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/

.

Falls. Winters. Springs.

Ah, Spring!

Winter snow melts into greening grass unfolding in my front yard. Tulips and day lilies emerge amid leafy fall debris residue; the forsythia and pussy willows adorn my front planter. First markers of welcome seasonal change abound.

hope_of_spring_16x20_bbvo2011_600Hope springs!

Amid this emerging glory I’m celebrating another unlikely welcome marker, this one in my journey of life. Today marks the anniversary of the last of my seven recent falls. 

One year ago today I sported a black eye marking a painful encounter with the bedside table. In trying to get up I fell back partly landing on the bed and then dove left to the floor hitting my head just over my left eye on the sharp edge of the side table — an impressive cut above my left brow and goose egg and prize-winning black eye my colorful trophies.  I looked like I won the fight.  10-Free-Smiley-Face-With-Black-Eye

I look back today remembering each fall and the markers they left: two of them earned me broken ribs, one netted a bruised knee, one a fat lip, and one a fractured vertebra—L7 to be exact. That one bothers me still.

Life’s full of surprises. Some welcome. Some not.

So I’m sure this March 27 does not mark the end of my trials. Barring a miracle (which I still pray for), my path won’t be a bed of roses from now on just because of one encouraging milestone.

We all rejoice with a resolved plot or with the last pieces of the jigsaw in place—no unanswered questions or missing parts.

Unfortunately life isn’t always that neatly packaged, is it?

I still have trouble walking and limited use of my left hand. My new friends still include two pills every four hours 24/7/365, a cane, walker, and, on occasion, a wheelchair.

puzzle_pieces_istock_000005653019smallPain and perplexities, broken pieces, unanswered questions, the nagging doubts, and the messy realities of Parkinson’s disease collide with my vision of life as it should be in the Pleasantville world and I am still stunned.

At first I tried denial. It didn’t do much for my body or soul. So I began to share more openly with my worlds, not just because misery loves company, though it surely does—but also to acknowledge and point to the encouragement and redemption of suffering as I begin to see the resurrection beyond the cross in Christ’s life and, hopefully, in my own as well.

Easter season reminds us vividly that Christ “bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.“ So as I write this today in the midst of this ‘messy reality’ of a mysterious puzzle, I am thankful and hopeful. I’m thankful for strong support from family and friends. I’m also hopeful that as I experience the unlikely gifts of Christ’s joy and peace this suffering will yield its own unique redemption stories.

Someday. Yesterday. Today.

I’ll close with a favorite poem by Luci Shaw and a response reflection by me that show clearly the past, present, and future tangle in my March 27 mind.

Joy-Comes-in-the-MorningSomeday

Someday I will walk around the sun

And turn and touch Orion’s Belt

With more than hands.

Then I will survey Andromeda

Understanding all I see.

For the hand that spanned in light years

Has rested torn and bloody upon me.

Today 

 Today I will walk tied to earth;

Bound to frailty with cords of clay.

Ephemeral mist in the Siberian morning.

So easy to slip on the ice.

So prone to lose my balance.

Uncertainty beneath my feet.

Yet You say You will

“…lovingly guard

my footsteps

and give me songs

in the night.”

In this mist of ice and snow,

I will walk with You.

Bound to earth and to heaven.

I may fall. I will fall.

But I will not be “hurled headlong”.

I will feel Your hand lifting me up and

I will know that even though

“…weeping may endure for a night,

Shouts of Joy will come in the morning”.


Someday “ by Luci Shaw in Shaw, Luci. Listen to the Green. Wheaton: Harold Shaw, 1971. Print.

“Today” by Barbara LaTondresse. Unpublished poem. ©1996 Barbara A. LaTondresse – All rights reserved.

Psalms 30:5; Psalms 37:23-24; Isaiah 53:4-6. The Holy Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments: Revised Standard Version. New York: American Bible Society, 1952. Print.

“Redeemed: How I Love to Proclaim It” – lyrics by Fanny Crosby, 1882. Public Domain hymn.

Images courtesy of:

http://www.bridgetbossartvanotterloo.com/po_hope_of_spring_16x20_bbvo2011.html

http://carrelease.info/view/puzzle-pieces

http://free.clipartof.com/details/10-Free-Smiley-Face-With-Black-Eye

https://www.idisciple.org/post/joy-comes-in-the-morning-1

Tangled Vines

vines at cotc enhansed Tangled vines. Random curves and irregular connections intersect as they wind around each other. The maze of twists where even the spaces meld and define seems to tell a significant story borne of weighty decisions and complex directions. No straight lines, dotted I’s, or crossed T’s’. Maybe it’s your story? Maybe mine?

