My Golden Twilight

The “golden years” of adulthood are generally defined as the span of time between retirement and the beginning of age-imposed physical, emotional, and cognitive limitations, which would roughly fall between the ages of 65 and 80+, according to the experts.

Fall Gold – October 2017

I turned 70 this year so by that definition I should be in my ‘golden years’, that glorious age when one retires to realize some dreams, relax with the grandkids, travel, and live the life of leisure…no worries…no pains.

But the image of a cloudless blue sky above the stunning red, brown, yellow leaves melded into a kaleieoscope of fall glory, a radiant golden panorama all around, is not my current reality.

I see “twilight” instead.

“Twilight” is the name given to the period between dawn and sunrise, or between sunset and dusk, when light is still visible in the sky due to sunlight scattering off the atmosphere. The Online Etymology Dictionary goes on to explain that the word twilight comes two Old English words, twi meaning two, and the noun light. 

Twilight Dawn on the St. Croix. September 2015.

 It doesn’t mean two kinds of light or light occurring twice. Rather, it appears to refer to ‘half’ light. The Sanskrit word for ‘twilight’ samdhya means literally ‘a holding together, junction,’ [and] Middle High German ezwischerliecht literally ‘tweenlight.’

Both of these — the idea of holding together or of being between two things – are an ideal description for this in-between time of morning and evening when the sun isn’t in the sky but its light still brightens things enough for us to see, even if only just barely.

Another writer, Jayme Heimbuch, put it this way:  diffused light adds a purple and pink tinge to everything, making it a magical and temporal moment at the beginning and end of each day.

Kind of like being in two opposite places at once; or the tension we speak of in our faith journeys when we know something as certain in the future but right now face dismal realities that blur our vision instead. Our Pastor Christian calls it the “already, not yet” time.

It was in December of last year that I was really feeling old and useless. Maybe it was because I had not been able to get out of my house for several weeks or maybe it was because others were going for a walk in the new fallen snow and I couldn’t join them; for whatever reason, I felt like one of the grumpy old men in the movie of the same name.

When I turned 60 I threw a big party for myself. This once-in-a-lifetime gala was a Garden Dinner Party for 40 in my backyard gardens which at the time were in their prime.

I think every person should throw at least one party for themselves during their lifetime just to celebrate the WHO and the I AM of self, but that’s another topic.  Anyhow, I had my Princess Torte from  Woullets  and my Happy Lamps and my Champagne toasts.

It was grand.  You could call it  ‘golden’.

Then I got Parkinson’s and the twilight time gradually descended upon me: the in-between time of morning and evening when the sun isn’t in the sky but its light still brightens things enough for us to see, even if only just barely.

The already, but the not yet, too.

twilight -nightsky

The diffused light of this reality adds a purple and pink tinge to everything, making it a magical and very temporary moment at the beginning and end of each day.  Of each life?

I felt old and useless in December but then the purple-pink magic happened again.

God spoke to me and this is what he said:

Isaiah 46:4 New King James Version (NKJV)

Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.

It surprised and encouraged me. My God said there will be another chapter after 70 and He assured me that it will be lofty and grand.

Barbara LaTondresse  –  11 October 2018

_________________

Some photos and thoughts and wordings taken from:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+46%3A4&version=NKJV

https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/blogs/why-is-twilight-called-twilight

https://www.etymonline.com/word/twilight

https://www.neenahlibrary.org/node/284

 

 

 

 

 

MORE THAN ONCE UPON A TIME

Pen-and-Paper-300x289MORE THAN ONCE UPON A TIME

At Home in Hopkins – Three True LaTondresse Stories

IMG_2811How we found our Hobby Acres Homes 

  • September of 1978 to September 1993—112 East Farmdale Road (15 years)
  • 1993-1997 Akademgorodok, Russia (4 years)
  • October 1997 to September 2018— 309 West Wayside Road (21 years)

We have been married 42 years and we have lived here 36 of them!

July of 1978 to September 1993—112 East Farmdale RoadIMG_2806

 Andre and I were married in July of 1977 and living at Cedars of Edina where we began our first home search in the spring is 1978 looking primarily in the Edina area. Later that summer when we shared this news with our friends who had just bought a house in Hopkins, they immediately encouraged us to look in Hopkins instead. So the next Sunday, one ad in the Star Tribune that really stood out read: HOPKINS HOBBY ACRES…112 East Farmdale Road…So we left Edina & found Hopkins. We saw the “Hobby Acres” sign, & made the turn from 5th Avenue(which was also known as Hwy.169 at the time!) to Wayside Road to Farmdale Road for the first time that Sunday and felt like we’d entered the Promised Land. Above us were the majestic elm canopies over the street and around us were lovely homes nestled in this park-like gem of a neighborhood. It was love at first sight. We were home.

