Defining Moments

Have you wondered what you would say if you were invited to speak in your hometown? That’s what happened to me last fall when the LaMoure Chamber of Commerce asked me to speak at its annual awards banquet.

During the weeks before the banquet, I marveled at the invitation. My husband and I had moved away so very long ago. I was eager to go, but pondered over what to say. It seemed to me that the audience deserved a dose of hope and humor, and some meat for the soul.

This past year, the understanding of “Defining Moments” has caused me to look at the world in a new way. And so that became my topic.

You may not be familiar with the term “Defining Moments” but you’ve certainly had a few crises or turning points in your life. They can be something that happens to you, or something you make happen.

Sidney Evans wrote in a Forbes online article, “A defining moment is a point in your life when you’re urged to make a pivotal decision, or when you experience something that fundamentally changes you.”

Defining moments force us to change, recalibrate our thinking and build resilience.

I’ve had a number of defining moments, and that evening I decided to share one that happened at LaMoure when I was nine. When my parents and I moved from the farm to town, I was sick about it. I’d miss my country friends, prairie views, and the wonder of the big night sky. And, I worried about who would take care of my beloved barn cats.

Yet, after we moved, I embraced being a town girl. I no longer had ride the school bus for two hours a day. Instead of being alone on the farm with my cats, there were lots of kids to play with. I was also able to join after-school activities. (And my brother cared for the cats.)

The change that I dreaded was not the end, it was a new beginning. 

Often we let fear overcome us in stressful times instead of viewing them as opportunities. Or, as Industrialist Henry J. Kaiser said, “Trouble is only opportunity in work clothes.”

Also, often crisis forces us to settle what we believe about spiritual matters. Is there a God? Is there a heaven? What happens when we die? Why do people suffer?

I asked these questions as a young woman as my father neared death. He had heart disease, cancer and a broken hip. Watching him suffer was almost more than I could bear, and it motivated me to seek God. In time, I embraced Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Knowing there is a God in heaven, and He knows my name, has helped me recalibrate my thinking and better navigate life. It’s so simple and yet so hard to just trust God to direct our lives. However, that is the best way to become an overcomer with hope and resilience.

It’s so important to notice when others go through troubling moments and offer encouragement. Sometimes people just need to know someone sees and cares when they take on a new challenge or wade through a difficulty.

Because nothing is more draining than indecision, it’s important that we embrace the problem and deal with it. Creating an action plan and moving forward will help bring joy back into our lives.

A welcoming sign

We drove into LaMoure the day of the banquet and were delighted by an electronic sign announcing the event. For a few seconds each minute, it read, “Guest Speaker Gayle Larson Schuck.”

The Chamber of Commerce awards banquet was held at the local mall in a lovely room with beautifully decorated tables. The food was five-star. Each of the award nominees was more than deserving of recognition.

And how did my talk go? Hmm, you’d have to ask the audience. However, I came away satisfied because they laughed at the right times, a few tears were shed, and I knew the message was meat for the soul.

So, what are some of your defining moments? Whether they were funny or tragic, they are worth remembering. Tell them to your children, grandchildren or anyone who will listen. By telling your story, you may give someone the hope and inspiration to go on.

And take it one step further. A runner thinks everyone should be out jogging. And a quilter thinks everyone should be in love with fabric stores. A mechanic can’t understand if you don’t enjoy looking under the hood of a car. Well, I’m a writer, and I think everyone should write down their defining moments.

 

Have a blessed and happy New Year!

 

 

Wonders!

 

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful!” That’s the beginning of popular Christmas song that goes on to say, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” As I write this, we have eight times more snow on the ground than we usually do at the start of winter. And a third blizzard is happening right now.

Our usual holiday plans have fallen like, well, like snowflakes. We keep revising what we can still do when the streets have become tunnels and the store shelves are empty of food. The few times we’ve gathered with friends, we trade stories about how deep the snow is. (We almost couldn’t see out our windows!)

