Lessons from the Polio Epidemic


What causes it? What will cure it? When will a vaccine be found? Will we get back to normal?

These questions were being asked 70 years ago during the polio epidemic. The answers might be instructive for us today as we deal with Covid-19. Polio was around for a long time, but by 1950, the summer outbreaks were worsening and causing widespread fear.

Mayo Clinic describes polio or Poliomyelitis as “a contagious viral illness that in its most severe form causes nerve injury leading to paralysis, difficulty breathing and sometimes death.” Fear of polio closed businesses and quarantined families. The news reported the number of people infected daily. A desperate search for medical answers was underway. At its peak in the 1950s, the polio epidemic paralyzed over 35,000 people in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Polio usually struck in the summer. Most of its victims were children. Until a vaccine was found years later, swimming pools and theaters were closed, and other outside activities came to a halt. Children spent summers in the house, unable to play sports or be with friends.

Donna Larson Welander

The disease became personal for my own family when my sister Donna contracted polio in 1952. She was 22, married and living in Nebraska. She had a two-year-old daughter and was pregnant with her second child. Paralyzed from the waist down, Donna spent months in the hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska. Six months later, she miraculously delivered a healthy baby.

A year after being struck, she was sent to Warm Springs, Georgia, for several months for rehab therapy. Although they hoped she would be able to walk with braces and crutches, in the end she opted to use a wheelchair. She learned how to raise children and run a household from her wheelchair, and for the next 32 years she wheeled through life. I never once heard her feel sorry for herself.

Donna was only 53 when she died in 1983. At that time, little was known about post-polio syndrome. Research continues to evolve.

On March 21 this year, a USA Today headline read, “For those who survived polio, coronavirus is eerily familiar. But ultimately, science won.” The story tells how the first vaccine was introduced in 1955. Later, Albert Sabin perfected an oral vaccine which became widely distributed in 1962.

The bad news is that it took decades to find the cause and develop a vaccine that worked. There were many failed attempts. When a vaccine was found, one careless manufacturer accidently gave thousands of children the poliovirus. Today, there is still no cure for polio, although the last case originating in the U.S. was in 1979.

While polio grew into an epidemic over several decades, the coronavirus pandemic has exploded across the world in months. The CDC first announced a mysterious virus on January 21, 2020. On June 23, the United States death toll was at 122,132.

Take time to smell the flowers

Here are some useful take-aways from the polio epidemic:

Think long-term vigilance. It will take time to develop and test an effective vaccine. It may be years before it’s available worldwide. There may be mutations. There may be post-Covid-19 symptoms. We can’t shutter our businesses, schools and churches forever, but we can change our mindset to help minimize its spread.

Find serenity. Take a sabbatical from the pressures of life. Are you an “activity addict”? Author Chuck Swindoll compares our frantic lifestyles to the churning of a washing machine. Perhaps it’s time to slow down and also help our children find serenity. Refresh your spiritual life. Pray, sing, read your Bible.

Respect others. Cover your mouth if you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands and carry a sanitizer. Please forego hugs this year and give people space. I don’t wear a mask, but I am social distancing. It’s awkward when someone wants to hug or stands too close in the grocery line.

Be calm. Folks, we’re in a national medical crisis and it’s a political year. Fear and isolation can do strange things to people. This is not the time for blame games and arguments. Instead, pray for our president, governors and other leaders. They are doing their best in uncharted territory.

Be positive. Good things can come out of hard times. During the polio epidemic, Pres. Franklin Roosevelt helped found the March of Dimes, which helped Jonas Salk advance research that led to the first vaccine. The March of Dimes was the first non-profit to depend on help from small donors. It became the prototype for many other organizations. The combined amount of good they do is immeasurable.


Recommended Reading: I just finished reading I’ll Watch the Moon by Ann Tatlock. It’s a novel set in 1948 that sweeps you into the life of a family that is dealing with the polio epidemic.

Writing Update. With no book-signing events planned, I have a stock of books on hand. If you are interested in a summer deal on signed copies, contact me through the Reply form on the website.