October 1997 to September 2018—309 West Wayside Road1

When it came time to think about returning to America to live, there was no question about “where” because our roots were in Hobby Acres in Hopkins, MN. That reality did not happen by accident. Some seasoned missionary friends gave us the good advice to do our best to maintain ties with friends/family here even though located half a world away. We took their advice to heart and as a result Hobby Acre in Hopkins was the logical choice for our next USA home. But we had a few hurdles to jump.

For one thing, Hobby Acres was (and still is) a hot commodity. It’s a place where the house sells before the sign goes up (like it did when we sold 112 East Farmdale) so we knew we’d need to pray for a miracle and get creative in our search. We did both. We started asking our Hobby Acres friends to keep a lookout and the summer before we returned, when we were in the neighborhood, Andre started knocking on the doors of houses we particularly liked. As a result of that, we did have one possibility on Farmdale Road West to think about.

But that wasn’t the only one.   The night before we left the neighborhood in 1996 to return to Russia we were driving west on Wayside and all of a sudden I pointed at 309 West Wayside Road and said, ”Stop and ask this house cuz I’d always liked it.” We’d gone to a Pink Flamingo there once. I remember standing in the entryway and saying to myself, “I could live here.”

We didn’t know the current owners, but Andre knocked anyhow and a young lady answered with her husband standing right behind her as Andre said, “Hi, we used to live in this neighborhood on Farmdale and love it. We are living overseas this year but moving back next year and we really like this house and we’re wondering if you’re thinking about moving?” The lady looked at her husband and looked at André and said, “ No we haven’t but it sounds interesting!” So our miracle happened and our God made a way where there seemed to be no way —something out of nothing—and as a result in October of 1997, 309 West Wayside Road became our second Hobby Acres home.

September 6, 2018 to Present—Our Loft. 750 Marketplace #414Our Loft

We first seriously entertained the idea of moving from our beloved Wayside home this past January in the dead of winter. Winter has its charms, esp. for blue-blood Minnesotans, but, nevertheless, we began to ask the question of how much longer we’d be able to maintain this wonderful property with all the gardens, pond, and seasonal duties.  Our son, who lives with his family in a nearby Hopkins, suggested the Marketplace Lofts downtown because we’d still be very close to his neighborhood and to other Hopkins treasures.  I did some research which showed that most all of the recent properties there had sold off-market so we knew we’d have to have help from someone well-connected, who lived there. God brought to mind a former neighbor and friend who lived there for the last couple of years, so we called her up and invited her for lunch.

Andre and I prayed the God who’d worked spectacular miracles to give us every former house we’ve lived in would do the same kind of remarkable, spectacular ‘something out of nothing’ miracle to make the next move apparent and to show us His clear leading. He brought to my mind verses in Isaiah 46:

Listen to me,
you whom I have upheld since your birth,
and have carried since you were born.

Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;

I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.’”

So we invited our friend over for lunch and asked her if she could help us and she said she would.  That was on March 2. Shortly after that she showed us the first of two Marketplace units which were available and empty. We saw the second unit on Good Friday, March 30. It was close to what we wanted but there were multiple offers on it. We weren’t prepared to offer, so some one else got it.

We knew then that we needed to get our act together ahead of time to be able to make an offer pronto should another unit come up —so both logistically and financially we started to get ready esp. by starting our ‘archeological dig’ at 309 W Wayside.

Then the remarkable, spectacular ‘something out of nothing’ miracle to make the next move apparent and to show us His clear leading happened!

On April 9, a realtor friend, his wife, and our loft-owner friend, met with us at our house. We invited them over to go thru our house and give us ideas of things to do to get the house ‘top dollar’ ready to sell as soon as possible.

Three of us were seated in the living room and the realtor friend was going over a few suggestions while we waited for our loft-owner friend to arrive. She soon did, and after taking off her coat and sitting down, took charge.

“This meeting isn’t just about getting your house ready to sell. I’m thinking of selling my unit and I want to sell it to you guys…! My boyfriend and I have decided to ‘cohabitate’, and we need more space than my loft has because he wants to have an art studio.”

Oh my! – We recovered quickly enough to accept that offer.

Next—what had to happen is that the boyfriend who had a place in Uptown had to sell it. HE DID.

And then the two of them had to find an acceptable place to buy–in this part of town. THEY DID.

Next we met with our loft owner friend to agree on her selling price, sign a purchase agreement, and put our house on the market pronto.
WE DID.

“Something out of nothing.”  Many details needed doing fast.  God answered our prayers so Andre had just the right helpers at key times to lighten the load since my ability is limited.

Life has a funny way of coming back around full circle.