No one in our area is saying, “Let it snow!”

Except, perhaps, the neighborhood kids. Last week as we hunkered down with a blizzard whipping snow around, I looked out the window and spied some neighbor kids. They were out playing in the snow.

Some gleefully ran up a mountain of snow in their yard, and then slid back down. Others kicked up the fluffy stuff and threw it at each other. You could tell by their energetic movements that they weren’t worried about getting too cold or about how to get the car out of the driveway.

Ah, the wonder of childhood. G. K. Chesterton said, “What was wonderful about childhood is that anything in it was a wonder. It was not merely a world full of miracles; it was a miraculous world.”

What exactly is a wonder? Perhaps it’s something that makes you say, “I wonder how this can be?”

At the beginning of 2022, I picked the word “Wonder” for my word of the year. Now, with the closing of the year, I offer this parting reflection: When did we began letting the cares of adulthood dampen the wonders of childhood? And, how do we gain back some of that wonder at the miracles taking place all around us?

The Christmas season is full of wonders, if we stop shoveling through our to-do lists and reflect on the original story. Fortunately, a doctor named Luke set aside time to record the birth of Jesus, and it’s found in the Bible. Please take time to read the first and second chapters of the gospel (good news) of Luke.

As Luke unfolded the story of the birth of Christ, the angel informed Mary and her fiancé, Joseph, that they would be the parents of the Son of God. If that wasn’t enough, the government ordered them to go to Bethlehem. Then they couldn’t find a place to stay. That’s why Baby Jesus was born is a stable.

After the birth, some shepherds were working the nightshift when the sky lit up and the angel appeared and told them the good news. Mary, Joseph and the shepherds were all terrified at these strange events. However, when they recovered they trusted that God was at work, and began glorifying and praising Him.

Clearly, their lives were out of their control.

The Christmas story is filled with wonders, and it offers great examples of how to handle the unexpected events of life. Joseph could have rejected Mary. She could have complained about the poor lodging in Bethlehem. The shepherds could have dismissed the heavenly visit as a strange dream. Yet they all put their trust in God.

There is nothing flowery about Luke’s writing. He was clear, direct and detailed in his story. Without added drama, he captured the wonder of the most significant event in history, summing up the story in Luke 2:19 with this: “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” 

We need to also ponder the story of Christmas. As we go through this holiday season and venture into the New Year, let’s take time to be kids again and look beyond the snowbanks of life to find the wonder of each day. To find God in each day.

What wonders have happened in your life this year? Have you shared them with anyone? Have you written them down? Recalling special moments uplifts us when life is less than wonderful. They can also encourage others who go through rough spots. They give us hope!

From our house to yours, Larry and I wish you

a blessed and wonder-filled Christmas and New Year.

 

Writing Update

Grace Like Snow, Essays from the Heartland came out in September. The feedback I’m receiving is heartwarming! Thank you so much to all who have purchased the book and to those who have written online reviews.

Here are just a few:

“Just finished your book. I really have never enjoyed a book more. I couldn’t sleep last nite, read until a few min before 3.” – Johanna

Grace-filled snippets. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this little book–it’s a collection of thoughts with just enough spirituality thrown in. . .something rare in these times, it’s a book that just makes you feel good. – Jan

Got my 4 in the mail! Just waiting for your autograph! – Kathy

I am so excited about Gayle Schuck’s new book “Grace Like Snow.” It’s one you’ll want to read in one sitting, hard to put down. She is such a good writer. I love her other books but this is my favorite. – Georgia

I have skipped around in your book, but have now read it cover to cover. I enjoyed it so much. I laughed many times and other times felt your pain and your love for our God. Well done. – Bonnie

Good morning Gayle, I just randomly opened your book Grace Like Snow to page 83: Nothing to Fear This Christmas . I am overcome with gratitude reading this  Thank You!  I keep this book next my chair. All the bad news going on in our country day after day with the mass shootings gave me reason to pick up book instead of reading anymore news. – Kathy

I’m a long-time reader and fan of Gayle Larson Schuck’s books. In speaking about her first novel, Schuck said, “By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek” isn’t about me or my hometown. Still, what is in the book is the sum total of a million of my own personal hopes, thoughts, insights, and experiences.” – Barbara

 

On Kingdoms and Crowns

In the United States, our freedom-loving feet are planted firmly in a republic that stands by the rule of the people. However, for a country that fought a war to get free of the British monarchy, Americans are strangely fascinated by the royal family across the pond.

