Green emerges everywhere. Hostas, lilies, bee balm, sedum, astilbe and ferns sprout. Red tulips color the landscape in the LaTondresse yard.
I relish the grand vista from my ‘happy place’ in the screen porch. Life is good.
Unfortunately, some days bring clouds, even destructive storms. Where’s my ‘happy place’ when those beautiful blue skies turn dark and the sun doesn’t shine?
I remember one particularly dark time for me when our family of four lived as missionaries overseas in Akademgorodok, Russia in a small flat along with a cat, a dog, and myriads of people in and out daily, with gatherings small and large including some house church meetings.
Our ministry office was located in the master bedroom and so there was little privacy in that personal space. I held home school daily at the kitchen table, cooked from scratch, hung wet laundry all over the flat since we had no dryer, and hosted meetings for upwards of thirty people without a dishwasher or reliable stove or regular hot water.
My desperate need for space and respite compounded by my personal intense need for a quiet place to be alone to rejuvenate. Some people can recharge in the midst of people and busyness. I simply can’t.
Weary, worn, frazzled. I wrote Sanctuary as a plea to my God for help.
Where’s the still place for me?
Sanctuary of mind? Reprieve of solitude?
Thoughtful reflection beyond minutes?
Poetry borne of memory within begging to leap out noisily.
Praise of heart songs unsung– dying when not aloud–not for public ears. God, free my listening voice and ears and pen just in time.
It must be soon and it must be often, or I will not survive. I will die somewhere between the kitchen and the living room anguish of my soul.
Shut my heart inward.
Close the door with bedroom lock.
Hope for silent peace dies with the expectation of sure interruption.
How can I begin a quiet thought knowing the reverie will break before its prime? “It’s like asking for pain,” I say to the Keeper of Silences:
Doorbell. Telephone. Pacing and racing. Zoo-crazy.
No space silent for me to be.
Where’s the still place for me?
©1995 Barbara A. LaTondresse – All rights reserved.
By faith I sensed He would act to help me and He did. We soon found an unoccupied flat nearby which I could access to be alone.
My ‘happy place’ in Siberia.
Now one could argue that solace and peace can’t depend upon the perfect setting. I would totally agree.
The Bible recounts for example the story of Paul and Silas singing hymns at midnight chained to prison guards. Those precious songs in the night restored then and they restore and enlighten now, too.
Annie became a teacher in her twenties but had to quit the profession after only few years when severe arthritis made her unable to walk.
Picture if you can the hopelessness of Annie’s position when she finally received the verdict of the doctors of the Clifton Springs Sanitarium, that henceforth she would be a helpless invalid. Her own parents had been taken from her in childhood, and her foster parents both passed away. Her one sister was very frail and struggling to meet her own situation bravely.
Annie was in a condition where she was compelled to be dependent upon the care of others who could not afford to minister to her except as compensated by her. In after years she always stated that her poems were born of the need of others and not from her own need; but one knows full well that she never could have written as she did for the comfort and help of thousands of others if she had not had the background of facing those very crises in her own life.
With a pen pushed through bent fingers and held by swollen joints she wrote first without any thought that it might be an avenue of ministry, or that it would bring her returns that might help in her support. Her verses provided a solace for her in the long hours of suffering. Then she began making hand-lettered cards and gift books, and decorated some of her own verses.
She lived most of her life near the Clifton Springs Sanitarium, and began writing poetry. Despite her circumstances, she wrote inspirational songs and meditations, which have continued to bless thousands including me.
Her midnight songs encourage me even when my dear screen porch seems far away. Here’s one that came to me in one of my midnight walks recently.
A happy place indeed.
What God Hath Promised
God has not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God has not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
But God has promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing kindness, undying love.
God has not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He has not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.
God has not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain rocky and steep,
Never a river turbid and deep.
“What God Hath Promised” lyrics by Annie Flint Johnson – 1916 – found in http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/What_God_Has_Promised/
“Acts 16:25.” New American Standard Bible. La Habra, CA: Foundation Publications, for the Lockman Foundation, 1971. N. pag. Print.
“Blue Skies” – lyrics by Irving Berlin composed as a last minute addition to the musical play Betsy by Rodgers and Hart in 1926.
Images courtesy of:
“My Screen Porch” and “Our Crabapple in Spring”. Unpublished photos taken by Barbara A. LaTondresse. Hopkins, Minnesota. 2010.