Andre and Barbara are moving into the downtown Hopkins condo unit of their former 112 East Farmdale neighbor.

Her place is perfect for us:  2BR, 2BA, 2 fireplaces, den, large balcony, walk in closet, gourmet kitchen, pantry, washer, dryer, 2 garage stalls and handicap accessible!  Of all the units possible in her building this is the one that will be ideal for us and it’s a miracle that it’s the one we’re buying.

More than ‘once upon a time’.

Home in Hopkins.

Selah.

Moving Thoughts.

We’re moving. The upcoming reality leaves me entertaining an uneasy, unpleasant thought—we must say ‘goodbye’ to this beloved house. I wonder if there is an Anglican liturgical construct for saying goodbye to your home?  It would be easier to follow a set ritual than to invent a unique one just for 309 Wayside Road West.moving-truck

Recently Chris brought up the idea of having a ceremony of some sort.  He and I have done that. The evening before our family left the U.S.A. to live in Russia in1993 when we decided to say ’goodbye’ to our homeland; first, by making a final trip to the donut shop to enjoy our favorites and then by stopping the car to witness a gorgeous Rocky mountain sunset while singing “America the Beautiful” (all the verses) overlooking the Pike’s Peak reflected golden glory.

Just before that our family said ‘farewell ’ to our wonderful Hopkins Farmdale home and some time after that did the same to my childhood home, which had been in our family for some fifty years before I had to sell it and empty it after moving my mother out of it into assisted living setting miles away.

looking in to boxSo, here I am, twenty-some years after that, sorting boxes for another move. This move is unlike the others in that we’re opening and sorting and processing a vast LaTondresse archeological dig, which spans many years and numerous sides of both of our family trees. It takes a lot of time because we actually feel compelled to look at the stuff partly because this time around Andre and I are the gatekeepers for our two grandsons (with a third on the way, due in October!)

We have boxes labeled ‘Claire – Before Russia’ and we have boxes labeled ‘Barbara’s Writings’, and Andre’s father’s college diploma, and my mother’s love letters.  Many of these musty, dusty boxes haven’t seen the light of day for a very long time.boxes

We discovered 100s of bobbers my dad apparently bought at Wal-Mart while mom shopped for other things. Clippings of Aunt Ruth’s hair in envelopes labeled ‘Aunt Ruth Age 84.’  My mother’s high heeled red cowboy boots.  Christopher’s incredible drawings created when he was in first grade with Mrs. Johnson and Andre’s mother’s artwork. My old brass trumpet.  Andre’s first teddy bear.Pen-and-Paper-300x289

Unexpectedly I uncovered an unfinished poem, with words crossed out and arrows between thoughts, scribbled on a small note pad apparently penned during one of my moves. I do not think this one is about our move from Farmdale Road in Hopkins, because I lost that home too quickly to process it, sold before the sign went up, as we hastily threw our belongings in boxes and flew to Akademgorodok, Russia.

I rather think it is about losing my childhood Elgin home since I was alone, had a bit of time to think, with my family half a world away in Russia.  It only seems right to finish it, right now, in the middle of preparation for selling our Wayside Road Hopkins home.

The juxtaposition of this poem’s genesis in Elgin in 1995 and rediscovery in Hopkins in 2018 makes sense and echoes Andre’s heartbreaking words of conclusion in his sad FB post yesterday about destroying his father’s cabinets. He says:

“Just spent time disassembling (demolishing) two chests my dad designed and built at some point in his life. Just a couple of storage chests. May be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”   22 May 2018  cabinet door

I agree, Andre.
This move may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Leaving Home

Put the finishing touches on death.
Those initial thrusts, powerfully driven
Suggest you’ve killed before.
And you know you have.
 
Once the resolve is there
The blows must be quick or
The walls will wail and moan
And you will be repulsed,
Too squeamish to finish the job.
 
The broad brush strokes are easy.
First, pry open those musty attic doors.
Wade thru ancient cardboard boxes
     into the womb-like recesses of the tomb.
Quickly dig up dusty artifacts: time boxed photos,
     Souvenirs, love letters, genealogies, clothes, toys or books. 
     Fishing bobbers? Clippings from Aunt Ruth’s hair?
Pick up the piles of old Christmas cards, check stubs, yellowed bills.
 
No time to sort one by one so into the trash they go to be burned
Along with the memories left not uncovered in them.
 
Next the closets of clothes and sheets and towels.
Goodwill gets them all. 

Something inside me gets thrown away, too.
 
So put those finishing touches of death.
Find the courage to go on with it
Until everything is tomb quiet: still, empty. 