No more so than right now, with the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. Many of us don’t remember a time when she didn’t lead Britain. And some of us remember when the “sun didn’t set on the British Empire.” Britain had colonies and territories all over the world.

When I was growing up, Prince Charles and Princess Anne were often featured in My Weekly Reader, the grade school window to the world’s news. Charles is a year older than me, and Anne a year younger. See Charles ride a pony wearing his fancy riding outfit? Did Anne wear the same kind of uniform as we did when she became a Brownie Scout? We knew about it.

I confess to being part of the curious crowd of royalty watchers. My husband and I watched all six seasons of Downton Abbey. This series was about the British aristocratic family, the Crawleys and their domestic servants, during the early 20th century. They lived almost at the top of the social pecking order.

The series helped us realize why they needed so many servants. Who else would manage those extensive wardrobes prior to washers and dryers? And how would they ever prepare a formal dinner for twenty every single day without refrigeration or microwaves?

Why are we so interested in people who have been elevated above us? Perhaps we find it amusing that they aren’t so different than us.

Queen Elizabeth began her reign in 1952 and was on the throne for seventy years.

She accepted her privileged position and responsibilities with the grace of…royalty.

It should be noted that preferred her ever- resent hats and purses to her royal crown. Maybe that was because crowns, with all of their gold and jewels, are darned heavy. Or perhaps it was because she was aware of a kingdom higher than hers.

At the end of her life, the queen regretted that she wouldn’t live long enough to see Jesus return, because she wanted to lay her own crown at his feet. How good it be if all world leaders would humbly acknowledge that there is a higher power that sees the affairs of mankind and balances justice and mercy.

Years ago when I went on a tour of Scotland with my cousins, we visited the Palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh. Although Scotland has many castles, this one stands out because it’s the official residence of the British royal family when they are in Scotland. Note: the queen chose to spend her last days at Balmoral Castle in the north part of Scotland.

Our guide at Holyrood House pointed upward to a flag that waved in the breeze. When a member of the royal family is in residence, the usual flag is lowered and a special flag is raised. The people of Edinburgh keep an eye on the flag over the castle. A visit from royalty was always big news, a source of excitement.

As we stood waiting for the tour to begin, a song popped into my head. “Joy is the flag flown high from the castle of my heart…when the King is in residence there.” I’d learned the song in prayer meetings during the 1970s.

Although it was a short chorus by an anonymous author, it became widely known during the days of the Charismatic Renewal. We sang it with abandon, waving a hand high like a flag. “So let it fly in the sky, let the whole world know that the king is in residence there.”

Standing there in Edinburgh looking at the flag over Holyrood House, I had an aha moment. The author of that Christian song surely was inspired by the British tradition of raising the flag in honor of royalty.

No royalty was present the day we were there. However, the whole flag incident gave me some insight into the ancient structure of the British kingdom. This custom of the flag brought order, communication and a sense of community in an unassuming British way.

I turned away from the palace and took in the scene around me. Tourists posed for photos and gawked at buildings. Car horns honked. People in business suits walked purposefully between appointments. Children wearing uniforms walked home from school.

Rowallan Castle, one of many in Scotland

Unlike the gawking tourists, the Scottish people didn’t seem particularly aware of the royal residence, and went about their lives oblivious. Their heritage as members of the history, purpose and character of the British empire were unseen by them. You might say their royal heritage was hidden in plain sight.

