Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year Baby

        Our youngest turns 12 years old today... and there will be three candles on her cake, just for the fun of it.  I wrote a poem for each of my 4 children at the time of their birth, what with all that time on my hands back then.  Lots of people say, "oh, your surprise baby," or "your caboose."  No, she was no surprise.  I post this for Kara today so that she knows, that I knew she was no surprise at all.  I wrote  about Kara earlier and if you'd like to read it, you can click right here...
 Kara's story.   

Kara, so that you will always know whose you are and what a complete gift from God you are.

Happy Birthday Kara Joy!
February 29, 2000
 For thou didst form my inward parts; thou did weave me in my mother’s womb.  I will give thanks to thee, for I am fearfullly and wonderfully made;  wonderful are thy works, and my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from thee, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.  Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance, and in thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. 
Psalm 139:133-16
GettingDownWithJesusCome and see the wonderful group of women in this community!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What can wash away my sin?
            Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh, precious is the flow
            that makes me white as snow.

No other fount I know
            Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Robert Lowry
In him we have redemption through his blood,
the forgiveness of sins,
in accordance with the riches of God’s grace
that he lavished on us.
With all wisdom and understanding,
he made known to us the mystery of his will
according to his good pleasure,
which he purposed in Christ,
to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment
to bring unity to all things
in heaven and on earth under Christ. 
Ephesians 1:7-10

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


as made to be
uncontainable true colors
bursting glorious
patricia spreng

Saturday, February 18, 2012



I'm spending time with these wonderful places this weekend... come with me.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

An Anniversary

I missed my one year blogging anniversary! =)  It was two weeks ago... February 1, 2011.  No big hairy deal really... until I realized how much the last year has meant to me... and that ... is a big hairy deal... for me.  I've come through the valley of the shadow of death, and I was not alone in there.  His pen and my "paper" were my therapy.  Isn't that the story for so many of us?

The best part about blogging, without question, was meeting you all right here.  Like most mothers, mine always told me "never talk to strangers,"... but she never said anything about writing to them.  I was amazed by the photography of the first woman who commented on something I wrote.  She seemed harmless enough.  So, I kept posting.  Then there was this guy who said things like "nice poem, Patricia" and that was super encouraging to me.  He looked harmless enough.   So, I kept writing.  There was a poetry community that was so much fun and a bit edgy ... they lit a fire under me... a place where we could all warm our hands over an open fire of poetry (well, not my poetry... but, you know.)

A year ago, I would have told you that I just needed a place to put my thoughts down, tell a story, record my poetry, or a good photograph.  I certainly wasn't going to sing, join a poetry community or write something in a character other than myself... that would be silly.  I guess I just thought I should finally make good on a promise I had made to my sister in law who had recently died from brain cancer.  She wanted me to let others see what I wrote. That seemed kind of dumb to me... but a promise is a promise.  I don't have grand writing ambitions, (other than to get my monarch butterfly photo journal published.)  I'll probably self publish that someday when I have some extra cash lying around.   I won't quit my day job.

A year ago, I would have told you that I had all the friends I needed and that I would have NEVER been taken in by an online ministry or paid good money to fly to Texas to participate in one of their retreats, room with a stranger, (who wasn't strange at all) or worse... read my poetry to a room full of them.

Top L-R:  Sarah Masen, Pat Spreng, guy from Christianity Today,
Marcus Goodyear
Bottom L-R:  Sandra Heska King, Julia Kasdorf, Linda Chontos, Julia ?
A year ago, I wouldn't have known I would take a canoe by myself up a strange river, or walk downstream to find hundreds of monarch butterflies. 

A year ago, I was just coming up for air.  Still grieving the loss of my loved ones and experiencing the difficulties of my husband's brain surgery.  At the retreat, I was happy to stay behind my camera... looking for nature, not people.  No one knew me, and that was good.

But, you all were there ... and, well, sort of in my way. 