The rooms are silent, deep and dark–
Awkwardly mysterious yet coldly familiar.
So I will leave them that way.
Nothing’s left to soften the echo
      as I shut the front door for the last time.
 
Everything’s gone.
 
by Barbara LaTondresse
23 May 2018


Images courtesy of:

https://www.moveline.com/blog/where-to-get-the-right-boxes-for-a-move

http://search.coolclips.com/m/vector/cart2126/cartoon-businessman/looking-into-box/#

http://smilesofaustin.net/forms/pen-and-paper

https://www.wikihow.com/Replace-Cabinet-Hinges

“What is real? “ asked the Rabbit one day.

What is real?

It’s the broken leg and the cast.
It’s the wound and the band-aid.
It’s the rose and the thorns.
It’s the dead hog and the Thielen bacon.

It’s the wailing over the baby boys lost in Herod’s massacre
and it’s the wonder of the birth of the Holy infant Jesus.

It’s Christmas and Lent and Easter.

Night and Day.
Death and Life.
Grave and Glory.

We had a hard night.

It’s my new normal to wake at around 2AM, and rouse my dear André to help me do the bathroom routine which includes getting out of bed, shuffling slowly and painfully to the bathroom, doing chores, taking pills, laboriously limping back to the bed, getting in bed, the process which looks a lot like picking up the dead weight of a heavy sack of flour and heaving it four feet up and sideways where it thuds into a position allowing sleep.

But when you add moving positions twice, one more bathroom trip and adjusting pillows and covers for the tenth time, it is only a tiring, tedious, agonizing interruption too a good night’s sleep.

I was diagnosed with PK on Christmas Eve 2013. My life is now a whirl of pills, PT, falls, adjustments, compromises, broken promises and shattered dreams. It includes canes, walkers, and a wheelchair on occasion. It means great difficulty walking, doing stairs, and sitting down in a chair. It can mean not thinking or talking clearly.

It also means doing Valentine’s dinner at a Wayzata restaurant at 4 PM to
assure a peaceful, crowd-less time with my love who still buy me roses and gives me a card that reads: “for my beautiful wife…”

What is Real? Like The Skin Horse says to the Velveteen Rabbit, It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. It can hurt. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.”

I remember the day light years past when I was experiencing the new pains of PK and in denial and anger over the train wreck of life changes I could foresee coming and a friend asked me, “Are you alright?” I answered rather cynically, “That depends on which part of me you’re talking about.” In my fractured world the broken leg wasn’t even in a cast yet. It was total pain with no hope of healing.

Much is still the same now but more is different. Kind of like playing an old recital piece you’ve gone over time and again until the current version is much better due to time spent practicing but with still hints of the former propensities.

What is real now is an uncanny metamorphosis. Like the blind man at Bethsaida who came to Jesus for healing and at first was made only half-well (Mark 8:22-25)—

Sometimes I see men as trees walking.
Sometimes I see only the trees.
But always though the fog and mist
I see a Sunrise coming
That will not be denied.
I feel hope not despair, joy not sorrow, peace not pain.
Right now, today, my reality includes a warm cup of tea, toast,
Sunshine in my window, roses on my table.

Though my opposite realities collide
They also coexist and create astute beauty

Including this real piece of writing from my PK heart.

“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, amazing grace.”

Barbara LaTondresse
15 February 2018

Amazing Grace,My chains are gone
lyrics Michael W Smith


*Note: from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary — The Difference Between ASTUTE, SHREWD, and SAGACIOUS Astute is similar in meaning to shrewd and sagacious, but there are subtle differences in connotation among them. All three suggest sharp thinking and sound judgment, but shrewd stresses practical, hardheaded cleverness and judgment (“a shrewd judge of character”), whereas sagacious implies wisdom and foresight combined with good judgment (“sagacious investors”). Astute, which derives from the Latin noun astus, meaning “craft,” suggests cleverness, mental sharpness, and diplomatic skill (“an astute player of party politics”). https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/astute

**words from “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone 2007)” from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/See_the_Morning#Amazing_Grace_(My_Chains_Are_Gone) by John Newton (stanzas), “Chris” Tomlin and Louie Giglio (refrain)

*** Williams, Margery. The Velveteen Rabbit. Doubleday & Company, Inc.,1922.

pictures courtesy of:

https://riversidedt.showare.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=10

https://coffinberry.deviantart.com/art/The-Velveteen-Rabbit-48697162

http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/williams/rabbit/rabbit.html

https://www.google.com/search?q=velveteen+rabbit&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS730US730&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjSosG4lqnZAhVJ7IMKHUdiBQoQ_AUICigB&biw=1063&bih=680#imgrc=rD8OyJzC02jsXM:

Never, Never, Never, Never, Never Give Up!