The kingdom of God is like that. We participate in the natural world, often unaware that there is a supernatural, spiritual kingdom that governs our universe. We are unaware of our honored heritage, or our rights and responsibilities as member of this kingdom. They are hidden from us in plain sight.

Apparently, from her high position, Queen Elizabeth II was able to grasp her important place in this world and yet was aware of a greater kingdom that rules over all.

Guest Blogger Amber Jorgenson on Romance

Hi. I’m Amber Jorgenson. Gayle asked me to write about how to find the perfect mate. She knows I married a dreamboat of a guy, and we’re still happily married twenty years later.

The photo is my favorite picture of us taken near Cottonwood Creek.

I’m a country girl and a romantic. I adore a good love story on TV or in a book, but I doubted it would never happen to me. My life was soooo busy with my family and career, that I hadn’t even had a date since….

Well, anyway, one day after shopping for groceries for my family,  I took some “me time.” I stopped by the church on the way home. While the ice cream melted in the trunk, I went inside and began playing the piano. There I was belting out a song to heaven, when Kelly walked in the door. He was so handsome, my heart did flip-flops! I was totally embarrassed that I was caught in a private moment, and rushed out of the door before actually meeting him.

We didn’t reconnect for months. But girls, sometimes love comes to you when you least expect it. That’s what happened to me. Here are some tips for finding true love:

  • Ask the Lord to bring the right person to you. He has super connections.
  • Look for someone with mutual interests. Do you play a musical instrument, enjoy a sport, or volunteer somewhere? Do the things you enjoy, and you may ”just happen” to find a good friend as well as a perfect mate.
  • Don’t tie yourself to someone who doesn’t share your faith. Nothing, absolutely nothing, will draw you closer than praying together as a couple. It’s the tie that binds.
  • Take your time getting to know each other before making an emotional or physical commitment.
  • Don’t let love blind you to the truth. Watch for red flags, such as he can’t keep a job; he is living with his mom; he’s lied to you; or he doesn’t introduce you to family or friends.
  • Note how he treats his family, because that’s probably how he’ll treat you when the honeymoon is over.
  • Work on yourself. Be the person someone wants to be with forever.

You can read about Kelly and me in By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek. I’ll admit, we had some rocky times after we married, and you can learn about those in Amber’s Choice. If you want to read about a crazy unlikely romance, check out Cottonwood Dreams. It’s the story of our friends, Tiny and Brianna. The books are part of the Prairie Pastor Series by Gayle Larson Schuck. They’re available in eBook or paperback at all online bookstores.

P.S. Guys, all of my advice will work for you, too.

 

Writer Update

This is Gayle speaking again. Friends, I’m going to take a break from blogging in order to play in the garden and spend time with family.

Since 2015, I’ve posted over 75 blogs. It’s been so rewarding to connect with faithful readers, but perhaps you need a break, too! Eventually, I hope to put some of the past posts into a book of essays as a way to preserve them.

Blessings to each of you who has read the blog posts, made comments,  and told your stories. I treasure each of you and deeply appreciate your support through the years.

Have a wonderful summer! I’ll be in touch in a few months.

 

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippines 1:6

A Most Embarrassing Phone Call

On one of my first trips to Bismarck Public Library, probably late in 1970, I checked out What I’m Going to do I Think. It was a new release, written by a North Dakota author with a funny last name.

My reading standards were quite high. Apparently higher than my emotional IQ. And so after I finished the book I sent the author a letter and told him I didn’t like his book.

Months later, on Memorial Day to be exact, the phone rang at 5 a.m. Now, my father had just undergone cancer surgery and he wasn’t doing so well. Certainly, the phone jangling in the predawn could only mean my brother was calling with bad news.

Instead, the voice on the other side of the line said, “Hi. I’m Larry Woiwode and I want to know why you don’t like my book!”

I stood by the open screen door, where flashes of lightning filled the western horizon, the wheels in my head turning slowly.