I love that lent altarthis thought-provoking uniquely beautiful composition adorns the altar for the Lenten season at our little Anglican church. It unmistakably invites the introspection the Lenten season demands.

One of our deacons put it this way: The Lenten season invites us through the means of spiritual disciplines to examine our attachments.  The intention of discipline is growth in maturity and freedom, but the experience of disciple often brings us to a place of recognizing where we are and what we are depending on for our life and our lifting.  We might notice the direction we are taking.  It might be time for a new twist, a turning.

A painful decision perhaps?  

It reminded me of a dark time when we lived in Russia as missionaries. One particularly bleak afternoon while feeling sorry for myself I struggled with the price we paid to move to Siberia.

After all, I told God, we left home, family, friends, occupations, possessions, known language, familiar ways. I missed my grocery store. The list went on and on.

eeyoreupIn the midst of my Eeyore –like reverie, one biblical narrative in particular came to mind as I contemplated the cost of obeying God in the weighty decisions of life. It is the story of Abraham and sacrifice of his only son, Isaac.

God called Abraham to do an impossibly hard and seemingly frightful thing: sacrifice his only son, the son of promise. And yet as the story goes he obeyed and went even to the point of no return.

abrahamsacrificeHebrews 11:17-19 says: By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead.“

He believed Jehovah-Jireh, the God who could provide, would provide everything he needed. Including a miracle.

That realization guided his decision and that afternoon in Russia it guided mine as it cut thru my self-absorption and struck a vital nerve in my spiritual life.

Costly? Yes. Would God provide if I trusted him? Yes.

“Peter began to say to Him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed You.’ Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.'”  Mark 10:28-30.

The twist. The turn. The peace.

That afternoon I wrote The Executioner’s Song. My vine began that turning-point day to reflect the knarled beauty of an unmistakable, unexpected curve toward Russia. Mosaic of Abraham's Sacrifice

 

The Executioner’s Sonby Barbara LaTondresse

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.medium_twisted_vine

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 Jehovah-Jireh.  

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.   religious - Abrahams bundle-knife

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 Jehovah-Jireh has His way;

so we carry the bloody knife and remember.

1 March 1995 ©1995 Barbara A. LaTondresse – All rights reserved.


A Lesson from the Vines. Witham, Cheryl. “Crossings.” Church of the Cross. N.p., 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2015.

Hebrews 11:17-19 & Mark 10:28-30. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. N.p.: Good News, 2001. N. pag. Print.

The Executioner’s Song by Barbara A. LaTondresse  –  1 March 1995  ©. 1995. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:

http://www.ofthecross.org/crossings-blog/

Altar at Lent taken by Janet Evans McCuistion. March 2015. Church of the Cross. Hopkins, Minnesota.

https://wordincarnate.wordpress.com/2009/02/04/abrahams-knife/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10789305/Death-sentence-in-Lambeths-glass.html

http://wondersofdisney.yolasite.com/resources/winniethepooh/eeyore/eeyoreup/gif

http://spmercyministry.com/2013/07/16/the-difficulty-of-trusting-in-god/

My Lenten Confection

cookie-monsterGrocery shopping has its charms. Aisles brimming with culinary treasures awaken my inner chef to the possibilities. Sample ladies entice me to devour tasty morsels of chicken Kiev or artisan cheese. The flower market calls me especially in Minnesota’s late winter hibernation to smell and touch the hyacinths and dream of spring.

But grocery shopping also has its temptations, especially if the shopper happens to be forswearing sugar for Lent.

choc chip cookiesOh, the sweet pain as the decadent aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies wafts thru the aisles and draws me toward the bakery counter where I, alas, commit the crime and purchase not one but two delightfully warm gooey gems and with nary a thought of contrition devour them whole on the spot.

Ah, what have I done?

My noble intentions and stout resolution get lost in a sea of remorse as I ponder the weight of my unwise and impulsive decision. I can hide the evidence on the outside but inside I sense an uneasy mix of guilt and failure. I can rationalize that it was only a small offense in the grand scheme of possible crimes, but I am still left with a glaring example of my own imperfection. I have sinned.

The Apostle Paul speaks to this reality in the book of Romans. He says, “My own behavior baffles me. For I find myself not doing what I really want to do but doing what I really loathe. … I often find that I have the will to do good, but not the power. That is, I don’t accomplish the good I set out to do, and the evil I don’t really want to do I find I am always doing….In my mind I am God’s willing servant, but in my own nature I am bound fast, as I say, to the law of sin and death. It is an agonizing situation, and who on earth can set me free from the clutches of my sinful nature? I thank God there is a way out through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

There’s Hope. Glorious Hope.