It’s third-and-10 at the Minnesota 39-yard line with 10 seconds on the clock and the Vikings down 24-23.

All the Vikings really need to do is get the ball down the field far enough for a reasonable field-goal attempt, say inside the Saints 35-yard line, for a long one. That means get it to a receiver, get out of bounds to stop the clock, and send out Kai Forbath and the kicking team.

Sounds like a slam-dunk but not so with our Viking boys.

The Vikings have a sad history with game-winning field-goal attempts. My heart sank to familiar lows earlier in this game when Forbath missed an essential, easy one and left my mind to ponder the foreshadowing of yet another significant Vikings “snatch defeat out of victory” loss. It was almost enough to make me stop watching, but I didn’t. Resolute fan to the bitter end, I chomp my popcorn and sit on my hands in nervous frustration.

Winston Churchill would have been proud.

The clouds gather in the back of my mind as I also replay the recent back and forth of the lead. We seemed so good in the first half and then came the inevitable let down early in the second half as the Saints came alive and went ahead 24-23.

Oh my. Can’t we win a big one just once?   I find myself talking mostly to the cat, but I must admit I sent up a few prayers to Father.

So on third-and-10 Keenum launches a missile of a pass and I hold my breath as Diggs hauls it in, hesitates, unbelievably regains his
balance, and takes off for the end zone. 

In that split second Diggs and I both raise our hands and cross the goal line. We stand there stunned; beyond jubilant. Touchdown!

The suddenly, pleasantly surprised, victorious hometown fans see sorrow turned to joy and go wild. Instantly and dizzily awake from a mournful stupor, some laugh, cry, fall up, fall down, kiss, hug, and run in circles: no restraint in this celebration. It dries all tears; the former things are past away. Weeping endures for the night but shouts of joy come in the morning.

I don’t suppose that Stefon Diggs first after-thought was of how this most magnificent Minnesota miracle illustrates a profound spiritual reality, but I take delight in seeing TV repeats of that moment over and over, not just because it encourages us weary, forlorn Vikings fans, but, also, because it oddly enough encourages me in my faith walk.

My first after-thought was that the Minnesota Miracle is a grand reminder to me to review and thank my Almighty Father for the miracles He’s done in my life, and that this glorious Viking moment was meant to showcase three aspects of the way in which God interacts with each of His children including me (“ the birth of a vision, death of a vision, fulfillment of a vision”***).

Is it any wonder that the name of this play is ‘seventh heaven’?

Barbara LaTondresse

19 January 2018

 


Images courtesy of

https://thetomatos.com/free-clipart-37959/

https://www.smh.com.au/sport/nfl-playoffs-minnesota-vikings-snatch-jawdropping-win-over-new-orlean-saints-20180115-h0ie8x.html

Psalms 30:5 and Revelations 21:4 from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

*For a detailed explanation of this famous Winston Churchill quote go to -http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2003/january/14163.html

**For a detailed explanation of the Biblical principle of birth, death, and fullment of a vision go to – https/::iblp.org:questions:how-does-god-work-through-birth-death-and-fulfillment-vision

*** For a detailed explanation of this Viking moment go to —–https://www.sbnation.com/2018/1/16/16892910/vikings-saints-minnesota-miracle-how-stefon-diggs-casekeenum

Reunion

Where did he go?

Three hours had passed since my dear husband, Andre,  left the house to keep an appointment with our family doctor. The appointment actually was for me but I was having a difficult moment and couldn’t walk so he went without me to get the doc’s signature on paperwork to facilitate a refund of my Delta air ticket thru trip insurance.

I was reaching for my phone to call him when, out of the blue, our son came in the front door. “Mom. Dad asked me to tell you in person that he  was taken by ambulance to the Methodist Hospital ER with a kidney stone attack. He’s there to take a cat scan and get morphine for the pain.”

My husband was in excruciating pain in the Methodist ER. The words echoed in my muddled brain.

I was thankful that my dear son told me in person and was here to help and at the same time I was in shock.  He promised he’d check back as soon as he knew anything, gave me a kiss, and left.

The house got very quiet, like the eerie calm that precedes an intense thunderstorm. I called Methodist Hospital, said I was trying to locate my husband, and asked the lady if they had admitted person by the name of ‘André LaTondresse’.

I could tell by her tone she thought it odd that I didn’t know these things but she, nevertheless, looked up his name and she found him listed in the ER, Room 9. I suppose she was trying to say that’s where I could find him if I came right over.

Pain mingles with foreboding once again as this day brings new trials on top of the old, the preceding ones in a pattern resembling the layers of an archeological dig.

Suddenly, in the midst of this most recent of quiet times when I’m asking, ‘Where are you, God?’, the front door bursts open and a tired, haggard, and somewhat ashen Andre plops into the nearly chair, looks at me, sighs, and says, “I’m home!”