“He has set eternity in the hearts of men.” Eccesiastes 3:11 NIV



The Ice Cream Bar

Aunt Emma, Aunt Lillie, my mother Neva, Aunt Mary & my father, Alfred Larson


Today, I bought a box of ice cream bars, and the first bite transported me back to the dusty main street of Dickey, North Dakota.

When I was growing up, my parents often drove to Dickey on Sunday afternoons to see Dad’s family. From our farm, it was a straight shot north on a gravel road. As we drove, the flat land dipped into the fertile James River Valley. Today, the valley, located south of Jamestown, is part of the Chan SanSan Scenic Backway. www.ndtourism.com/best-places/north-dakota. Back then, we just thought it was pretty.

Along the way, we’d pass the farm where Dad’s parents had lived, though they were gone before I was born. The Larsons had arrived at Dickey in 1902. I remember asking Dad how they traveled when they moved from southern Minnesota. With a straight face, he said with a team of oxen. That was a shocking piece of information! I was grown up before I realized he was joking and that settlers of that era arrived by train.

When I was a child, many of his siblings still lived in the area. Sisters Mary, Ella, Emma and Lillie all lived in Dickey at that time.

Dickey is a village of gravel streets and unpretentious houses. Ella lived in a low rambling brown stucco house on the main street, along with Aunt Emma. That is where we generally went to visit. The adults would gather around the round oak dining room table for a late afternoon lunch of coffee and oatmeal cookies or rhubarb cake.

During the summers, kind-hearted Ella took in special needs children from the Grafton State School. Two of the girls visited each summer. Myrna was older and Janice was younger than I was. Since I was the youngest of 43 cousins by several years, I was happy to have them as playmates.

One time, after they’d moved back to Grafton, we went to Dickey on a hot fall Sunday. One of my aunts took pity on me being the only child present and gave me a nickel to go buy ice cream.

It’s hard to believe how sheltered I was as a child. I was seven-years-old and had never been sent off alone in a strange town. Never mind that the town had fewer than a hundred residents. I bravely walked up the street, with the blue sky framed by golden-hewed elm and cottonwood trees, and the hot wind throwing sand at my bare legs.

In my mind, I went to a little general store, but the state’s blue laws were in effect, so it must have been a café. Whatever it was, it had a big front window, a squeaky screen door, a floor fan blowing inside, and a long freezer with a slide door on the top.

They didn’t have ice cream cones, so I picked out a Cheerio, which I had wanted to try. Plopping my nickel on the counter, I planned to walk back to Aunt Ella’s house before eating it. However, within a minute, ice cream was leaking out of the paper wrapper. I opened it up and began damage control, slurping at the chocolate and vanilla treat and trying not to get any on my clothes. In spite of the mess, it was a memorable treat.

In writing this essay, I began to realize how many memories I have of going to Dickey, and I’m truly surprised to realize how much the towns in my books resemble Dickey.

In By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek and Amber’s Choice, the village of Schulteville was admittedly named after my Aunt Lillie and Uncle Adrian Schulte. At the time of the Cheerio meltdown, they lived in a rambling one-story hot pink house a few blocks from Ella’s. Later they moved to Adrian (yes, Adrian moved to Adrian), which is seven miles west on a road through the pristine valley.

Later they bought a nice house in Dickey, a square two-story stucco house. The attic is as large as any house we ever lived in and a covered porch ran across the front of the house. It still stands across the street from the Methodist church. In my books, Aunt Kate Schulte has the nicest house in Schulteville and it’s located across the street from the church. (Disclaimer, Aunt Kate Schulte is nothing like my sweet Aunt Lillie.)

And finally, I’m happy to say ice cream bars still taste as good today as on that long ago day in Dickey.

A Special Word of Encouragement

Friends, I hope this look back brightens your day. We live in difficult times and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the problems we face. When that happens, we need to do what Colossians 3:2 states: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” NIV. When our focus is on the Lord and the power of his might, it’s easier to trust him to see us through. Philippians 4 has a lot of advice on how to get through these times. It was written by Saint Paul when he was in prison, but his words are still of value today!

