Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem followed this Holy Week by The Last Supper, the betrayal of Jesus and then His crucifixion. And, a week from today, we celebrate His resurrection on Easter morning.

Typically this Palm Sunday evening, Randy and I would head out of town to a country church to watch “The Last Supper Drama” at St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, rural Faribault. This would have marked the 58th year St. John’s folks present this depiction of The Last Supper, the final time Jesus gathered with all His disciples.

But this year, because of COVID-19, there will be no drama.

 

Judas grips the bag of silver, his reward for betraying Christ. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Attending this drama has become tradition for us. And for many. The script, penned long ago by a St. John’s pastor, remained unchanged through the decades. I’ve always appreciated this mini-play in which each disciple speaks of his personal relationship with Christ. It gave me a new perspective.

I appreciated, too, the time invested in bringing this message to those of us gathered at sunset in this small country church. There’s something incredibly comforting in the sameness of it all—in the same narrative and monologues, the same music, the same costumes, the same fake beards (for those that don’t grow real ones), the same props, the same movement of the creaky spotlight… Only the actors vary from year to year.

In a time when we are all struggling, I reflect on those “The Last Supper Drama” presentations at St. John’s with gratitude. I can draw on memories of those messages to uplift me on this Palm Sunday.

Click here to see past posts I’ve written about “The Last Supper Drama.”

 

Photographed a week ago at Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church, Faribault.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

MORE MESSAGES

Last week I photographed this message posted outside Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church, Faribault. It’s always interesting to see what local churches post on their outdoor signage. Words can be powerful.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

MORE WORDS

I invite you to read my message posted earlier this week on the Warner Press blog. Click here to read “From Darkness to Light.” I lead the blogging ministry at this Indiana-based Christian publisher and am humbled to use my writing skills to help others during these trying times.

Many blessings to you and those you love today and in the Holy Week ahead and beyond. Be well, my friends.

(Disclaimer: I am paid for my work with Warner Press.)

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How faith families are adapting, connecting, reaching out… March 22, 2020

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

ON A TYPICAL SUNDAY MORNING, I would be awake by 6:45 am, showering, grabbing breakfast, preparing to leave for 8 am church services.

This morning I awoke a half hour later, followed the regular Sunday morning routine, then sat down at my computer to watch live-streaming of the Trinity Lutheran, Faribault, church service. I expect many of you did the same—utilizing technology for worship.

 

The original microphone used in 1948 for Trinity’s radio broadcasts on KDHL radio, Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Trinity has had a video ministry for years. And a radio ministry for more than seventy. I am thankful those outreach ministries were already in place, making it much easier to connect with people during this global pandemic.

Difficult times call for us to be creative and to adapt. Our family ministry leader also brought Sunday School to our kids in a YouTube video. Click here to view that.

 

From the Trinity, Faribault, Facebook page.

 

During the past week, I’ve worked, from my home, with a team that’s expanding Trinity’s ministry via social media. Daily uplifting and encouraging scripture has been added to our Facebook page. And our pastor is penning daily devotionals, which I am editing and proofing. I’m happy to use my talents to help.

At Warner Press, an Indiana-based Christian publishing company where I am the paid blog coordinator and a blogger, we’ve launched a weekly series, “Scriptures of Hope,” to encourage and uplift people during this COVID-19 crisis. I encourage you to check out that first post by clicking here. Members of our Warner Press family selected bible verses that carry them through difficult times, sometimes adding their personal insights. We are committed to doing our part, through our blogging ministry, to bring hope.

I’d like to hear from you. How are your faith families connecting and continuing their ministries? Together we can learn from and support each other. Now, more than ever, we need to share our ideas and to connect.

FYI: Click here to reach the Trinity Radio and Video website to view today’s worship service and the Sunday School video (click on YouTube).

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Learning to listen January 21, 2020

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I took this photo at an outdoor concert in Faribault several years ago. To me, it illustrates the art of genuine listening. The smile on the woman’s face, the tilt of her head, tell me she is actively listening. Edited Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo July 2016.

 

YESTERDAY IN MY POST honoring the work of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., I emphasized the importance of listening.

Today, in a blog post published on Warner Press, I also emphasize listening. I wrote this post weeks ago, long before I penned the MLK piece. I encourage you to click here and read “Learning to Listen.” I can’t stress enough the importance of this skill in building and improving relationships, in making this world a better place.

Thank you for listening.

Disclaimer: I am paid for my work as blog coordinator and blogger for Warner Press, an Indiana-based Christian publishing company.

© Copyright 2020 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

 

When Our Sisters Are Hurting October 20, 2019

THOSE OF YOU who’ve followed me for awhile recognize that I typically steer away from issues-related topics. By nature, I’m a peacemaker, quiet, unassuming and not inclined to create controversy. I like calm, not discord.

That said, I have written, and will continue to write, here on several issues about which I feel strongly. That includes domestic abuse and violence. And because October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I’d like to share a blog post I wrote for Warner Press, an Indiana-based Christian publishing company. I am the paid blog coordinator for Warner.

Aptly titled “When Our Sisters Are Hurting,” my post tackles the topic from a Christian perspective. It’s important that faith communities recognize, acknowledge and react to domestic abuse and violence rather than ignore or excuse both. Please take time to read my post by clicking here. I’m no expert. But I know enough to share my insights in what I hope is a meaningful and valuable post.

No matter who you are—whether a person of faith or not—please take time this month to remember the victims and survivors of domestic abuse and violence. Determine to educate yourself, to support and help those in abusive relationships, and to stand strong for your sisters who are hurting.

FYI: Click here to learn more about activities this month to raise awareness about domestic abuse and violence.

 

Beautiful Kay. Photo from Kim at My Inner Chick.

 

And then click here to read a powerful blog by Duluth resident Kim Sisto-Robinson whose sister, Kay, was murdered by her husband on May 26, 2010.

 

I’m also remembering these women today:

 

Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism employee Barb Larson, murdered by her ex-husband in her work place on December 23, 2016.

 

Margie Brown Holland and her unborn daughter, Olivia, murdered by Margie’s husband on March 7, 2013, in Apple Valley. Margie grew up in Faribault; her dad lived for awhile across the street from me.

 

Becky Kasper, 19, murdered by her ex-boyfriend in Arizona on April 20, 2013. Becky was from Northfield, Minnesota. I heard her father, Dan, speak about his daughter in 2016. Click here to read my post about that powerful talk.

 

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Beyond thoughts & prayers August 7, 2019

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My husband’s hands clasped in prayer. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

TIME AND TIME AGAIN, after a tragedy like the recent mass shootings in El Paso and in Dayton, we hear politicians and others say, “Our thoughts and prayers are with…”

Now, if you’ve followed me long enough, you realize that I am a woman of faith and that I believe in the power of prayer. I also believe in the comfort of words like, “Our thoughts and prayers are with…”

 

Chocolate chunk cookies made especially for me during my recovery last summer from a broken wrist. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2018.

 

But we need to dig deeper into our toolboxes of compassion. We need to grab tools that allow us to show our compassion. Beyond thoughts and prayers. That action focuses a blog post I wrote for Warner Press and which published on Tuesday. Rather than repeat my post, I direct you to read the piece I penned for this Christian publishing company by clicking here. Full disclosure: I am paid for my posts and for my job as blog coordinator at Warner Press.

We can all learn from each other as we strive to be there for one another. And now, more than ever, we must do exactly that. Be there. Listening. Praying. Actively helping.

TELL ME: How do you help others during challenging times? Please share here and/or on the Warner Press blog. And thank you.

Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling