Monthly Archives: December 2014

It’s My Birthday!

Narnia___The_Lamppost_by_ScedwardsI used to live in Narnia, Clive Staples Lewis’ magical, mysterious, sometimes frighteningly wonderful land somewhere between the lamp-post and the castle of Cair Paravel.  Always winter. Never Christmas.

Akademgorodok, Russia, where we lived from 1993-97, is carved out of huge, dense evergreen forests. Numerous well-worn paths wind their way thru these forests intersecting and dividing to form a pedestrian walking path network. As we walked these by-ways to and from everywhere soft blankets of new-fallen snow dusted the paths and forests daily. The downy flakes reflected diamonds and stars, especially in the moonlight at night.

Narnia indeed.

no-merry-christmasFor 80 years prior to our coming, Christmas in Russia was forbidden. There were none of what E.B. White calls “Christmas wrappings” cluttering the true meaning of the holiday either because even though January 6 is Russian Orthodox Christmas on the calendar, the celebration was not allowed.

No tinsel or lights or Christmas displays or tree lots or a bombardment of ads for Christmas deals. No loudspeakers blaring carols or Nativity scenes or Santa at the mall.

It was illegal to listen to Handel’s Messiah or read C. S. Lewis’ Narnia Tales, or Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol, or the Bible.

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 freedoms of all kinds began to blossom in the former Soviet Union, among them, religious freedom.

candleThe Light of the World which burned dimly before could come to Narnia unhindered once again.

“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them the light has come.” Isaiah 9:6

At Christmas our Russian friends decided to give Jesus a birthday party. They wrote and acted a crude play of praise, read original poetry, and played instruments. We sang.

Тихая ночь, дивная ночь!

“Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright…”

gift-clipart-christmas_present_1His party was a glorious gift—a patchwork quilt of homespun treasures tied up with a big red bow of glorious praise.

In December of 1996 I was called out of Russia to come home to tend my ailing mother for a brief time. I wrote this poem entitled It’s My Birthday! in response to my renewed feelings about the true meaning of Christmas.

birthday-cake-clipart-birthday-cake-clip-art-4Whose birthday is it anyhow?

Are tinsel and glitter

My favorite things?

Are green and red

My favorite colors?

Do I like rum balls and Spritz cookies?

Will the Christmas tree bring Me joy

     with its expensive, color-coordinated ornaments?

Do I like the carols? The Santas? Rudolph and the Reindeer?

Do I want a Nintendo-64 for Christmas?

Maybe a Tickle-Me Elmo?

A Barbie Doll? A bean bag chair?

Or a Porsche?


How will I feel if My stocking isn’t filled with just the right candy?

If Santa doesn’t bring Me everything on My list?

Do I get a list?

Will I care?

Will you care if I care?

I care about you.

You are so tired. Worn out. Heavy.

Burdened, not with packages.

Trying to be too busy to notice.

I see. I hear.


I feel the cold wind chill of your soul.


The money quits. The tempers flare.

Home isn’t here. It isn’t there.

Santa can’t fill your stocking.

He doesn’t know how.

I know how.

That’s why I came, I wish you’d know.

So long ago.

Before any of this stuff was, I was here.

You just didn’t know it.


I was born. It’s a big deal!

I entered your space

and your time

to set you free;

        to make you an eternal evergreen glowing with white candles.


Please know, it’s MY birthday, yes, it is.

      (Hard to believe you could miss it.)

I was born. I died. I live again. I AM.


I am here.

I will be here.

Not in your stuff.

I have stuff to fill me,

to fill you,

that you know nothing about.

Maybe …

when you get very tired,

very worn out,

very heavy.

Then, maybe, just maybe,

you’ll see Me watching you;

     longing to have you smile my way,

     longing to have you wish me a “Happy Birthday”.


Longing to give you Me

and to have you give Me you.


That’s the only gift exchange I want.

That’s the only one I need.



“Christmas Wrappings” from an essay by White, E. B. in The Second Tree from the Corner. New York: Harper, 1954. Print.

photo of lamp-post courtesy of:

picture of no-Merry Christmas courtesy of:

picture of candle courtesy of:

picture of birthday cake courtesy of:  http://images.clip

picture of wrapped present courtesy of:

It’s My Birthday by Barbara A. LaTondresse  –  20 December 1996   –  ©1996.  All rights reserved.






Light a Candle for Hope!

During the Advent season many of us wrestle with mixed emotions—the warm fuzzies that accompany Christmas decorating, cookie baking, parties, gift giving. Yet, surprisingly, there’s haunting melancholy in the mix. This season reminds us painfully of areas in our own lives in which we are waiting or longing for some kind of healing.

A Light in the darkness. A candle for hope.

In the last three years I’ve received unwelcome gifts accompanying Parkinson’s disease. Last winter I came near death with the downward spiral of untreated symptoms and found myself at the Mayo Clinic on Christmas Eve bannerbride1day. It was on that day, December 24, 2013, that I received the definite Parkinson’s diagnosis and with the ensuing treatments prescribed and in place I began to improve. My new friends include two pills every four hours 24/7/365 to keep the tremors and spasticity at bay, a cane, walker, and, on occasion, a wheelchair.

In this process our church healing services have provided the sacred space for my healing to begin. At first I didn’t know what to expect.

Maybe I would take up my proverbial bed and walk right then and there.  Maybe, like Paul, I would pray three times for the thorn to go away and God would say “No”.  Maybe I would have to die first, like Lazarus, be dead three days, and then rise.

All I knew was that I was broken. I still looked pretty good on the outside, but in my Pleasantville of denial nothing was pleasant inside. I was not coping with the flood of frightening changes. Even though I was under the care of some of the world’s best doctors, I knew they were powerless to perform miracles. I was in pain physically and spiritually and I was drowning on the brink beyond hope.

So at the first service I attended, when the leader, Cheryl, asked Jesus’ question—-“Do you want to be healed?” it almost made me angry.

At first instinct, I thought, of course, I do. Who wouldn’t? Especially me!

At second thought, the question gave me pause to ponder the depth of the implications. I began to see the light of glorious change dawning in the dim distant horizon of my troubled mind but I knew it would cost me.

It wouadventbannermaryld cost me my pride. My denial. My self-bartering. It would demand taking a good look in the mirror and facing my harsh realities head on. It would also demand asking and receiving and listening.

Nevertheless, that night I decided to get out of the boat.

I stepped into the deep water and, wonder of wonders, I started to walk.

As long as I look at Jesus, I’m OK.

He steadies me in the waves and storms and gives me Light in my Darkness.

Light a candle for Hope!

*Images courtesy of Church of the Cross, Hopkins, Minnesota.