Writing Update

I am writing and meeting with my writers group each week, using social distancing, of course. My books are available online or get signed copies by contacting me.



Gale Andrew Muir 1884-1957

Bessie & Gale Muir married in 1907

This year, the anniversary of Grandpa Gale Muir’s death falls during Memorial Day Weekend. He died on May 23, 1957, sixty-three years ago. A stroke five years earlier had restricted his speech and movement and Grandma Bessie had cared for him at home.

When he died, they were a few months short of celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. They had eight living children and 29 grandchildren.

What was Grandpa Gale like? His son, Wallace Muir, described him as “generous to a fault with his time and talents.” He was a skilled craftsman and a carpenter. Wallace also said that he enjoyed playing with his older grandchildren and telling them stories he learned from his grandfather. By the time I came along, he could no longer speak, but, oh, how I wish I’d heard some of those stories.

On May 27, 1957, the day of Grandpa Gale’s funeral, the adults decided that the younger grandchildren should stay at the house during the funeral. Only Judy, who was about nine, attended the service.

Bessie Muir and her children, l to r: Margaret, Don, Better, Bob, Wallace, Neva & Willis. Aileen is not pictured

Why would they exclude the grandchildren from an important occasion like this? My guess is they expected an overflowing crowd at the small Presbyterian Church. Gale had a wonderful dry wit, enjoyed hunting, and came had a large family. Likely, everyone in town turned out to pay their respects.

Leaving a dozen squirmy kids at Grandpa and Grandma’s house simplified things. For the record, it was a beautiful May day. We were strictly told not to leave the yard, and not to go into the house unless we had to go potty.

I have two memories of the day. During the funeral, we cousins forgot our sadness and began playing together in the yard. We were running and screaming with abandon when we suddenly realized a parade of cars was slowly driving by. We stopped and stood as silent and solemn as statues to watch the hearse that carried our Grandpa Muir from the church to Rosehill Cemetery.

Granddaughter Jayne Muir with Gale

The second memory happened toward the end of the day when I was ushered into the living room to meet Grandpa’s siblings. As Grandpa Gale was the youngest in their family, many of them must have been in their seventies. They had traveled over 350 miles from Jackson, Minnesota. I had never met any of them before. I remember the ladies holding my hand and peering at me.

Of course, at seven I didn’t understand the significance of the moment. Now having lost my own siblings, I get it. They wanted to meet their brother’s offspring. Perhaps they were looking for some of Gale in the young faces brought before them. Some of my cousins have the Muir eyes, chin or red hair. I don’t, but I was named after him.

Today, Gale and Bessie have six or seven generations of descendants. Happily, Gale’s red hair still shows up randomly when a new baby is born.

Writing Update

Gale and Bessie’s love story is the topic of my book, Secrets of the Dark Closet.  I recently republished it, which means it is less expensive! However, it also means there are no Amazon reviews for it. If you order a copy from Amazon, please write a review. Even a short one helps with the algorithms. The book is available online, through your local bookstore, or contact me for a signed copies.



The Last Kindergarten Show

Every mother knows the moment. You’re proud and happy that your child is growing up, and yet you aren’t ready to let him go. That’s how I felt when our younger son graduated from kindergarten many years ago.

This week I found an old invitation to a May party for mothers that brought up a lot of memories. I wrote an essay after that emotion-laden party. Here it is, in honor of all mothers:

Two dozen five-year-olds march in a circle to the music, then swish in and out. They are silently absorbed in following the rhythm of the record player.

I sit on a teeny-tiny chair wringing the sopping shred of tissue in my hand and cringing away from the rest of the audience. Breathing deeply, I try to gain composure and keep the cry in my throat from escaping.

The music stops and everyone claps. I smile hugely so anyone glancing my way will see my teeth and not my tears. How could my baby learn all of those dance steps? Why hadn’t I seen this grownup side of him before? He even danced with a girl and held her hand. Where had this maturity been hidden?