I kept running into your
beautiful words ...

and colors ...

your laughter, your kindness, 

a pho feast of hospitality...

as plentiful and beautiful as the butterflies themselves.  The presence of God in many forms. 
Lyla Lindquist, Anne Kroeker, Jennifer Dukes Lee, Sandra Heska King,
L.L. Barkat, Nancy Franson, Sam VanEman, Claire Burge
Tina Miller Howard, David Rupert, Cheryl Hyatt Smith

Someone was very honest while breaking bread, making  communion within a growing community so, well... communal. 

Great is His faithfulness.

Oh God my Father.

A lot can happen in one year. 

That's a big hairy deal.

Thank you from the bottom of my ink well...

Patricia Spreng

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

softly falls
upon us.

patricia spreng

Come read the wonderful words of poets at d'Verse Poets Open Link Night

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Remember

In loving memory of my Dad,  J. Robert Smolenski, who died two years ago today. 
He was 91 years old.   12/17/1918 - 2/12/2010 
(Thanks to my sister, Jane, who put this video together.  She's the one singing with my Dad.)

I will always remember you, Dad.
I’ll love you...
for the rest of my life.

The way you taught me to sing Hello Dolly, just right.
The way you held my hand when we walked to church, wrapping your pinky around the back of my wrist, just so.

You were proud, leading your entourage, weren't you?
Listening to you sing and recite prayers so loudly.
You seemed closer to God that way, I thought.

Always the life of the party,
your silly hats and vests...
making up funny lyrics to old familiar songs...
You, the Judge, yet a writer... a poet, of sorts ...
I'm seeing that for the first time, just now.

Oh, how you loved to teach us songs.
Loading up the VW Bus and taking us to the Fisher Theater in Detroit
for the musicals... and how the The Sound of Music was our favorite.
You would line us all up to sing wherever we went...
just like the VonTrapski Family Singers.
I loved how you danced with me.
No one could follow your crazy dance steps,
but I always felt swept off my feet when we were dancing (literally.)

I remember the night I threw up asparagus all over my plate,
right next to you at the dinner table.
You were disgusted and sent me to my room.
From then on, I hid my asparagus (and every other vegetable)
on the ledge under the table.
It was hard work remembering to dispose of that food after all the dishes were done.
I still hate asparagus.

I buried my fearful tears into the back of your thick green corduroy coat
as we raced down the icy toboggan tracks, I never opened my eyes once.
I held on to you for dear life, Dad.
I still can't open my eyes on a roller coaster...
and I use Lamaze breathing techniques until the ride is over.

You were so proud (and hardly ever patient)
pulling us water skiing behind that 35mph Evinrude.
And the way you made us haul those docks out.
You, in those boxer shorts we all snickered at.
You got mad easily.
But you laughed at yourself easily, too.
Maybe you wished for all sons instead of daughters.
We never knew it, if you did.

We tried to be brave and strong for you.
We buried stinky garbage.
Burned the trash.
Hauled those gas cans.
We shoveled, raked and mowed.
We learned how to roll up our sleeves and lift heavy things, together.
You yelled at our sports endeavors and pretended like you knew how to coach us.
None of us ever liked to golf with you.
On Sundays, we donned our best and looked like girls.
We so tried to please you and we knew when we didn't.

You were tough, Dad. You expected so much of us.
They didn't call you "The Hanging Judge" for nothing.
I remember that day we were walking to church
and I mentioned I was "sort of " dating an older guy.
I was 18. He was 24.
You didn't think that was such a good idea.
Until you invited him on that ski trip with us
and you liked him as much as I did.
The best part was watching my sisters' jaws drop in disbelief.

I remember my worst day with you. 
Our big confrontation two days before my wedding.
I needed you to understand why I refused
to sign that document the priest had presented.
The one that said I would promise to raise our children in the Catholic faith.
I was a panicked 21 year old and my wedding was about to be cancelled, by a priest.
I didn't want to lie to the priest or to you and I cried hard.

I upset you... disappointed you... hurt you... with this revelation of mine.
I didn't believe the Catholic church was the only right church. Oh… how. you. disagreed.
You wondered where you went wrong. I wondered why I was defending my faith.
I assured you that we would raise our children in a christian home, not necessarily the Catholic church.
It was of no consolation to you.
You, the Judge, told me to sign the damn document... case closed.
It was a rough night.
The wedding proceeded as scheduled after I signed that paper…
with God as my witness, I lied.
You gave me away that day, and I let go of you.