It took me a full minute to figure out the phone call wasn’t about my father, but about a cheeky letter I had written months before. The next 45 minutes were rather awkward as I tried to articulate my views of the now forgotten book, while wearing my jammies and watching gusts of wind and rain blow down the street.

Years later, Woiwode (pronounced why-would-he) told me more about his side of that phone call. He’d been at a cabin in Wisconsin working on his upcoming novel, Beyond the Bedroom Wall. He got back to New York City late and stayed up reading a stack of fan mail. He hoped to hear from someone, anyone, in his home state of North Dakota. That someone was me.

Oh, the power of words to kill or to heal. Woiwode had won the William Faulkner award for that book. He wrote for the New Yorker. He was buddies with Robert De Niro, for Pete’s sake. However, what I wrote mattered to him. What I said was a real letdown for him.

Still, Woiwode tactfully gave me some writing encouragement in that phone call. He said to forget going to college to study writing. Instead, read up on it. That summer, I read 38 books on writing. One of his most interesting pieces of advice was to do the Readers Digest Word Power quiz every month. I still do.

A few years later, my now widowed mother was in Washington, D.C. with some of her siblings. As they strolled down a street, they passed a bookshop. A new book called Beyond the Bedroom Wall was displayed in the window and they all went in and bought copies.

I almost exploded when I realized it was the book Woiwode had just finished writing the morning he called me. I still have Mom’s copy. The book sold over a million copies, and was a finalist for both the National Book Award and it was the National Book Critics Circle.

Over his lifetime, Larry Woiwode chose a path less traveled. Although he continued to write (26 books), he gave up his New York lifestyle, embraced Christianity, and moved to a farm in a windswept part of North Dakota. He became the state’s Poet Laureate in 1995, continued to write, and taught at colleges and universities until his death April 28, 2022.

In the end, I ignored his advice about college and went for my bachelor’s degree. However, over the years, I sat in on several of his book readings and found them stimulating and instructive. He continues to influence my writing.

But equally important, because of that phone call, I see stories as an extension of the author, a piece of the heart, a glimpse of the soul. So, when doing reviews, I try to be tender with truth and generous with encouragement.

Thank you, Larry Woiwode. Your passion for the written word lives on in the hearts and souls of many, including mine.

Woiwode is among my many favorite authors. Do you have a favorite author or two? Please let me know!

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18. NIV

Writing Update

All four of my books are available online in eBook and paperback, and at bookstores in North Dakota. If a store is out, they’re usually willing to order copies for you.

These days, instead of writing, I’m collecting past blog posts into a manuscript. Reading old posts is a reminder of how exciting it was to launch this blog seven years ago. And the jitters I had about signing books in my hometown. Emotions over holiday stories and moments of inspiration from my garden bring smiles and tears.

With Memorial Day right around the corner, I wish you a blessed, sunny, adventure-filled summer.

Offering hope, inspiration and a dose of wisdom in a good read.

 

The Wonder of Daylight Savings Time

 

This weekend, we will leap an hour ahead for the summer months. For most of my life, moving to Daylight Savings Time (DST) has made me tired all summer. Oh, how I appreciated that extra hour of sleep when we fell back in October.

Age has changed that. Now I look forward to DST. We set the forty-two clocks (only a slight exaggeration) in our house and then pretend we’re still on regular time and crash for the night.

The first American to suggest changing the time was Benjamin Franklin in 1784. He thought leaping ahead would save on candle usage. It’s been hotly debated ever since. Finally, it became official with the Uniform Time Act of 1966. However, the time change still isn’t uniform because Arizona and Hawaii don’t observe DST.

“I don’t mind going back to daylight saving time.

With inflation, the hour will be the only thing I’ve saved all year.” Victor Borge

Redeeming the time has become more important as I get older. The days, months and years fly by so fast that I wonder how I can stay mindful in the rush of time. How can I best use the scant moments we have?