The kids reassemble, sitting on a rug in a semi-circle. They begin to sing the songs they’ve been practicing. My son is keeping an eye on me through a maze of chair legs as he half-heartedly sings. I smile and he waves.

All week, he’s been telling me about the menu for what he calls “the last kindergarten show.” The kids have done the cooking. I think of how he described the recipe for peanut butter balls. “First you mix up peanut butter and some kind of funny sugar and rotten potatoes.”

“Rotten?” I’d asked.

“Yes, and you have to smash them too. And then you roll them between your hands like this.”

The room smells like a mixture of crayons, paste and paper. Not unlike the blue-crayon carnation invitation I received last week. Twenty years ago, they were using the same mimeographed pattern. How had that managed to stay the same in this turbulent world? Would it be in use twenty years from now?

My son gets up and leans casually on the piano for the last song, while the others stand facing him. The song is about snowmen. In the last line, the sun comes out and melts them. He hops off the piano bench beaming rays of sunlight on the others and they sink to the floor, melted.

I am melting, too, as I wonder if I’m ready for a new phase of life. In a few short months, he will be off to first grade, but what will I be doing? He seems very well prepared for what lies ahead. Am I?

This is the last of a long line of kindergarten shows and I greedily drink in every moment of it, regretting that there will never be another. My nose is a tattletale red, showing the emotional journey I’ve been on for the past hour.

Our family ‘way back then

The songs are over and there is much applause. The kids pass out handmade Mother’s Day cards. Mine is made of yellow construction paper. The word “love” is on one side and his name on the other. It’s very well glittered. When it becomes apparent that other mothers are getting two or even three cards, he lets me know he only made one, but he used lots of glitter.

And lots of love, I think to myself. We hold hands as we walk out under a banner of watercolor flowers, out into the brightness of a May day.

At home, the soup boils over, the phone rings, and my husband rattles off a list of errands that must be run. But for one fleeting moment, I hold in the palm of my hand a carefully printed nametag that reads, “mY Momm.”

Happy Mother’s Day to all women

who nurture and care for others.


Patterns for God’s Promises

Please click on www.gaylelarsonschuck.com to read this.

The Bible is filled with the promises of God. As a new believer, I learned that there are over 3,000 promises and they weren’t just for biblical times. We can claim them today. Often, they are so relevant, that I underline them. What fun to go through my bible and find those scriptures that have given me hope, courage or direction.

There’s a pattern to follow to receive the promises. We use patterns when we sew a quilt or assemble a piece of furniture from IKEA. If we don’t, our project may not turn out. In the same way, there are directions for receiving from God.

And, oh, how we need His promises! Corrie Ten Boom said, “Let God’s promises shine on your problems.” She learned that while spending time in a Nazi prison camp for helping Jewish people escape during World War II.

Do you need hope or help today? Here are some steps to claiming God’s promises. Some of these are found in the book Power in the Promises and some are my own.

First, you must trust that God really has made provisions and promises for you. Secondly, when you find a promise in the Bible that you need in your life, believe it. Next, say what you believe aloud. Science is discovering more about the importance of self-talk. Telling yourself the truth about God’s promises will help you tap into His power. Then, pray the promise you are seeking. And, finally, look for the fulfillment of that promise.

Are You Anxious?

Let’s run through this and see how it works. Are you anxious? That’s natural! The world is filled with problems, but the promises of God help us tap into the supernatural.

Here is a promise for you: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NIV

Take a leap of faith and believe this promise! Then, tell yourself the truth by saying the scripture aloud using your own name like this: “Gayle, do not fear, for I am with you…”

Next, pray the scripture: “Lord, you said I don’t need to be afraid because you are with me right now. You will strengthen and help me. I believe that is true.”

Finally, expect. Sometimes our situation will change and sometimes we just find our anxieties fall away, either way, don’t be afraid to give God the  credit.

Isaiah 41:10 is only one of many on scriptures on anxiety. Check out the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John where Jesus often encouraged his followers to have courage and not be afraid. If you are his follower, those promises are for you today!

Find these helpful books at online and at brick and mortar stores:

Power in the Promises, by Nick Harrison

The Bible Promise Book, 1000 promises from God’s word

God’s Promises for Your Every Need by Jack Countryman

Other resources:

Capital Christian Center, Bismarck (Facebook.com/cccbismarck) has a number of online studies (this is the church I attend, but many churches have online resources for you to use.)

I love Joyce Meyer Ministries. Find free Bible studies online, and other resources, at www.joycemeyer.org

The Reset Button


Writing Update

Pandemic special: By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek and Amber’s Choice eBooks are only 99 cents at www.smashwords.com.

If you have an eReader, this is the time to fire it up. There is no wait to obtain a book and no worry about an infected person touching it during shipping or shopping.

If you order copies of Secrets of the Dark Closet, please order the second edition, which was recently published and is available at online stores.


The Reset Button

If life has a reset button, it’s being pushed in America. In another post, I’ll deal with the fear and tragedy that has invaded us, U.S., and the rest of the world. For now, let’s talk about how we live in the 21st century.

Chuck Swindoll published Living on the Ragged Edge in 1986. It’s a book about searching for satisfaction. In the 35 years since then our edges have only grown more ragged. We’re more driven than ever to pursue success, entertainment, and happiness.

We are also more fractured than ever. Kids are on anxiety medication. Sleeplessness is a major problem. Divorce and substance abuse are common. And the pressure cooker life isn’t limited to younger people. Almost every conversation among retirees includes the words, “I’m busier than ever.”

Now, the coronavirus is forcing us to slow down. Life has been reset to the mid-20th Century mode. We didn’t have as much money back then, but we were more relaxed. Our houses were smaller, but we spent more time in them. We didn’t shop as much, but the stores weren’t open as many hours.

Travel was rare and special. Sunday mornings were reserved for church. Back then, younger kids didn’t have many organized activities and professional sports didn’t dominate our lives.

There was no such thing as speed dating. Weddings were simpler affairs. Daycare was what a mom did during the day. Gym memberships? Ha! People kept in shape by doing work around the house and yard.

Now, because of the coronavirus, people are staying home. Our street is quieter. In our neighborhood, families are playing ball in their front yards. I hope that they are eating dinner together and maybe building blanket forts in their living rooms.

In this moment in time, let’s reflect on where we’ve come from and be mindful of where we want to go. As Waylon Jennings said in his song, Luckenbach, Texas:

“So baby, let’s sell your diamond rings

And buy some boots and faded jeans and go away

This coat and tie is choking me

In your high society, you cry all night

We’ve been so busy keepin’ up with the Jones

A four car garage and we’re still building on

Maybe it’s time we got back to the basics of love.”


So, dear readers, is it time to push the reset button?


“Do not abandon yourself to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” Pope John Paul II


“But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.” Isaiah 43:1 NKJV




Locked Down and Loving It

Read this in the correct format at www.gaylelarsonschuck.blog

Gayle here, writing from foggy North Dakota where we are on high alert for the Corona virus. Only one case has been diagnosed in our state. Still, schools are closed and grocery stores are cleaned out. We are locked down and loving it, even though it may come to this: we may finally eat what is in the freezer so it can be defrosted.

Some of the members of the Wordsmiths

This past weekend we took a final fling before lockdown. Larry made scrambled eggs for 13 guys at the men’s breakfast at church Saturday morning. I attended the Joy International breakfast, where hundreds of women shared a meal, hoped for door prizes and enjoyed a funny and heart-warming speaker. I was privileged to be there with my writers group.

We also celebrated a family birthday with a meal out at a restaurant, followed by time back at our house with the traditional birthday cake, candles, confetti and gifts. What fun to have all eight of us together. Our sons, daughter-in-law, and grandsons played Uno, and we all laughed a lot. Even without the virus threat we know these days are precious few, with two of the boys ready to fly the coop.

Sunday morning I set aside our usual adult Sunday school lesson to talk about how we as Christians should respond to the Corona virus threat. There are so many scriptures that offer direction. We are to be wise, but if we truly have faith in God, we do not need to fear.

