For Lent – Meditation II – Kiss Winter Good-bye!

For Lent – Meditation II – Kiss Winter Good-bye!
tulip-bud-emerging-pink2
I’ve been inside too long. I open the back door for the first time since last October and step outside. The snow melts. The tulips pop and the grass emerges green. Once again vibrant Spring greets me and I pause to soak it all in.

Gleefully I rip out the tree toppers from my planter boxes and throw them in the garbage.

When I was a child I knew spring was near when the time came in late February for Great-grandfather Fred (we called him ‘Daddy Fred’) to bring us an empty cottage cheese carton repurposed as a pot containing a planted hyacinth bulb.

hyacinthAll you saw at first was the dirt filled carton and an Elgin Furniture Store pencil stuck in the dirt so that when the hyacinth grew it would have something to lean against. I watched that dirt for days until one day a little tip of the plant peeked up through the soil. The hyacinth flower smelled so good! I still associate the musty smell of moist earth mixed with the aromatic fragrance of hyacinth with the start of spring.

The poet in Solomon’s Song says:

For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of singing has come.

adventbannermaryNext week we observe Holy Week at our little Anglican church. Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Saturday Easter Vigil, as well as Easter Day on Sunday. We pause to remember and reflect and wonder as the drama surrounding the Passion of Christ unfolds once again, Good Friday ironically does indeed prove to be ‘good’, and we affirm our Resurrection Hope in Christ. Like Peter, we affirm: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Reminds me of the powerful ‘winter/spring’ metaphor in C.S. Lewis’ Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe. The Witch’s slave the Dwarf holds Edmund hostage and keeps yanking on the rope that binds him. But Lewis writes:

flowers_crocuses-01This didn’t prevent Edmund from seeing. Only five minutes later he noticed a dozen crocuses growing around the foot of an old treegold and purple and white.

In the land that at one time had been always Winter and never Christmas, a spring thaw emerges. The melting snow in Narnia’s springtime suggests personal transformation and the redemption of the whole human race is at hand.

The Apostle John in Revelation envisions our Redemption  this way:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.

Hope Springs Eternalbannerbride1

Edmund’s crocuses will emerge
as snow melts in Narnia.
Winter to Spring.
Dark to Light.
Death to Life.
And I, too, will Rise.

Hallelujah! I will Rise!

© Barbara LaTondresse – 18 March 2016 – all rights reserved.

I Will Rise by Chris Tomlin

 

Text References from:

Lewis, Clive Staples. “The Chronicles Of Narnia : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive.” Internet Archive. Internet Archive, n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2016.

John 6:68-69, Song of Solomon 2:11-12 and Revelation 21:4 from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Images courtesy of:

http://www.wallpapersonview.com/wallpapers/flowers_crocuses-1700×1200-16963.html

http://www.platedstories.com/2013_08_01_archive.html

http://www.budscape.net/?p=573

Altar images created by Linda Hammer and reshared courtesy of Church of the Cross, 201 9th Avenue North, Hopkins, MN 55343 in  the following source:  LaTondresse, Barbara. “Light a Candle for Hope.” Web log post. http://www.ofthecross.org/light-a-candle-for-hope/. Church of the Cross, 4 Dec. 2014. Web. 19 Feb. 2o16. Copyright © 2016 Church of the Cross.

 

 

 

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For Lent – Meditation I – An Inkling, Too

cedar expectant2

If a picture is worth a thousand words then this one is priceless. Our son’s French bulldog, Cedar, expectantly waiting for a cookie perfectly illustrates the Psalmist’s thought in Psalms 123:2 when he says: “As the eyes of servants  look to the hand of their master,as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until he has mercy upon us.“

And in Psalm 62:4 David says, “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him alone.”

If you are one of Clive’s Pilgrims, like I am, then the waiting demands that we, like Cedar, look up for our expectations and hope.

I’m not talking about the kind of mundane waiting we do at red lights, or in check-out lines, or in doctor’s offices. I’m talking about waiting for the Dawn after the Crucifixion—the Daybreak when the shadows flee and the darkness will be made light.

The Apostle John puts it this way in Revelations 21:4, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Here is my most recent poem in which I share my thoughts about Waiting. I hope you will find something in it that speaks to you in your time of Waiting.