The hymn writer Horatio G. Spafford said it best:

my-sins-nailed-to-the-crossMy sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!’

A shlight.showing-open-dooraft of Light emerges thru an open door into the pitch-black room of my guilty soul piercing the darkness, illuminating and transforming all inside by its own radiant Power.

A Way Out. Yes, indeed. Thank God.

My Lenten confection redeemed.

_______________________

Phillips, J. B. “Romans 8:14-20.” The New Testament in Modern English. New York: Harper Collins, 1962. Print.

It Is Well With My Soul lyrics by Horatio G Spafford – 1873 –  found in http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/It_Is_Well_with_My_Soul/

Images courtesy of:

http://www.thehealthblueprint.com/55-fat-loss-secrets/

http://www.handletheheat.com/ultimate-chocolate-chip-cookies/

http://lightloveandpower.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/light.showing-open-door.jpg/

https://heathersjoy.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/itiswell/

 

 

 

 

His Winter Gift

Love is blind or at the very least somewhat bewildered.

Shortly after we became engaged Andre found himself totally lost in a dreamy reverie of love while stopped at a red light.

love is blindSo intense was his happy fog that he blissfully sat thru multiple transitions from red to yellow to green to red to yellow to green. Only after the irate motorist behind him stood on the horn did he sheepishly awake and scurry along.

After 37 years of marriage I’m quite sure Andre doesn’t sit thru red lights contemplating his bride’s flawless beauty. And I now see a few chinks in the shining armor of my gallant knight.

Ecstasy and Agony. We’ve had our hearts and flowers soaring the heights but also our tempest, weathering frightful storms and battles which have left us with a few scars and some deep wrinkles and more than a few grey hairs.

Nevertheless the bond holds and the glue that binds us is strong.

Vector-Background-LightBlueWherever we go, whatever we do

We’re gonna go through it together

We may not go far but sure as a star

Wherever we are it’s together

Our wedding rings symbolize a three-fold cord. The image comes from a phrase in Ecclesiastes 4 which says that a “triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

3-strandFiguratively our “three-fold cord” includes both of us as two strands intertwined with the third, the Lord God.

Audacious as it might seem, we’ve asked the Lord to join us and guide us in our life journey together. He gives us spiritual resources to cope with and surmount all sorts of trials and provides the glorious hope of a miracle when things look very dark and the tempest rages and the bond stretches toward the breaking point.

It is what I call His Winter Gift.

spring-birds-clipart-13758-love-birds-designIn the Spring of it all

What does one know of love?

Everything is vibrant—

Alive,

The newness is enough.

snow-blizzard-pictures-wallpaper But what of Winter?

Will warm fires burn within

Shutting out the cold?

 

Only if our Springtime Creator

campfire-c

Will build a fire

Where there is no match to light one.

It is His Gift.

Especially on cold, winter days.

 ©1976 Barbara A. LaTondresse – All rights reserved.


“Together (Wherever We Go)” -music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, written for the musical play Gypsy in 1959 based on the book by Arthur Laurents–Gypsy: A Memoir. New York City: Harper, 1957. Print.

Images courtesy of:

http://www.survivalcommonsense.com/how-to-video-start-a-survival-campfire-with-gasoline-and-matchesfeed/

http://www.best-free-wallpaper.org/wallpapers/snow-blizzard-pictures-wallpaper/

http://www.clipartpanda.com/clipart_images/love-birds-clip-art-vector-35751434

 

 

 

 

For Auld Lang Syne, My Dear!

 

NAuldLangSyne_ElementPreviewever a Christmas morning

Never the New Year ends

But someone thinks of someone

Old days, old times, old friends.

Every New Year’s Eve for the past 35 years my husband and I have gathered with the same group of twelve dear friends for an impressive lobster dinner to ring in the New Year.

These annual events usually occur in one of our homes and involve elaborate preparationHappy-New-Year-2015s: trappings like hearty appetizers, designer cocktails, champagne, individual butter dishes, lobster picks and crackers, huge boiling pots, individual salads, unique side dishes, and profiteroles.   A highlight is the annual delightfully detailed reading of how to eat a lobster from Joy of Cooking as we labor over the careful dismemberment of our crustaceans.

Our memorable gatherings have grown in sophistication over the years. The men noNewYearPeoplew wear tuxes; the ladies fancy outfits. The table decked out to the nines with the best silver, crystal, and china. The ambiance music perfectly selected and the party hats and noisemakers ready. One friend even brings a crystal ball to ‘drop’ as the countdown reaches ‘zero’ and New Year appears.