In a moment, I’ll share seven things to pray each day as we go through these difficult times, but first I want to tell you a little story. This happened the other day, as people were paying $20 for a package of toilet paper and the bread shelves were cleaned out.

A bottle of hand soap sets by our kitchen sink. I use it several times a day and it’s been there since at least last summer. Because it looks empty, two weeks ago I put a new bottle next to it. Still, it continues to produce soap. It reminds me that God is in the business of supernaturally supplying needs. Manna and quail from heaven. The widow’s oil. A raven bringing food to Elijah. The loaves and fishes. Since He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, these things can and do still happen today. So why be fearful?

Cindy Jacobs’ Seven Key Points to Pray for the Corona Virus:

Pray Psalm 91 over your families and nation. (Note, be sure to read this wonderful chapter)

Pray against fear and remind ourselves that God has not given us a spirit of fear. (For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. II Tim. 1:7 NKJV)

Pray for wisdom for our leaders to contain the spread of the virus while protecting their people effectively.

Pray for courage for believers to share their trust in Jesus through this time of crisis.

Pray for a worldwide move of God. (“Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.” Matt. 6:10 NKJV)

Make a decree that the coronavirus will cease worldwide, and that God will heal all who are currently affected by it.

Re-consecrate yourselves, your families, and your nation to God through the taking of communion.

From CBN’s “The Prayer Link” to generals.org


Writing Update

So many people ask if I plan to publish another book. The answer is…maybe. However, I am writing! Just being asked blesses me and so do the wonderful comments people are still making about my books.

Currently, I’m in the process of republishing Secrets of the Dark Closet. It is the only one of my books that wasn’t self-published. By taking it independent, I will have more control over the price and it’s availability. Look for the same front cover, but a lower price and an updated back cover.

Final Thought

Praising God is like a spiritual generator that brings His power into our lives.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. Psalm 28:7 NIV

“May your troubles be less and your blessings be more And nothing but happiness come through your door.”        St. Patrick

Cats & People are Strong-Willed

Our grand kitty, Boo, went missing recently. He’s sleek and lithe like a miniature black panther, has personality plus. And is high maintenance.

Boo’s home is perfect for an energetic cat: a three-story house with plenty of windows to look out, staircases to hang from (and sometimes fall from), a bed on every floor, and his own cat playground. He has five people to pamper and play with him.

However, Boo likes to go outside. Really likes to go outside. Once a day isn’t enough. Any time a door opens, he zooms out. When you stop by for a visit, he’ll sweetly hug your legs. Don’t be fooled, it’s a ploy. He’s hoping you’ll open the door for him.

While, he’s a smart cat, he isn’t very wise. A few weeks ago, he got lost on a foggy night. His heartsick family spent days driving around the neighborhood looking for him, asked friends and family to help, and posted online notices. They set a blanket and a bowl of food on the front porch for him in case he came home when they weren’t looking out the window.

About the time Boo disappeared, I was doing research on Adam and Eve for a writing project. Their story in Genesis 3 is set in the Garden of Eden, a tropical paradise. Flowers of every size and color dotted the landscape. They could eat sweet, juicy fruits and berries, and tasty nuts and grains. They could explore the winding paths or play under a waterfall.

God had made one rule for their protection. They weren’t to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But, they wanted to run their own lives, so they ate the forbidden fruit anyway. Afterward, they realized what they had done and hid out of shame.

When God went to the garden looking for them, he couldn’t find them. How did God feel when He couldn’t find them? The Bible says he called out for them, like any panic-stricken parent.

Boo the cat. Adam and Eve. They seem to have the same willful nature. One thing is for certain, rebelliousness landed all of them in trouble.

I’m happy to report Boo’s story ended well. Five days after Boo disappeared, a neighbor found him and brought him home. Cold and skinnier, he was overjoyed to be home.

However, God is still out looking for his lost kids. While we are off doing our own thing, perhaps wrecking our lives, He is calling to us. He even sent his son, Jesus, to save us from ourselves and our destructive ways.