An Inkling, Too       

adventbannermaryShaft light shards
pierce thru blackness
borne of dim memory
as daybreak —
orange, red, crimson
blends,
bleeds thru grey canvas,
creeps up the horizon;
a complex kaleidoscope:
dispelling yet casting shadows —
emerging dawn
within my foggy mind.

Glimpses of radiant glory,
shooting stars,
fireworks,
mixed with
griefs observed ,
losses internalized.

The shadows linger
even as the sun also rises.

Hints of what might have been
precisely measured
mingle what is
into what is to be.

bannerbride1Foretastes of heaven’s future ecstasy,
shot straight thru
with the silver bullet
of today’s pain.

So, archeologist-like,
I ponder the emerging sun-blaze
as it turns darkness into light
and begin to sift through the sandy dirt
     forms of the bittersweet days of my life
     hoping the Strainers will capture
esoteric meanings among fragments
     of the world beyond my rubble of
     broken bone, wood, glass, metal, leather,
     and clothes bearing dried blood and tears.

Using tweezers to grasp at unfamiliar, microscopic
bits of my moments and my days,
angling them right, left, upside, downside
I leave no blade of grass unturned.

Desperate to read between the lines:
to align the crooked jigsaw puzzle pieces
until they link the incongruous,
unanswerable forms together
with unexpected precision.

Soon I become tired and sick of trying.

Lifting my gaze once more heaven-ward
breathing in the crystal bright morning air
I watch the bits and pieces of my life tangles
rise into a multi-faceted tapestry jewel,
a kaleidoscope of redeemed sandy dirt forms,
reflecting Son-Dawn image rays everywhere.

An Inkling, Too.

by Barbara LaTondresse
©February 2016.  All Rights Reserved.

__________________________________

Sources

Image created by Linda Hamer and reshared courtesy of Church of the Cross, 201 9th Avenue North, Hopkins, MN 55343 in  the following source:  LaTondresse, Barbara. “Light a Candle for Hope.” Web log post. http://www.ofthecross.org/light-a-candle-for-hope/. Church of the Cross, 4 Dec. 2014. Web. 19 Feb. 2o16. Copyright © 2016 Church of the Cross

Psalm 123:2, Psalm 62:5, and Revelations 21:4 quoted from the King James Version (KJV) by Public Domain.

Silent Night’s Torch-lit Song


Tiny torches light
a million diamond flames
as blackness descends
 and a weary world
dozes off to sleep.

In the night
an Angel sings
 for Christ is born. 

The eternal lullaby begins.

And now
 forever
in my heart
I have a torch-lit song.

© Barbara LaTondresse
12 November 1976
All Rights Reserved

silent-night-2010

 


Image courtesy of:

http://www.thebluegrassspecial.com/archive/2010/december10/imagesdec10/silent-night-2010.jpg

 

Merry New Year in Narnia

Narnia___The_Lamppost_by_Scedwards

I used to live in Narnia, Clive Staples Lewis’ magical, mysterious, sometimes frighteningly wonderful land somewhere between the lamppost and the castle of Cair Paravel.

Always winter.
Never Christmas.

My former home, Akademgorodok, Russia, 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 network. As we trekked these by-ways to and from everywhere soft blankets of new-fallen snow dusted the lanes and forests daily. The downy flakes reflected diamonds and stars, especially in the moonlight at night. Narnia indeed.

For 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.

Festivities centered around New Year’s Day & Eve. So when we came to santaMissingNarnia we could not find tinsel or lights or Christmas displays or Christmas tree lots or a bombardment of ads for Christmas deals. No loudspeakers blaring carols or Nativity scenes or Santa at the mall. That part of life in Narnia was actually a pleasant surprise.

Instead, Akademgorodok’s New Year’s celebration centerpiece, two mammoth snowy sliding hills, emerged in the street near the main shopping district, Targovie Trading Center with the entire street blocked off to traffic as dump trucks hauled massive quantities of snow in and bulldozers then pushed the huge mounds, compacting them into two hills–one bunny hill and one large hill.

Wooden platforms built on the tops of the hills comprised the impressive platforms so the kids could easily step up the hills and slide down using pieces of cardboard, flat plastic, or just their own rear ends as sleds. Some of the older kids go down standing up, kind of like downhill skiing without skis. A tangled mass of gleeful, snow-covered revelers smash into one another as everyone slides down into everyone else creating a crowded traffic jam at the bottom. One by one the blissfully wet sliders stand, run up the steps, and slide down again and again.