Barbara LaTondresse
11 October 2017

 

 

John Milton Speaks

Labor.

At the ripe old age of sixty-nine I am an experienced veteran.

In college I worked long hours at our local seasonal sweet corn canning factory.

My bruised and bloodied fingers bore witness to the grueling nature of my task within that process which was to transfer by hand the freshly shiny canned corn cans by twos out of huge iron baskets into cardboard boxes containing 24 cans each, over and over again, until the whistle signaling the end of the 18 hour shift blew and I made my way home to collapse exhausted in my bed until the morning whistle blew six hours later jarring me awake and signaling the time to start the work day all over again.

In another arena, I have known the painful yet beautiful anguish of childbirth. Those of us who have birthed and delivered babies could, but maybe shouldn’t, write volumes about the ins and outs, the upside down sides of that messy, miraculous process of birth.

And I have been a foreign missionary on the front lines, engaged in all-consuming spiritual labor, birthing, and nurturing a Siberian church in Akademgorodok, Russia.

Each of these instances show the work to be worth the effort and ‘well done’ whether from fellow humans or God will be the judgment; as a result it becomes easy to measure one’s worth by what one is or is not able to perform well along life’s way. Labor toward perfection seems to lead to success in life.

If I get an A+ on a school project, win the state tournament, get named the “most likely to succeed”, perform the interview well enough to be hired for the coveted teaching job, or have that beautiful baby, then all’s well. Worthy. Perfect. Success.

But if I fail the test, lose the job, can’t have that baby, see little fruit on the mission’s trees, or find myself burdened with a debilitating disease unable to perform any of life’s daily tasks without help, then what?

Do I have a meaningful place in God’s world despite my disability?

Does God use the same scale to measure the weight of my service before and after seasons of suffering and misfortune?

Recently I discovered that John Milton (1608-1674) and I have something in common besides being fellow pilgrims on faith’s journey. Milton at mid-life also had an unexpected life-changing blow; he experienced the shock of suddenly becoming blind.

He wrote the sonnet On His Blindness in February of 1652 as he wrestled then, as I do now 2017, with the weighty questions of worth and purpose amid the perception of wobbly performance in life.  

On His Blindness

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Milton, John. On His Blindness.1652. Copy of the poem found in http://www.bartleby.com/101/318.html Accessed 21 September 2017.

“The Watcher” 
September 16, 2008
Cropped from original photograph by Flickr.com user Steve Sawyer. Creative Commons License.

https://i0.wp.com/www.excellence-in-literature.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/FrTheWatcher-e1388779544627.jpg?ssl=

http://one-to-what.tumblr.com/

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/26/29/76/2629761638149aba902e7386f353055f.png/

https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS730US730&biw=1174&bih=636&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=an+orthodox+church+graphic&oq=an+orthodox+church+graphic&gs_l=psy-ab.3…43688.46949.0.47544.8.8.0.0.0.0.124.738.7j1.8.0….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..0.0.0….0.aJ3vDYg2Rzk#imgrc=sb1BpZSstzrSjM:

Art created by Linda Hamer and shared courtesy of Church of the Cross, Hopkins, MN, in the following Crossings blog post: LaTondresse, Barbara. “Light a Candle for Hope.” Webpost. http://www.ofthecross.org/light-a-candle-for-hope/. Church of the Cross. 4 Dec. 2014. Web. 19 Feb. 2016. Copyright © 2016. Church of the Cross.

 

 

Louis Vuitton Bag Camping

When Henry David Thoreau said, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…,” he probably didn’t have a traditional yearly weekend camping event with friends in mind but oddly enough the English teacher in me can make the leap. I won’t detail the hows and whys of that right now.

Suffice it to say that one of my favorite summer traditions, our annual camping weekend in Wisconsin with dear friends, always makes me smile. In this blog post, entitled ‘Louis Vuitton Bag Camping’, I will try to capture the essence of my happy thoughtfulness into word pictures so you can see this elegant, extravagant, beautiful, quirky event in all its unique glory.

Little Claire, age two, sits at rapt attention on the top of a picnic table, mesmerized, watching fashionista, Cheryl, put on her makeup. Claire totally enjoyed her first camping beauty lesson that fine morning. Over time she observed and absorbed other valuables from these vibrant special friends who know how to live life with gusto and grace.

Our camping adventures began modestly with a weekend group of friends gathered at a KOA near Cannon Falls. We were a motley crew. Friends sporting off-brands: a ragtag assemblage of Goodwill variety camping stuff blended together with garage sale finds, secondhand tents, and worn campers.

No Airstream trailers here.