As the missing kitty saga was playing out, my writers group met. In one of those God wink moments, one of the women, Connie Volk, happened to share a poem that fit the occasion. With her permission, here it is:

I’m happy to report Boo’s story ended well. Five days after Boo disappeared, a neighbor found him and brought him home. Cold and skinnier, he was overjoyed to be home.

However, God is still out looking for his lost kids. While we are off doing our own thing, perhaps wrecking our lives, He is calling to us. He even sent his son, Jesus, to save us from ourselves and our destructive ways.

As the missing kitty saga was playing out, my writers group met. In one of those God wink moments, one of the women, Connie Volk, happened to share a poem that fit the occasion. With her permission, here it is:

Journey of the Will

I growled; I hissed; I spat like

A hand extended in love…“Come.”

I submitted to that hand like a yielded cat,

I purred in that hand like a contented cat.

A hand extended in love… “You’re home. Home at last.”

If you’ve strayed from God, please know your heavenly Father longs for you to come home. February, the love month, is a good time to turn our hearts toward our heavenly Father. Spend time with him, trust his wisdom for our lives, and reach out in love to his other kids. And cats.

John 10:10: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. NIV


The last half of 2019 was busy signing books and meeting many wonderful readers. Now, I’m tucked in at home, playing with ideas for new stories.

Hope you can enjoy this winter as a time of rest and refreshing. Grab your favorite drink and cozy up with a good book. Along with my books and those of many other authors, I recommend reading from the Good Book every day.


What’s in God’s Backpack for You?

(If you received this as an email, please click on gaylelarsonschuck.com/blog for a better format.)

As a child I was devoted to Santa Claus, especially each December, when my hometown hosted a special Christmas event. Kids could see a free movie at the Rex Theater the Saturday before Christmas. Afterward, we’d mill around the snowy street waiting for Santa. The adults were shopping, going in and out of the stores, such as Rickford’s department store, Gabe’s Grocery and LaMoure Drug. The loudspeakers that blared Christmas songs would crackle to a halt so the winner of the free frozen turkey could be announced. Somehow, it seemed like the same person got it every year.

There were no scoffers when Santa arrived in the back of a pickup truck. From the tiniest child to the biggest bully, we crowded around to receive a gift from him. Generally, the brown paper bags he handed out were filled with curly candy, assorted nuts, a candy cane and an orange or apple. When he shouted, “Ho-ho-ho!” he sounded a lot like the fellow who delivered fuel oil.

Today, the picture we have of Santa dressed in a red suit with a full white beard, black boots and a pack bulging with gifts is mostly derived from the 1823 poem, “The Night Before Christmas.” The poem mentions St. Nicholas, who was a bishop of the early Christian church located in Asia Minor, which is now Turkey. He was known to be kind and generous, and there are many stories about the miracles he performed.

Both Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas represent God’s giving, loving, and generous nature. Did you know God has a backpack bulging with gifts for his children? Here are just a few gifts God has for you:

  1. A locket. If He wore a locket, it would have your picture in it.
  2. An eraser. He forgives our sins and erases them forever.
  3. Heavenly bubble bath. He gives freedom from shame.
  4. An electric train. The journey through life with Him is wonderful.
  5. A dollhouse. He has a mansion waiting for us in heaven.
  6. A flashlight. He lights the way we should go.
  7. A blanket. God gives us safety and security forever.
  8. A diamond. The hope He gives is as strong, beautiful and enduring as the Hope Diamond.
  9. Adoption papers. God chooses to bring us into His family.
  10. The Hallelujah Chorus. He puts a song in our hearts.

Today, Christmas is clearly out of control. Stores stock red and green items six months in advance of the holiday. Halloween and Christmas items share the same shelves. Thanksgiving is all but forgotten.

Still, people around the world celebrate Christmas, which comes fully loaded with promises of peace on earth and the joy of giving. In Christmas, hope is found in the silent night of winter.


Writing Update

This year saw so many wonder-filled events. Having Amber’s Choice published is not something I take for granted. Many pieces and many people had to come into place for it to happen. I’m deeply in debt to those who encouraged me, who prayed, who edited and proofed the manuscript. Others who invited me to speak or sign books at an event are equally appreciated. It’s very humbling to have someone call and say that something you wrote impacted their lives, or started a family conversation, or in some other way touched them. Through it all I gained a new writers group and a special writing friend–my grandson!