Meanwhile a huge evergreen tree emerges nearby with a large metal frame and big pine branches intertwined. A crane hoists more branches and men on tall ladders put them in place. Eight-foot wooden panels painted with winter scenes and Siberian folk characters frame one side of the street. Colorful lights dance across the boulevard all along the way to Targovie and huge speakers hung from light poles and kiosks belt out an incessant stream of tacky, inappropriately loud music including Russian Rock, Elvis, the Beach Boys, and tunes from American movies, like the theme songs from “Love Story” and “Sound of Music”. FarSide incarnate to hear “the hills are alive with the sound of music” in the middle of Siberia sung in English at Christmas.

Kids frolicking in worn out snow pants,
frayed wool mittens and
furry Stormy Kromer hats;
Even the family dog sliding down the hill backwards barking,
Parents and grandparents on the slippery sidelines watching,
Teens at the kiosks buying warm Coke,
Dear friends strolling arm in arm toward Targovie to shop,
An old man hawking “New Year’s” trees
from the back of his green Army truck,
Another selling fresh bread
from a fold-up card table on the street
     (frozen, I’ll bet–both the man and the bread),
Fireworks–random eclectic fireworks–light up the sky.

Norman Rockwell children SleddingNorman Rockwell comes to Siberia.

He doesn’t see Santa but maybe, just maybe, that’s a good thing.

Barbara LaTondresse
December 2015


 

Photo courtesy of:

http://www.art.com/gallery/id–a32/norman-rockwell-posters.htm

http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/2010/12/santa-stolen-have-you-no-shame-mr-grinch/

 

Forever Fall Toward Narnia

 

overlook2

What a glorious October, Minnesota.  Fall majesty on dress-parade.

Yesterday Andre and I meandered thru the St. Croix River Valley and thrilled as Mother Nature unveiled a grand Technicolor panorama for all to admire.

We basked in the glory of hills and vales painted with stunningly vibrant reds, goldens, browns, greens mingled with landscapes of ripened corn stalks standing straight in neat rows next to wind-ruffled grassy slopes, and confetti flowered meadows set against the backdrop of the St Croix River glistening in the golden sun with the backdrop of a majestic clear blue sky above.

Time stands still for one gloriously warm minute before she plunges ahead into the blustery frozen whiteness of winter. I hear her say:

brngbush2Better take a picture before it’s gone.

Sit with me one glorious hour and as you sit, think.

Drink in the dazzling beauties of the falling leaves and as you reflect on the glory and grandeur of the majesty of this radiance, as you drink it in, let it remind you to ponder what’s just ahead, around the corner.

Get ready. It’s a cue.

Put away the summer clothes. Get out the snow blower. Put away the summer clothes. Get out the snow blower. Patch the cracks in the window frames.

Winter is coming. Am I ready?

———————–

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERACOLD CHOICES

when all October stands

hush, morning
every tree beguiles

the leaf imprint
slow dawns
orange, pink, blue
crimson mercy of my soul

yes

Sunshine floods
make the Day dawn less brief than it would be if you had taken that road
toward the east or south

the road not taken

so you can see
the pink, blue red grace and stay with it sit with it
watch it bless

while it sets its feet
in the soul of your saved mind
and makes it
forever
fall
toward Narnia

 © Barbara LaTondresse – 18 October 1999 – all rights reserved

Like A Tree Planted

I’m basking in the afterglow of our perfect weekend women’s retreat.

COTC Retreat 2015

Over fifty Church of the Cross women gathered at Dunrovin Retreat Center on the St. Croix near Stillwater amid the emerging golden landscape for a stellar fall weekend blend of relaxation, rest, and renewal.

Our meditations centered around Psalm 1 where the Psalmist uses the image of a thriving tree as a symbol of vibrant spiritual growth.

Planted. Rooting. Reaching.

Taking root downward, Bearing fruit upward.

Over time the tree grows toward magnificent beauty despite rocks, drought, storm, disease.