Our children were small. Claire still fit in one of those Walker thingies with wheels that kept her out of the mud mostly and provided a tray for Cheerios and s’mores and whatever else she could pick up off of the muddy ground.

Our adventures were modest, too, like shopping the rather primitive KOA
Campground store. Surprising Donna made a spectacular find while we were there: multi-colored Tiki string lights which that evening illuminated more than the Adams’ camper with a warm, almost fanciful, campfire glow. I have a suspicion this was when Donna’s ‘strings of lights’ vision was born and ‘ let there be light’ became her mantra thereafter.

In fact, Donna later found a cheap craft kit somewhere that she lovingly and painstakingly assembled until the unique plastic multicolored string of funky, chunky lamps was born and fashioned to hang on their camper awning just outside the door. For over 30 years now that string of lights reigns on Steve and Donna’s camper kind of like a symbol of our longevity.

In those early days the kids were willing to create our evening entertainment providing us with original, wonderful, crazy skits to enjoy. Also it was at one of these early campouts that Uncle Roy invented ‘Slinky Stinks’. Each evening with flashlights in hand the kids would go hunting and find ‘Slinky Stinks’ and have stories to tell with Uncle Roy’s help.

Also in the early days we got rained on and didn’t like being wet, or having our toddlers playing with mud, so one of our people, Doug, who is gifted with ‘practical genius’, crafted the Mother of all Tarps. Not only was the size massive, it required a massive group of friends to engineer the positioning and then execute the placing of the Tarp to ensure dry and happy campers.

In fact, one year when everyone else was leaving the campground slimy, soggy, and exhausted from fighting the rain, our amusement was to line our camp chairs up in a row snug, smug, and dry under our Tarp to smile as we waved the other wimpy campers ‘goodbye’.

This Mother of all Tarps became an excellent frame for Donna’s ever-growing strings-of-lights display.   Donna began to collect strings of lights to the point that she had to catalogue her boxes of lights; she had so many. Of course, the fact that she is a librarian and English teacher in real life helps immensely when it comes to organizing boxes of string lights, and we are not talking ‘little white lights’.  We are talking pink flamingos, beer bottles, fish, Teddy bears, sail boats, champagne glasses, hot dogs, dinosaurs. The variety is endless and that’s not all.

Our much loved ‘ambience director’ Cheryl, selects the theme of the campout for that week end and brings the props necessary to transform our picnic tables into designer displays of that theme. Centerpieces, tablecloths, napkins, and some times even clothes tie to the theme. In the picture at left, for example, “Dîner en Blanc” was the theme for our Saturday night dinner in 2012.

Also, each member, or family, as the case may be, is responsible to bring the camp shirt with the unique logo designed by Petra and the ‘fish bottle’ with the dollar store quality candelabra stuck in its neck. How the fish bottles were procured is legendary story in its own right.

In fact,  the picture below right has all the mementos of a great time: Cheryl’s magnificent centerpiece, lighted tulips, fish bottle candles, cd player, Donna’s colored theme lights, & even my “graduation retirement” bell that we used to call the events.

Our ‘music director’, Steve, selects and brings the music to go with the theme. Cheryl shares that theme with Donna, who then dreams up a story and selects the lights she wants to display that go with the story. Sometimes the story relates directly to the theme or it could instead relate of an important event in the past year for someone in the group. When Donna tells the story she’s usually standing on a camp chair, if she hasn’t had too many happy hour happies, and the rest of us are to guess the theme of her story; kind of like Charades with a twist.

Over the years our little camping group has acquired either by truth or embellishment a legendary status. No only do we have the Mother of all Tarps, we have the Mother of all Light Displays, an Ambience Director, and a Music Director, we have among us one whom we with fond affection have christened ‘General Jeanne’ who guides us all in our Pre-Campout Planning Meeting to agree upon the Mother of all Event Timeline/Duties Grid which gives details as to the location, event times, menus, individual duties, assignments, and cell phone numbers.

So our weekend is filled with just the right amount of predictability and spontaneity to make it fun for all. Saturday evening dinner is predictably grilled BYO steak, with all the trimmings, including baked potatoes wrapped in foil by Anne. Mary and Sue make the salad. Andre, Steve, Roy rotate the duty of being the ‘Gentlemen: Start-your-grills’ guy, the VIP point person for setting and enforcing grill duties. Roy got the VIP job of turning on the coffee because he is an ‘early riser’.  So the smells of fresh coffee mingled with the bacon frying and Ginny’s breakfast potatoes cooking greet us as we await our community breakfast on Saturday morning.

This is what I call Louis Vuitton bag camping. Elegant. Extravagant. Beautiful. Quirky.