The Bible has much to say about time. I love Psalm 90:12: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (NIV)

Ephesians 5:16 seems especially appropriate with the war ravaging the people and country of Ukraine. It states, “Make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is.”  Right now, those precious minutes spent in prayer for the refugees and leaders may be more effective than we will ever know on earth.

Through the years, I’ve picked up a couple bits of wisdom on using time. One, it’s important to slow down and discern the difference between what is urgent and what is truly important. The urgent often steals our time and the important gets left unsaid or undone.

A rule of thumb is to remember that God leads, but Satan pushes. If you’re feeling pushed and overwhelmed, it might be time to ask why. The gentle leading of God is easy to recognize because it lifts the spirit, puts a smile on the face, and peace in the heart. The comfort of His guidance makes me glad to tackle any project that lies ahead.

Okay, folks, that’s it for this month. Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead so you don’t miss church this Sunday.

 

Writing Update

This winter I’ve been working on stories from a lifetime ago. Literally. The year 1957 was a watershed year in my life  and I remember a lot about it.  I’ve verified and documented a number of events from that era. Writing about the events of that year helps me see why I was an anxious child! And those times…ah, life was simpler back then.

Events

March 17. A book club here in Bismarck is discussing Secrets of the Dark Closet and I’ve been invited to the meeting. Nothing makes me happier than the chance to discuss one of my novels with readers.

April 9. Find me at the Northbrook Mall Easter Show here in north Bismarck. My friend and fellow writer, Patricia Olson, will also be on hand to sign copies of her first novel, The Fountain, a magical reality story based in North Dakota.

 

 

 

May God multiply your days and

fill each one with blessings!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wonders of Writing

 

I set out to write an uplifting blog post about going into year three of the Covid pandemic. However, it began to look like the words of Charlie Brown’s parents’: Blah, blah-blah, blah-blah. What could I say that hasn’t already been chewed on a million times?

Instead, I opened a new file and began to write stories from my childhood. These, of course, have always been in my head, and I’ve told some of them before. But I’m finding that like fine cheese, some memories need to be well aged and seasoned with a long perspective before they are told.

In my twenties, when my father’s life and death were fresh and raw in my heart, my writing was all emotion. When I finally found peace with those memories, I filed them away and dealt with my mother.

Let me say up front that Mom and I didn’t have an easy relationship. When I get to heaven, I need to ask her forgiveness for doing stupid things when she was going through menopause and didn’t need a snotty teenager.

I really didn’t begin to understand my mother until after her death, which happened 35 years ago this week. Cleaning out her house back then was like picking up puzzle pieces one by one, each bringing a more complete picture of her.

During that time, a picture began to form of a young dream-filled girl. She must have tucked those dreams away when she became a desperate farmwife with a brood of kids during the Depression. She remained resilient throughout her life, left the dreaming to others, and had compassion for veterans, orphans and her grandchildren. She showed her love not with words, but through gifts made on her sewing machine or in her oven.

Today, seeing my growing up years through the wide-angle lens of time, I’m surprised at the truths that comes out. Through writing, I’ve discovered so much about my parents, siblings and extended family. Age and distance have brought the events and meaning of their lives into sharper focus.

Just as a runner thinks everyone should run, and a teacher thinks everyone should teach, and a guitar player thinks everyone should play guitar, I think everyone should write! It costs nothing but a bit of paper and time. Write for yourself or your children and grandchildren. Write plainly about one single topic and see how much insight you gain from it.

Writing about your journey and about those with whom you’ve traveled in life is the only way I know to lose yourself and find yourself at the same time. It is a gift from God that you can give yourself.

 

“The secret of it all is to write… without waiting for a fit time or place.” – Walt Whitman

 

Do you ever WONDER?

For the first time I picked a word of the year. My word is WONDER. I think it’ll take the whole year to explore the wonders of the word.

This morning, the song in my head is from Lamentations 3: “The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.”