Tree Nametag

At our retreat we divided into smaller groups to apply these truths in our lives personally. Three of the questions stood out to me and gave me worthy insights:

  • Where am I planted this season? 
  • What rocks are my root system facing? 
  • Are my leaves absorbing the sun and nutrients necessary for the miracle of photosynthesis to happen in my soul?

 On Christmas Eve 2013 I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

I was told I had two options: either begin a life-preserving regimen of Parkinson’s meds or die.

I chose life, began the meds, and, thank God, slowly started to improve, but I’m still not what you would call ‘normal’.

I walk and speak with difficulty, have occasional pronounced tremors, left side mobility issues, and suffer lower back pain from the aftershock of a compression fracture.

I am planted in what I call my ‘land of limitations’.

It’s a phrase a friend coined to add to the depth of Psalms 37: 3-4 when his wife went thru a severe debilitating trial:

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land (of limitations) and cultivate faithfulness.

I embrace this truth daily as my faith in the Lord sustains me.

tree planted

Our speaker shared a true story which powerfully illustrates this vital truth.   During WWII a German warship shot at another ship and it began to sink. Shortly after the Germans realized the wounded ship carried women and children only.

As their ship sank, the wives and children, enroute to be with their husbands and fathers who were already at a mission site in-country, hurriedly boarded lifeboats and rowed themselves to the warship ship for rescue.

During this difficult task as they rowed, they realized the soldiers had their guns pointed at them.

Fear washed over them as they approached closer and closer to the enemy ship, and surprisingly, one of the mothers started to sing:

Safe am I, Safe am I,
In the hollow of His hand;
Sheltered o’er, sheltered o’er
With His love forever more
No ill can harm me, No foe alarm me,
For He keeps both day and night,
Safe am I, Safe am I,
In the hollow of His hand.

Mildred Leightner Dillon
18 January 1938

Soon her children joined in the singing. Then others in other boats started to sing as a chorus of praise drifted upward in that dire situation giving them all courage in the face of danger and miraculously all boarded the warship.

Rescued and safe.

A chorus of praise to God allowed miracles to happen for them then and it allows miracles to happen for me now.

Rooted, planted, dissolving rocks, and gaining spiritual nourishment to produce the unlikely fruits of joy and peace even in my land of limitations. 

Safe am I. In the hollow of His hand.


Dillon, Mildred Leightner. “Tune: [Safe Am I, Safe Am I].” written 18 January 1938. Accessed in Hymnary.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Oct. 2015. <http://www.hymnary.org/tune/safe_am_i_safe_am_i_dillon&gt;.


Image courtesy of: http://www.kmministry.com/resources-for-growth.html

The Man on the Moon and Me

260px-Apollo_11_first_stepThat’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.

Forty-six years ago today, 20 July 1969, Neil Armstrong opened the hatch of the lunar module Eagle and stepped onto the surface of the moon for the first time in human history.

I gazed in awe scrunched near a small black and white TV, pressed ever closer to the grainy screen by a mesmerized cluster of fellow interns at the University of Maryland sorority house we together called home that summer.   With his “one giant leap for mankind” we cheered and paused collectively to reflect.

“Man on the moon!” Walter Cronkite said giddily, later adding, “Oh boy!”

But that’s not all. Because I worked in Washington, DC that summer as an aide to several major players in the United States Geological Survey(USGS) in downtown Washington, two days later, on July 22, 1969 this totally green college kid from Iowa gazed at those surreal moon landing pictures firsthand. Up close and very personal.

My job at the USGS in downtown Washington brought daily thrills: everything from basking in a personal White House limo ride to the United States Capitol to hand-deliver important documents to plotting on maps all the important landmarks situated on the San Andreas Fault for potential earthquake alert.   But that historic day in July when one of my bosses asked me if I wanted to see the moon pictures, I was speechless. My boss took my stunned silence to mean YES and so off we went to the FBI.

First fingerprinted. Then mug shot and background check quickly done. No surprise to me, I netted a top security clearance badge. What espionage can a teenage college kid do from Iowa?

earth as seen from moonWe returned to the USGS and took the elevator down what felt to me as a hundred flights to the lowest level of the heavily guarded USGS where in a semi-darkened room the glorious photo gems in full color were lying helter-skelter on tables.

I could have touched them. They were that close.