This year the hosts prepared and presented a 35-year reflection slide show with photos from the beginning of our times together onward. My how young and skinny we all were! Some of us had more hair back then. Others had impressive perms highlighting tightly curled bobs. Interesting to note how some of the same outfits appear again from year to year and how much more grown-up we all look now.

As we laughed and reminisced our way thru this colorful, rich personal history I couldn’t htime-flyselp but think of the words of Ecclesiastes:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;

A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

The New Years Eve montage captures the angst of the painful truth. James, the Apostle, said it something like this:   “My lifeone-precious-life-200-27 is my breath on a cold day–it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”

Sometimes I wish I had the power to stop the hourglass sand.  As Miranda July said in No One Belongs Here More Than You, “Inelegantly, and without my consent, time passed.” 

Last Saturday our son, daughter-in-law, and their beloved pet left our home to go back to theirs in Washington, DC after a delightful two-week holiday visit. The house rang with flurries of activity, laughter, quiet family times, and good conversation. A montage of mostly delightful memories, except when the doggie terrorized the cat. But even that seemed redeemable; funny somehow.

The moment they left, the silence crept in like a heavy mist almost stifling my warm, happy thoughts. One brief time and they’re gone.

As I pondered the stillness, suddenly, like bright sun shining thru clouds to reveal a clear blue sky, the words to an old, favorite hymn lifted the fog in my melancholy mind to remind me that amid the ever-changing landscape montage of my life, as times and seasons come and go, one thing remains constant.

“This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.  It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23)

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own great presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

Refrain:
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!


Rombauer, Irma S., and Marion Rombauer Becker. Joy of Cooking. New York, N.Y.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1975. Pages 385-386. Print

July, Miranda. No One Belongs Here More than You: Stories. New York: Scribner, 2007. Print.

Pictures courtesy of—

http://www.anglotopia.net/countries/england/brit-language-auld-lang-syne-in-translation/

http://www.calendariu.com/tag/happy-new-year-fireworks-png

http://www.21st-century-christianity.com/One-Precious-Life.html

http://georgetownmusictown.com/2014/12/23/new-years-eve-in-georgetown/

http://writing.wikinut.com/img/1jo98-t3frf6pigz/time-flys

http://beardmonkey.net/2013/11/26/infinite-hourglass/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every New Year’s Eve for the past 35 years my husband and I have gathered with the same group of twelve dear friends for an impressive lobster dinner to ring in the New Year.

 

These annual events usually occur in one of our homes and involve elaborate preparations: trappings like hearty appetizers, designer cocktails, champagne, individual butter dishes, lobster picks and crackers, huge boiling pots, individual salads, unique side dishes, and profiteroles.   A highlight is the annual delightfully detailed reading of how to eat a lobster from Joy of Cooking as we labor over the careful dismemberment of our crustaceans.

 

Our memorable gatherings have grown in sophistication over the years. The men now wear tuxes; the ladies fancy outfits. The table decked out to the nines with the best silver, crystal, and china. The ambiance music perfectly selected and the party hats and noisemakers ready. One friend even brings a crystal ball to ‘drop’ as the countdown reaches ‘one’ and New Year appears.

 

This year the hosts prepared and presented a 35-year reflection slideshow with photos from the beginning of our times together onward. My how young and skinny we all were! Some of us had more hair back then. Others had impressive perms highlighting tightly curled bobs. Interesting to note how some of the same outfits appear again from year to year and how much more grown-up we all look now.

 

As we laughed and reminisced our way thru this colorful, rich personal history I couldn’t help but think of the words of Ecclesiastes:

 

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;

A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

 

The New Years Eve montage captures the angst of the painful truth. James, the Apostle, said it something like this:   “My life is my breath on a cold day–it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”

 

Sometimes I wish I had the power to stop the hourglass sand.

 

As Miranda July said in No One Belongs Here More Than You, “Inelegantly, and without my consent, time passed.”
Last Saturday our son, daughter-in-law, and their beloved pet left our home to go back to theirs in Washington, DC after a delightful two-week holiday visit. The house rang with flurries of activity, laughter, quiet family times, and good conversation. A montage of mostly delightful memories, except when the doggie terrorized the cat. But even that seemed redeemable; funny somehow.

 

The moment they left, the silence crept in like a heavy mist almost stifling my warm, happy thoughts. One brief warm time and they’re gone.

 

As I pondered the stillness, suddenly, like bright sun shining thru clouds to reveal a clear blue sky, the words to an old, favorite hymn lifted the fog in my melancholy mind to remind me that amid the ever-changing landscape montage of my life, as times and seasons come and go, one thing remains constant.

 

“This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.  It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23)

 

 

 

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own great presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

Refrain:
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!