And when we gather in one big camp chair circle on Saturday night, just after the 4 O’clock Happy Hour and before the 7:00 O’clock Steak Dinner, to do the 5 O’clock News, we all with reverence listen as each person in what is now lst, 2nd, and 3d generation camper group recounts the important happenings for them in the previous year. We catch up with each other’s lives, and we remember, and like Robert Burns of long ago, we are thankful.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,

We’ll take a cup ‘o   kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

©Barbara LaTondresse
4 July 2017


Burns, Robert. “Auld Lang Syne.” Robert Burns Country: Auld Lang Syne:. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 July 2017. <http://www.robertburns.org/works/236.shtml&gt;.

Thoreau, Henry David. “Excerpt from Walden – Henry David Thoreau.” AntiRomantic.com. N.p., 22 Dec. 2009. Web. 04 July 2017. <http://www.antiromantic.com/walden/&gt;.

 

A Dark and Stormy Night

It takes a rare breed to live in this Far Side of life where expectations clash often with the harshest of realities. I know.

Take last night for example. It was a seemingly ordinary end to the day: the hubs and me watching WCCO 10 O’clock News in bed. But just as the ‘CCO man began telling us our weather, Andre rose quite suddenly and as he hobbled out of the bedroom I thought I heard him say, “I’m bleeding and I can’t get it to stop! I’m going to call Chris to take me to the ER now!”

 I made my way up and out of bed and at that point noticed the unmistakable trail of blood on the floor out the bedroom door, through the hall, and into the bathroom where Andre was trying to stop the deep red gusher spouting from his leg with a Band-Aid. I said, “Stay here.   You’re dripping blood everywhere.”

Christopher arrived speedily, and as Andre made his way to the car in a drenching rain, thunder lightening everywhere, Charlie Brown’s “dark and stormy night” setting came to life, and I started to chuckle.

It’s 11 o’clock at night. Most of my neighbors are settled in for sleep, but not me.  My husband just left for the ER. I’m not sure when, or if, he’ll be back tonight, and I’m left to find the Swiffer and wet towels to mop up blood. And as the storm intensifies  I’m also gathering a flashlight in the event the lights go out.  

If it pours when it rains, I will be ready.

*****

Note: This story has a happy ending. Christopher’s wife, Ashley, is a nurse practitioner. Chris and Ashley and our little grandson live only a mile or two away. So as the boys headed toward the ER, Ashley suggested they stop at Walgreens instead and pick up the stuff she would need to fix Andre and head to their house instead. Brilliant idea! Dr. Ashley got the situation under control and in a flash, much to my surprise, the boys came home smiling. Apparently Andre scratched open a varicose vein and it exploded creating last night’s chaos, but all’s well that ends well and I’m so glad.


Images courtesy of:

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Lenten Meditation I: Sacrifice

It’s Holy Week. Time for me to reflect once again on the events and lessons surrounding Christ’s death and resurrection.

I wrote “The Executioner’s Song” after re-reading the Abraham-Isaac story in Genesis 22. It highlights a lesson about ‘sacrifice’ that I learned during a particularly dark time while we lived in Russia.

Sacrifice proved to be the only way for Abraham. It was the only way for Christ as he faced the cross, and it was the only way for me in Russia at that time.

The poem points out ‘why’. It has to do with the name of God  memorialized by Abraham when God provided the ram to be sacrificed in place of Isaac. “Jehovah-Jireh” is the KJV’s translation of YHWH-Yireh and means “The LORD Will Provide”.

The Executioner’s Song  

The lonely mountain death walk
Mist rises with the early morning sun
as the chill damp reaches my soul.
Every part of me is cold.

I’ve been here before, Lord.

I recognize the path.
It’s worn and obvious, not overgrown;
winding precariously around the
crags and skirting precipices;
narrow, but sure–not random.

This had been planned; prepared.
Executioners always know this way.

Yet you say Your name is YHWH-Yireh.
What will the Lord provide?
A sharp knife?

New rope to bind my Isaac?
Skillful, deft hands, quickly moving
so Isaac is surprised and tethered before he can get away?

I avoid his eyes.
I know they will speak of betrayal, shock, fear.
I, too, feel the sudden unmistakable jolt of revulsion.
Together we both know I hold the knife
and we both know it will come down,
so I avoid his eyes.

He lies still now, expecting the blow,
hoping the knife is sharp and the aim is dead accurate.

It is.
In one wave of glorious surrender,
the knife falls.

He is dead.
I am, too.
Neither of us will ever be the same.
We both sing the Executioner’s song
and sense the uncanny peace.

On the mountain YHWH-Yireh has His way;
so we carry the bloody knife
and remember.

© Barbara LaTondresse
1 March 1995
All Rights Reserved