Near as I could tell  only the President and his Cabinet and closest aides had seen these pictures and so I gazed silently, awestruck by the beauty and the wonder and the honor.

I couldn’t breathe.

Moon-landing-earthI could see the earth from the moon in panoramic full color shots.

It’s like seeing the brush marks up close on an original Rembrandt.

Against the blackness of space the earth seems a precious multi-colored jewel set in a sea of darkness, like a magnificent mix of brilliant varied shades of blues, whites, browns, and greens.

I am a small speck living on this jewel in the vast vista of the black universe and, at the same time, I sense privilege and honor to call this jewel of earth my home.  

A time to wonder. A time to pray. A time to remember.

“… rising and gliding out,
I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars. “
-Walt Whitman


 

 Walter Cronkite quote taken from Phil Rosenthal’s article entitled Walter Cronkite’s star will be forever aligned with moon landing in http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/columnists/chi-sun-new-phil-rosenthal-0719jul19-column.html

When I’d Heard the Learned Astronomer by Walt Whitman– taken from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174747

photos courtesy of:

https://www.google.com/search?q=moon+landing+pictures&espv=2&biw=1180&bih=527&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAWoVChMI9sSQ6KfqxgIVBhOSCh3Ykggy&dpr=1#imgrc=aC2bZWduJ9Ky9M%3A

Carpe Diem!

BabyAnnouncement
Seize the day, my dear son, Jean Christopher!

C&CatArbysThis picture of you and Claire, ages 3 and 5, shows you sitting in a booth at Arby’s waiting patiently for dad to bring you Sunday lunch. I do remember you wanted more “ham in your hamburger” that day.

I wish I could remember more of our ordinary times as you two grew: what we talked about, how you sounded, and how you looked when you slept that night.

I wish I had not been in a hurry to get to the next things: dinner, bath, book, bed.

Like Anna Quindlen so aptly said, “I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.” 

Chris&ClaireCoupThis one of you and Claire, ages 8 and 10, shows you two standing on the rubble in the aftermath of a Moscow coup smiling blissfully as machine-gun toting Russian soldiers warily watch me take your picture. Unlikely tourist shot for sure.

I wish now I could remember more about our extraordinary Russian times: the smells, the sights, the tastes, the people. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

I treasure many such precious, breathtaking, historic or not-so-historic moments captured only in photographs of my mind at age sixty-six and as I review them I wax nostalgic and pensive, almost incredulous at the wrinkles on my face and in denial of the steady slow aging of this frail body, keenly aware of the need to preserve these memories whether mundane or extraordinary for posterity.

hourglassAs the hourglass days of my life flow quickly by I see clearly in hindsight extraordinary values in the ebb and flow of these everyday events in the grand scheme of things as they flash before my eyes. I hope to share a few of them with you.

For I now know that you, my dear son, who just yesterday were a babe in my arms, will very shortly hold your own precious child.

We both would do well to heed the advise of this ancient Sanskrit poem.

Look To This Day

Look to this day
for it is life
the very breath of life.

In its brief course lie all
the realities and truths of existence
the joy of growth
the splendor of action
the glory of power.

For yesterday is but a memory
And tomorrow is only a vision.
But today well lived
makes every yesterday a memory of happiness
and every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day.Silhouette-Sunrise-Nature



‘Treasure’ quote from Quindlen, Anna. Loud and Clear. New York: Random House, 2004. Print.

“Look To This Day by Kalidasa.” Famous Poems. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2015. http://allpoetry.com/Look-To-This-Day

Image courtesy of:   http://www.movdata.net/sunrise.html

A Tribute to My Mother

Mother with Fur EfitedMother!

Today I honor you.

Yes, I do.

Let me live in the house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.  Your cross-stitch from this lovely Sam Robert Foss poem now resides on my kitchen wall. It speaks the essence of your beauty. Mother, you didn’t seek the limelight and didn’t stand out in a crowd,nevertheless, in your own quiet way, even though you’re gone from this earth, you still shine as a bright diamond star.

I am reminded daily of the rich treasure you still are.live by side of road2

A supermom.

Indeed.

I remember you positioned patterns on fabric on the living room floor, cutting, shaping, and sewing them into your own clothes. (Oh, how dad hated stepping on the stray straight pins that remained in the living room carpet afterwards.)