Most importantly,
I remember your loving touch, 12 years later.
The deep knowing of our resolution...
brought about by a Catholic priest, of all people.
Very few words were used.  There was no re-hashing.
We were both older and wiser.
Rich and I settled in our non-denominational church.
Raising our children with the hope that they would grow into a relationship with Christ.
The tension of the denominational issue had softened over the years,
and my faith had stood the test of time.
Visiting you and Mom, we all went to your church for Sunday Mass.
We listened as the priest read from Romans 10:9 ...

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,”
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved.

Right then and there, the priest actually said that Paul never mentioned 
what church you had to go to, what holy days you should observe, or how often you should go.

I sat frozen in the pew, and peered at you out of the corner of my eye, wondering if you'd heard it.
You did... and just then, you reached your arm around me
leaned close and whispered "That's right, Patty. He's right."
You patted my shoulder.
That was it. Everything was alright.

I remember how you called me "Patty."
I remember your lovepats, Dad.
I remember your strength and conviction.
I remember singing with you and all the fun you made for our family.
I miss you, Dad.
Can't wait to sing with you again.
Soon and very soon...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

“Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.”
 Habakkuk 1:5

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Fine Line

A fine line it is
between fear and trust
peace and panic…
crossed it many times,
back and forth…

Fear and Trust …
my next door neighbors
whichever way I am facing…
the other one is right behind me
it is a very short continuum…
a fine line

Left to my own devices...
in my foolishness…
I visit fear
and dwell there…
though it has never been a friend…
For we know…
that perfect fear
casts out love…
Your love…
and I most certainly know …
that Your love
has always been my Friend

In my weakened state of trust…
fear is more familiar to me,
more logical
than trust…
which is not natural,
and uncomfortable,
Trust, it seems,
must be grown…
a muscle,
so to speak,

I must choose…

in Your strength…
to move away from fear
and move in with Trust
regardless of the neighborhood
of circumstances around me

in your grace…
strengthen my trust…
distance me from fear…
turn me
to face You…
in Trust
where I find peace
in You…
my open Door
to freedom
from …

Patricia Spreng

Written in March of 2010 just prior to my husband’s brain surgery.   We give thanks today for the successful removal of the benign tumor.

Sharing with Jennifer at Getting Down With Jesus


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lord, have mercy...

Her eyes wide with want, I bent over the bed and into her hug.  
This mother woman child reaching for me with fingers wiry, mangled.
Reaching still, with both hands.... for touch, any touch.
I held my cheek next to hers and lingered. 
A stranger to me, yet I know her well.  
Taking both hands in mine, I am undone.
I block thoughts of my own mother’s last days. 
My heart strings fall like the strands of hair across her face, loose in resignation.
She is close.  Where are her children?   
So softly,  I stroke her forehead and sweep those strands out of her eyes.  
Cradling her cheek as though she were my  own. 
And there, in her hands, her last possession…  a string of colorful wooden beads. 
The kind she would have strung,  like strings of popcorn for a Christmas tree. 
Is she counting memories, or moments passed? 
Feeling  the roundedness of tactile time slipping through her hands.  
Uncurling her fingers, I find your cross embedded in the grip of her hand. 
This rosary, her final comfort. 
Oh Lord, have mercy. 
Your gift of life. 
Your gift of death.
Patricia Spreng

I found it no coincidence that the recent meditation below from Henri Nouwen helped me understand exactly what I could not say....
Solidarity in Weakness
Joy is hidden in compassion. The word compassion literally means "to suffer with." It seems quite unlikely that suffering with another person would bring joy. Yet being with a person in pain, offering simple presence to someone in despair, sharing with a friend times of confusion and uncertainty ... such experiences can bring us deep joy. Not happiness, not excitement, not great satisfaction, but the quiet joy of being there for someone else and living in deep solidarity with our brothers and sisters in this human family. Often this is a solidarity in weakness, in brokenness, in woundedness, but it leads us to the center of joy, which is sharing our humanity with others.
Henri Nouwen