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

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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 ( 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

The Reset Button


Writing Update

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

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

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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


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?

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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!



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The display of mugs with Simplicity pattern artwork in a local fabric shop surprised and delighted me. Along with the mugs, there were notepads, aprons and tea towels imprinted with the retro images of young women wearing stylish clothing from other eras.

The items evoked so many memories that I immediately purchased several pieces.

I haven’t sewn much for a dozen years. The Pfaff sewing machine I bought for retirement sits idle in a closet; the Simplicity pattern I used to make pajamas for my sons and grandsons is stashed somewhere in a container.

Still, using patterns to construct clothing may be a dormant part of my DNA. I come from a long line of seamstresses with exacting skills. As I grew up, my mother made all of her clothes and mine. Dresses, shirts, pants and pajamas. One year she even sewed a winter coat for me. No doubt with a Simplicity pattern.

I clearly remember how fussy she was about the fabric she purchased. It had to be strong and durable, and it seldom cost over a dollar a yard. After being well used as clothing, it was turned into quilts or rugs. I still have doll quilts that she made out of our old dresses. My dolls had the best wardrobes.

After she selected the fabric, matching thread, and any needed buttons, zippers, binding or rickrack, she would set about making an article of clothing. The first step was to wash the fabric in case it tended to shrink. It was then pressed free of wrinkles.

Mom usually began the actual construction after a meal, when the kitchen was quiet. First, she cleared the oblong oak table of its standard sugar bowl and toothpick holder. Then she laid out the fabric on the table, and the tissue pattern pieces on top of the fabric. She put glasses on top to hold them in place in case someone blew in the kitchen door. Finally, she put stickpins around all of the edges.

Before the scissors ever made it out of the sewing machine drawer, she checked everything twice. Measure twice, cut once might have been her motto. Mom had special stainless steel scissors used only for cutting material. As I remember it, the penalty for borrowing them was so severe that no one ever dared use the scissors as a screwdriver or to cut out newspaper stories.

When I joined 4-H, she bought me a child-sized scissors that fit my hands. Eventually, when I was responsible enough, she gave me full-size scissors, which I still use. Responsibly.

Once Mom cut the fabric along the pattern lines, she moved on to the sewing machine. Hers was a treadle machine purchased on credit during the desperate 1930s. Somehow, she had squeezed five dollars a month out of her egg and cream money to buy that machine. The papers remained in one of the drawers as long as she lived.

She lifted the machine from the cabinet and put it in a working position. Then she took one of the three bobbins she used for decades and filled it with thread.

When both the bobbin and the spool of thread were in place, she’d check the needle. You couldn’t do a good job with a dull needle or one that was the wrong size for the type of fabric.

Then, she set the tension on the machine. The tension between the needle and the bobbin must not be too tight or too loose, or the stitches wouldn’t be right. She also checked the presser foot and set the stitch length before lowering the feed dog onto the fabric.

Mom sew hundreds of items during my growing up years. Then, in high school I finally went through the process myself: choosing fabric, cutting it according to the pattern, basting seams, and sewing them. I have clear memories of our teacher standing over me while I ripped out a less-than-perfect seam. And happy memories of wearing lined wool dresses that I made.

There were no shortcuts when it came to sewing a quality garment. The pattern had to be laid out straight so the seams matched. Otherwise, my pretty summer dress might have roses that went this way and that way. As you sewed it, the pattern’s dark blue notches, numbers and cryptic instructions had to line up. The buttonholes needed to be in a straight line and the buttons set in the same direction. Seam tape, binding and zippers had to be sewn perfectly.

Sewing requires patience. To skip one of the steps is to invite disaster. A garment can be ruined by shoddy workmanship, such as a crooked seam or a lopsided collar. However, creating something beautiful is a matter of simply taking your time and following the steps of the pattern. The process is important, right down to the last stitch in the hem.

There are many types of patterns to follow. Any creative process, from making clothing to woodworking, to designing buildings, requires a pattern or a master plan.

However, the most important patterns have nothing to do with clothing or wood or buildings. They are the patterns we follow in making decisions every day. If you want simplicity in your life and want good results from your decisions, follow the plans of the Master Pattern Maker.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously

to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5 (NIV)


Writing Update

Almost every day someone asks if I’m working on my next book. The answer is…maybe!

For now, I’ve been out and about signing copies of Amber’s Choice. The downside of that is there isn’t much time to write. The upside is meeting so many people who buy copies because they enjoyed By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek and Secrets of the Dark Closet.

If you haven’t purchased your copy yet, it’s available locally and online, in paperback and in eBook. And if you know someone who loves to read, your recommendation is the best kind of publicity.

To all of my readers: Thank You and God Bless You!




Seasonal Change Underway




If you received this by email, please click on the title of the post to go to the website.

Seasonal Changes Underway


In the past month, the trees have changed from green to harvest colors. Now a very early snowstorm is gripping the whole region. I’m hoping this snow will melt and we will still have a golden Indian Summer.

Just as seasons change in nature, so do the times of our lives. Here on the northern prairie, we try hard to pack every lovely summer day with activities. Now, after a hectic summer, it’s time to bake some pies from fresh-picked apples and light the fireplace.

What are some of your favorite cozy activities? I’d love to hear from you.

The writer’s life also has seasons. Amber’s Choice was released in July after seasons of writing and editing. Since then, I’ve been working on marketing. Updating this website is one way to publicize my books. Carrie at Solutions Website Design created the website and now has refreshed it.

You’ll see a new banner at the top of the page. The prairie grass scene has been replaced by a new banner called “Prairie Praise.” The picture is by photographer Christy Brucks, who also took the cover photo of Amber’s Choice. I think both photos express the joy and hope found in nature. Find more of her photos on Facebook and at cbimagry on Instagram.

A Photo page was added to the website to host photos related to my historical novel, Secrets of the Dark Closet. I’ve shared these pictures when doing presentations, and am happy to make them available for everyone.

Another website change: You can now click on the picture of the three books and place an order with Amazon. The list of places in North Dakota where the books are available is also refreshed. The Christmas season will soon be here and books make great gifts!

The Blog remains the same Prairie Lighthouse. Today I found a post on from six years ago. In it, I talk about the Prairie Lighthouse Project, when churches across the state were invited to be lit and open on New Year’s Eve 1999 as we went into the new millennium. I could image God smiling down on our state that night and saying, “Look, little North Dakota is all lit up for Me!”

That was 20 years ago. I couldn’t have imagined the oil boom that has rocked our state since then. Today, there are satellite images of the western part of the state lit up with flares from oil wells. Also, back then, I didn’t know I’d write a novel about a young pastor and the prairie churches under his care. By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek first came out as an eBook in 2013. Amber’s Choice is its sequel.

The Prairie Lighthouse blog began as a way to offer people a beacon of hope and light. Although it sometimes more personal than purpose, it remains based on Psalm 119:105:

Thy word is a lamp to my feet, a light on my path.”

More than ever, I am convinced that the answers to life can be found in the Bible, and that we can put our confidence in God. Have you found this to be true? If not, check out the gospel of John, the Psalm and Proverbs.


The Bismarck Public Library Reader’s Voice book club chose Secrets of the Dark Closet for one of the eight books they are reading this year.

Writing Update & Book-Signing Schedule

Barnes & Noble, 1-3 p.m., October 19. South 7th Street in Bismarck

Touchmark on West Century, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., October 26. Bismarck

The Big One Art & Craft Fair, November 22-23, Bismarck Events Center