I remember you worked up a sweat picking garden bounty and came inside laden with strawberries or rhubarb from the garden, ready to make delicious jam.

I remember you canned beans and tomatoes and ground cherries. You even canned chickens. (chickens?)

I remember you wrestled an old wringer washing machine to wash clothes, carried them up from the basement to the outside to dry, and brought them back in to iron.

I remember you used to sit outside on a rickety lawn chair and use a hammer to crack walnuts for the ice box cookies and your homemade caramel corn.

I remember you cooked lunch and dinner every day AND still worked as teller at the bank.

I remember you did the furniture store books at home on the kitchen table at night.

vintage+housewifeI never recall you ever begrudging this hard work. In fact, I think you enjoyed it. I remember you humming as you cut out sugar cookies or made meatloaf or roast beef hash.

You so enjoyed having family gatherings, cooking for groups of us, and you knew how to organize and present a well-dressed table with your red dishes or Nortake china or Fiesta Ware.

pink high heelsI loved your high heels, your Chanel No. 5 perfume, your red lipstick, and nail polish carefully touched up especially on Sunday mornings. I so enjoyed your laugh, your smile, your hum, your quiet presence.

And that’s not all. At one point or another you flocked Christmas treewere President of Tabitha Society, Progress Club, Camp Fire Girl’s leader, Cub Scout’s leader, and faithful church choir singer. You always celebrated the holidays in grand-style decorating to the nines. We were one of the first in town to have a flocked Christmas tree. We even made May baskets on May Day to distribute to neighbors and friends.

You had such a positive attitude. You never criticized others and didn’t hold grudges. You never complained and didn’t gossip. You were easy to be around and a good friend. I remember fondly evening coffee with neighbor, Irene.

I’ll always remember your smile. It lit up your whole face…even toward the end, in the nursing home, you were a favorite of the staff because of your positive attitude and your big smile.

You taught me by example–the importance of home, of family, of community, of faith, of service to other, of courage, of endurance, and of the intricacies of unconditional love.

The mother I remember epitomized God’s kind of love: she was patient and kind; not envious; not boastful but meek, seeking not her own way; Mother, you patiently bore every fault, endured all things…and Mother, your love didn’t fail.

You were so self-sacrificing. After completing high school, you enrolled in junior college and studied among other things, the French language. I fondly remember you speaking French to me when I was very young. You told me later that you really enjoyed learning and loved speaking French, but when your mom and dad needed your to help with finances, you willingly quit school and went to work in a bank as a teller to help support them.

Lorence&DorothyWeddingPicEditLater after you met and married dad, and after the stint in the Army in Texas, you willingly moved with him to his small home town of Elgin, Iowa where you knew very few people at the start…to make a home…willingly blending in, making a whole town of new friends—-being with all of dad’s relatives all of the time, even on weekends since family meant communal meals every Saturday and Sunday, a family business, and common church to boot.

I am especially grateful for your sacrificial giving on my behalf. I now know that the Jonathan Logan red dress you bought me once for Christmas took lots of your hard-earned saved money from your bank job. $35. In cash.

Yes, you served your church and community and family well over the years. And with the ultimate in self-sacrifice…you opened your hands and let my family and me go of all places to Siberia. Though extremely difficult, you treasured us in thought and prayer and offered us the sacrifice of a giving spirit as we went…praying for us…and holding the ropes for us here. Your quiet faith sustained you and gave you courage to let us go.

You relished simple joys. You delighted in your family, treasuring the times you could be with us. You enjoyed Texas with dad, Holly the poodle, coffee with Irene, Moore’s Store, Sweet Corn Days, word puzzles, Scrabble games, church activities, going out to eat, and shopping.

I remember when you used to visit us in Hopkins how you loved it when I’d drop you off at Southdale for the day. I was always amazed that at the end of the day you’d usually only have a small bag of treasures you’d purchased. You loved “just looking” and were very good at it!

Oh, you had your share of trials in life. You couldn’t hear too well. You had three eye operations and suffered from poor eyesight. Your knees were sore. And you agonized over caring for dad during the several years before he died. Yet in all these things, you kept smiling; kept your quiet faith and simple charm.