Did you get that? Not just a kindness here and there. God’s kindnesses never cease, for his compassions are new every morning. The words weren’t written because the author was having a good day, but in a time of national crisis. Yet, Jeremiah looked beyond the events and saw the power, majesty and kindness of God.

To me that is a wonder! This very day, the God of heaven and earth has good plans for you and me.

Have you picked a word for the year? It’s never too late. Let me know what your word is.

 

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

 

The Wonders of Ordinary Life

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

There’s something magical about the quiet of a winter night, and Robert Frost captured it well in his poem. It’s these unexpected moments that make life wonder-filled. How wise we are when we recognize them and pull our little horses aside to drink in soul-reviving peace.

For the past few weeks, I’ve found myself smiling a lot. I think it’s because we’re having a bit of “normal” life.

The last few years have been rough for all of us. Our family has had so many deaths, including my brother who died on Christmas Eve year before last. The weeks before and after his advent into heaven were heavy laden. Then within weeks, the plague (Covid) wound its way through the land. The uncertainty, the illnesses, and isolation took their toll.

This Christmas, things are a bit more normal. We are out and about more. Sharing holidays with family. Doing book signings. Shopping! We even attended a few Christmas parties. It’s so wonderful to catch up with old friends!

Then, last Sunday we attended a Christmas event at church. Friends surrounded us, and my soul was stirred as over a dozen performers sang and played—piano, violin, guitar. Each song seemed to have amplified meaning. The newcomer to America singing a Christmas song in her native language. The talented 11-year-old girl who was rescued from a crack house by a couple in our church. The young couple who has overcome the recent death of a baby and a parent.

One of the songs, “Oh Come All Ye Unfaithful,” was new to me. The refreshing words were written by a young woman who couldn’t relate to the joyful and triumphant people in “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.” Instead, she felt broken, weary and ashamed. In writing about her feelings, she has touched the hearts of many. You can read the story and listen to the beautiful words here:

https://worshipmatters.com/2020/12/18/the-story-behind-o-come-all-you-unfaithful/

None of us knows what tomorrow or the New Year will bring, but we can be assured that Jesus cares for us and is calling us. And we can look for joy in ordinary moments.

 

May God bless you with a perfectly ordinary and wonder-filled Christmas and New Year.  

 

 

 

It’s a Page Turner!

On November 7, eight North Dakota authors will be featured on Page Turner, an event sponsored by Humanities North Dakota. I’m privileged to be one of the authors.

This online event is scheduled from 4-5:30 p.m. CDT. There is no cost, but you must register. I signed up and found it easy to do. Here is the address: https://www.humanitiesnd.org/event-details/nov-7-page-turner-1

HND bills the event like this: “Page Turner is an entertaining and inspiring hour with North Dakota authors reading excerpts from recently published or soon-to-be-released books. Each author will read from his or her latest work.”

I went into the HND office in September to tape my segment and haven’t seen what it looks like, so I hope it’s good! At any rate, it’s a wonderful opportunity to see and hear North Dakota writers without leaving your easy chair.

Uniquely, the other writers include my friend Paulette Bullinger, who was writing her historical novel when I was working on Secrets of the Dark Closet, and Hazel Mattice, lives in my hometown, LaMoure, N.D.

Here is the full list of authors stolen from their website and abbreviated:

Jill Kandel grew up in Valley City, ND. Her forthcoming book: The Clean Daughter: A Cross-Continental Memoir, NDSU Press, February 2022.

Sarah Davis is many things…wife, mother, veterinarian, writer. She is working on her second novel as you read this.

William Heinzen lives in Bismarck, ND. Warrior of Light is his first novel.

Bonnie Staiger, is the North Dakota Associate Poet Laureate. Her second book In Plains Sight has been recently released from NDSU Press (2021).

Gayle Schuck is a North Dakota native. Her four books are all set in North Dakota. See more at www.gaylelarsonschuck.com.

Hazel Mattice  lives in LaMoure, ND. She is the author of 3 novels, including The Green Door, Where there is no Whisper, and Thirsty Ground.