 My last book signing is tomorrow, or rather today, as I’m writing this after midnight. It’s at the Prairie Creek gift shop in Gateway Mall. They have been long time supporters of local writers, artists and artisans.

A Christmas card with a calm winter scene and the words, “Be Still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10″ have hung on the bulletin board above my desk for a couple years. They still draw me to the deeper, silent life where my relationship with the Lord takes place.

May you be blessed with moments of stillness, where His voice will speak to you in a whisper or through the laughter of a friend or in an artsy sunset.

Invite your friends to read the Prairie Lighthouse Blog.



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“Be an opener of doors for such as come after thee.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Recently, I found a box of old letters from the nineteen seventies and eighties. They were sent by friends and family members, many of whom are no longer living. They’re a treasured link with the past. Postage stamps cost eight cents in 1973, but the letters are priceless today.

A letter from my great aunt, Carrie Brandes, contained fabric samples. The women in my family were dedicated to sewing and liked to share what was on their sewing machines. Often when you opened a letter, a square of fabric would fall out. It told more about a project than a wordy description. A springy color. A challenging fabric. A visual of someone’s prom dress.

Carrie’s letter does more than tell about a project. It reveals her thoughts and character at the age of eighty three. Carrie was one of the characters in Secrets of the Dark Closet, my historical fiction, which was set in 1899 to 1907. Much of the book was based on other research. However, a lot of the stories came from Carrie.

Quilt by my niece Sue Rienstra. The pattern is River Rock.

Because Aunt Carrie recorded many stories with a tape recorder, we know her mother was a fine seamstress. She passed her skills and commitment to excellence to her daughters, Bessie and Carrie. Bessie passed them on to her daughters, including my mother, Neva. Making clothing for babies through adults, piecing quilts, rug making, crocheting and knitting were among the skills that were common in our family. Today, several of my nieces enjoy quilting.

Here is what Carrie wrote some seventy years later in a letter postmarked Jan. 27, 1973: Neva tells me you are piecing tops for boys beds I know it takes a lot of pieces I have been piecing too-I have an asst left and would like to send themto you the squares are like the enclosed about 4 inches sq. If you still nrrd a variety just let me knw or via Neva and I’ll quick them off PDQ.

I know. Carrie never learned to type. She headed the county draft board for twenty-five years, pecking away at a manual typewriter with two fingers. You have to wonder what all those government forms, filled out in triplicate, looked like.

Nevertheless, this letter shows a lot. Mom phoned her aunt and told her I was piecing quilts. That must have been the news of the day. I can imagine them being happy that I was beginning to take up a skill that defined the women in our family. Carrie followed up by offering me tangible support.

The letter is a fine lesson to me in the way one generation nurtures another by passing on a life pattern. In this case, it’s quilting.

Carrie Kloubec Brandes

Carrie was still quilting in her eighties. Mom made quilts for each of her seven children and for some grandchildren after she retired. She used various patterns to cut and sew the tops. Then she’d set up her quilting frame in the tiny living room of her home and hand stitch the quilt together. (This is the same house that has the Dark Closet.)

Patterns. One generation shows the next how to manage life. Passing on our skills is as old as life itself, and not just how to do things, but how to be. How to appreciate nature or handle emergencies. How to fill time, when at last you have some extra on hand. How to encourage and bless others.

Among the most famous of all letters are those written by the apostle Paul in the New Testament. The letters I kept are only a few decades old, but Paul’s were written two thousand years ago. It’s powerful to see that the patterns for life that he set are still valid.

Paul wrote two letters to a young man named Timothy. He began by blessing Timothy with “grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” The letters to Timothy include Paul’s concerns, thoughts, and feelings. He also instructed, encouraged and cautioned the younger man.

“Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me,” II Tim. 1:13. (NKJV)

How we need the same kind of blessing, encouragement and instruction today.


Happy Thanksgiving!