Even when you had to move from your home of 50 years and out of Elgin, you adapted with courage to Thornecrest: first the retirement apartment, then assisted living, and then the nursing home—meeting each change with acceptance, determined to make the best of it.

The hardest thing about all of this for me was watching you slowly fade away. One day in December of 1996 I went to visit you at Thornecrest to say “goodbye” one more time as I was returning again to Siberia.

You were beginning to lose your memory and your self to dementia/Alzheimer’s and I was struggling with the changes so I wrote this poem for you entitled Mother.

love_u_mom_MOTHER

When the time comes, will I be able to leave you?
Will I leave you?
Which you will I leave?
What will you remember of me?

Your mind like vapor
evaporates around me like the morning mist.

Sometimes you are there;
the old you—
the one I grew up with.
The one I knew.

Other times you are not there.
Your eyes say, “I am not home;
I have gone for a long walk in time and I am not to be bothered.”

There are not words for this change.

Can it be that your mind like the sand in an hourglass is slowly moving downward? That it is going to the other side?

That it is leaving me with only the memory of what was?

What was?

You were my mother.
You gave me life and nurtured the life in me.
You baked cookies for me when I came home from school.
You bought me an expensive red dress at Christmas.
You played Scrabble with me.
You shopped with me.
You listened when I had something to say.
You prayed for me.

You were always glad to see me.
So patient if I didn’t appear when I should.
Grateful for the times I could.

Today you are glad to see me, too.
That is still the same.

You remember me and like to be with me.

So when the time comes, will I leave you?
I like to think that I will still be in your mind.
Your daughter.
Your friend.
Until when I see you again.

But even if you don’t know it now,
or know me then,
it will be true;

that will never change.

Some things never do.

 ©15 December 1996.   Barbara A. LaTondresse – All rights reserved.

mothers-day

Foss, Sam Robert. The House by the Side of the Road. Found in http://www.theotherpages.org/poems/foss01.html


Images courtesy of:

http://galleryplus.ebayimg.com/ws/web/131500833507_1_1_1.jpg

http://www.kespia.com/downloads/wallpapers/love_u_mom_.jpg

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/105975397457178334/

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/f3/01/54/f30154a9fd9c5b642738cfe852a72497.jpg

https://img0.etsystatic.com/055/1/5392938/il_570xN.743928948_eltz.jpg

http://www.joyofkosher.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/mothers-day.jpg

‘Blue skies smilin at me. Nothin’ but blue skies do I see.’

blue skiesWhat a beautiful spring day in Minnesota!

Green emerges everywhere. Hostas, lilies, bee balm, sedum, astilbe and ferns sprout. Red tulips color the landscape in the LaTondresse yard.

Crabapple BlossomsThe stately old crabapple tree leaves form new buds and burst into an umbrella of pink flowers. Outdoor furniture takes its place amid the newly planted geraniums, impatiens, and petunias.

I relish the grand vista from my ‘happy place’ in the screen porch. Life is good.

my happy place

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?

darkclouds-1024x682

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.

house-overcrowded-unhappy-inhabitants-cartoon-44631989Our 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.

sanctuarySanctuary

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.

silenceAs I cried out to God that memorable Siberian day my heart flooded with miraculous peace amid the chaos.

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.

happyplace-300x300In fact, if I had to choose between having an ‘outer’ happy place and an ‘inner’ one, the ‘inner’ one would come first. The hymn writer Annie Johnson Flint(1836-1932) knows what I’m talking about.

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.

arthritic handWith 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.

a quiet place

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.

Refrain:
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/

http://cyberhymnal.org/bio/f/l/flint_aj.htm and http://www.preceptaustin.org/annie_johnson_flint%27s_biography.htm

“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:

http://rainbowlightangel.com/2012/06/blue-skies-smiling-at-me/

“My Screen Porch” and “Our Crabapple in Spring”.   Unpublished photos taken by Barbara A. LaTondresse. Hopkins, Minnesota. 2010.

http://costlymercy.com/2014/dealing-with-the-dark-clouds-in-ministry/

http://thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/house-overcrowded-unhappy-inhabitants-cartoon-44631989.jpg

http://www.goingbeyond.com/blog/home-sanctuary/

http://seasonsgeneralstore.com/shop/happy-place-pillow/

http://ruleoflife.com/2012/09/05/a-quiet-place/

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