Paulette Bullinger and her husband have been in business in the agricultural field for over 35 years. Her first novel, Nothing Hidden, is a historical novel set southwest of Mandan.

Ron Baesler is a farm boy, physicist, pastor, missionary, seminary professor, gardener, grandfather, father and husband. Visions From the Heart is his fourth book.

 

Book News

Family life has sidetracked my writing ways, so work on my next project is delayed. Our daughter-in-law has been hospitalized with Covid and priorities have been in helping their family.

I have three events scheduled during the holidays:

November 27: Chamber of Commerce Dinner at LaMoure

December 3: Dickens Festival, Garrison

December 4: Touchmark Craft Fair, Bismarck

Country Road by Christy Brucks is the original photo used for the cover of Cottonwood Dreams

 

 

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” 

Psalm 107:1

The Rich Life of an Author

 

The Rich Life of an Author                   

    Some people may think an author’s life is all glamour. That’s because they haven’t seen the author doing back stretches after sitting at the computer all day or lugging her books into a venue to sell. Another delusion is that publishing a book makes a person rich. I’m still waiting for that ship to come in.

Meanwhile, I am rich in wonderful experiences. Let me share what happened one afternoon last month when I spoke at a local assisted living and basic care home.

I was warned in advance that the audience wasn’t likely to buy any books, so instead of talking about my new book, Cottonwood Dreams, I told them about writing Secrets of the Dark Closet. Since Secrets was published four years ago, I’ve learned that the topic has universal appeal. Apparently, every family has its secrets.

After putting in a fair amount of time preparing the talk, I drove a few blocks to the home. Once there, I was dismayed to see most of the audience was in wheelchairs and several were asleep!

“It takes a moment to judge someone, but a lifetime to understand them.” – Tina Ng

Soon after I began, it became clear that looks were deceiving. Several people smiled or nodded as I talked. When I asked questions, they were eager to share stories. A young fellow sitting in a wheelchair at the back of the room took photos for me.

One woman was so bent over, her head was almost on her lap and one leg was all wrapped up. From time to time, she would raise up and nod at me. That tugged at my heart strings! Later, I sat with her and learned she’s in her late 90s. We had a rich conversation about family secrets and the times we live in.

When I was about to leave, there was a ruckus in the hall. After the talk, one lady had wheeled her chair through the building, taken the elevator to her room, and was dashing back. I heard her call out, “Is she still here? Can I still buy a book?” That was my one sale for the day, and though it was only $12, it was priceless.

Here’s another story. I went to the KNDR-FM studio to do a live radio interview mid-September. At 8 a.m. I usually haven’t muttered the word “coffee” by that time. Sigh.

Three days later at the Northbrook Mall Vendor Show, I learned the “sacrifice” was worth it. The first person who stopped by my table had heard the interview. She’d driven over 60 miles and arrived as the doors opened. The second person was also from out of town. She stopped by to say thank you because she’d won the book giveaway on KNDR.

Later, another woman expressed a curious interest in the Prairie Pastor Series, and then she really surprised me. She’d read the first two books and she guessed the name of the little country church on which Cottonwood Church is modeled. That delighted me, and even more so after learning that she grew up attending that church.

Lately, these wonderful encounters have been happening almost every week, and this author is feeling rich indeed.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen

or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” Helen Keller

Writer Update

October 14: Ashley, N.D. I’ll be signing books from 4-6 p.m. at Book Smart, 108 W. Main Street. I hear tell there will be a food truck parked out front!

November 7: I am privileged to be one of eight authors featured in the Humanities North Dakota Page Turner event. On Nov. 7, you are invited to watch me read a chapter from Cottonwood Dreams. The segment will air from 4 to 5:30 Central Time at https://www.humanitiesnd.org/event-details/nov-7-page-turner-1. There is no cost.

December 3-4: Garrison, N.D, Dicken’s Village Festival. More info later.