I Can Only Imagine

As much as we joke about going to Boot Hill someday or tell stories about St. Peter guarding the gates of heaven, when death comes for a loved one, it’s no laughing matter.

It’s been a long winter for our family. In October, my 58-year-old niece died unexpectedly. No one should die before their life’s work is complete. In January, my husband’s sister died after two lengthy illnesses. Thirty days later, another sister’s husband died. He was my age. The slippery slope of declining health had already changed family dynamics. It’s been years since we all packed up our kids and went to the river for a day of grilled burgers and raucous water fights. It’s even been a long time since we’ve spent a big, noisy Christmas together. The deaths still hurt.

With each goodbye, we try to imagine what happens when we die. We wonder, what is heaven like? Will we see our loved ones again? How can we know for certain what happens when we die?

The answer to these questions is Easter! Easter is the most important and oldest festival of the Christian Church, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It separates Christianity from every other religion. Other beliefs teach that we must work our way to heaven, but Christians believe Jesus did the work for us.

Sadly, many people believe in God and try to lead good lives, but they miss this truth. They don’t know where they will spend eternity. But we can know, and when we understand what Jesus did for us, that truth will fill us with hope and joy.

This month, a fine man and great evangelist died. Billy Graham shared one message throughout his career, what Jesus said in John 3: 16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

It’s that simple:

  1. Believe that Jesus carried our sins to the cross.
  2. Humbly admit that you can’t save yourself.
  3. Accept his free gift of salvation.

The days leading up to Easter are a wonderful time for soul searching. We clean our houses in anticipation of the holiday. Why not also get rid of our lingering doubts about what happens when we die? Take God’s Word to heart.

The movie, “I Can Only Imagine” just opened. This is a powerful true story of singer songwriter Bart Millard of the band, MercyMe. The movie had me gripping the arm of my seat and stuffing back tears, as well as laughing. The movie is based on the song “I Can Only Imagine,” the best-selling Christian song of all time.

Why is it so popular? Because Millard envisions what heaven will be like. The movie and song are both infused with the hope and truth we need so badly in this old world. (Check out the movie and song with a keyword search of “I can only imagine.”)

So, let’s take a step of faith and believe that Jesus paid the price for us to spend eternity in heaven. It’s that simple. Then we will find the joy that Jesus’s followers had on that first Easter Morning. With them, we will be able to say,

He is Risen! He has Risen Indeed!  

 

Writing Update

Speaking of Easter, one of my favorite chapters in Secrets of the Dark Closet is the family’s Easter in 1899. Get your copy online, or send me an email to obtain a signed copy.

I’m working on the sequel to By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek and the characters have become very real to me. This morning I admired a friend’s cape and told her that Amber just bought a cape. Fortunately, my friend has read Cottonwood and knows Amber.           

On April 5, I’ve been invited to speak at women’s spring breakfast at the Senior  Center in Bismarck. I’m excited to share stories about writing in a talk entitled “Cottonwood Tales.”

Your Heart Matters!

 

 

February hosts both Valentine’s Day and Heart-Health Month, so here is a little test for you to take:

  1. What is the hardest working muscle in your body? The heart. It pumps out 2 ounces of blood at every heartbeat or at least 2,500 gallons daily. It can beat over 3 billion times in a person’s life.
  2. What modern conveniences cause the most problems to the heart? In one study of nearly 30,000 people in 52 countries, those who owned both a car and TV had a 27% higher risk of heart attack than those who owned neither.
  3. How big is your heart? The average heart weighs 7-15 ounces and is a little larger than your fist.
  4. When did your heart start beating? It began beating about 22 days after you were conceived.
  5. True or False: Hearts can literally break. True. The shock and stress of bereavement is hard on your heart. The risk of having a heart attack appears to decline as grief subsides.

Dr. Caroline Leaf has spent her life researching the brain. She has found a link between the brain and the heart. In her book Who Switched Off My Brain, one of the steps to detoxing the brain is to tune into your heart.

Dr. Leaf says: “It’s not just poets who consider the heart as the source of love. Research shows that the heart considers and “thinks” about information it receives from the brain. This implies the heart has opinions of its own. It acts as a still, small voice that checks out our thoughts for accuracy, integrity and wisdom.”

She goes on to say, “Your heart is not just a pump. It’s your body’s strongest biological oscillator, which means it has the ability to pull every other system of the body into its own rhythm. When the heart is at peace and is filled with love, the entire body under the direction of the brain feels peace and love as well. The converse is also true. When your thought life is filled with toxic emotions, your heart is heavy and burdens your body and mind. In effect, your heart amplifies what is going on in the brain.”

Science is learning a lot about what makes the heart tick and how to keep it healthy. However, it is only catching up with what the Bible has always stated. There are over 300 Bible verses about the heart. Here is some biblical advice from the Proverbs, which were written between 950-700 B.C.:

Proverbs 4: 23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Proverbs 15: 13: “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.”

Proverbs: 15: 30: “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.”

Proverbs: 17: 22: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

The Psalms mention the heart many times. Here are two verses that explain what happens to our hearts when we trust God, instead of being worried or angry.

  1. Psalm 37: 4: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
  2. Psalm 112: 8: “His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.”

In more modern times, Jesus said “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.” That’s John 14: 1, by the way.

The choice is ours. If we choose to count our blessings every day, gratitude to God will flood our hearts, for even though we face trouble, we are still incredibly blessed. Another way to encourage our hearts is to sing. (Yes, sing aloud.) Pick a favorite hymn or praise song and belt it out. This encourage our brains, as well as our hearts.

The result will be, “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 7.

 

May you have a happy heart today

and every day!

 

Writing Update: If you purchased or received a copy of Secrets of the Dark Closet in November or December, I would love to hear from you. 

This winter I am back to working on the sequel to By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek. The new book will again feature Kelly Jorgenson, but Amber Rose McLean is the main character. I’m having fun with chapter titles such as A Small Box of Chocolates, Snow Angel, and Little Flower of Lent.

 

People Here Love Local Authors

Signing books at Barnes & Noble

It was a chance encounter. We’d stopped by Barnes & Noble to see if my book, Secrets of the Dark Closet, was in stock. (It sold out, new copies were on order.) A clerk suggested that I talk to the new manager. I planned to call him the next day, but there he was as I made my way out of the store.

We began a conversation. When I said I was a local author, his eyes lit up. He took me to a computer and typed in the name of the book. A page came up showing every sale, by day, since it was published a few months ago. (Computers can be wonderful…and a little scary.)

He then made a comment—one sentence—that revealed so much about our community. He said, “People here love local authors.” I think that is a lovely insight from a newcomer to Bismarck.

It explains why the store has long rows of books by authors from our community, state, and neighboring states. Independent authors used to be the stepchildren of the publishing world. That is changing as more people take control of their work through hybrid publishing or smaller publishing houses.

Book display at the Gifted Bean Coffee House

The Rainbow Shop Parable Christian store has also supported me from day one, by stocking both Secrets and By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek. They also hosted a book signing in December. Other shops in Bismarck, Jamestown and Medora are also friendly places for local authors.

Our city and state are flourishing. Driving around the city, I am struck by all of the new local businesses. They’re popping up everywhere. In addition, the Women Entrepreneurs Bismarck is a thriving organization.

Isn’t it wonderful that local authors can also flourish here? And we are. Bismarck has a lot of writers. When the Friends of the Library hosted a local authors event a few years ago, over 20 writers showed up with their books.

I only know a fraction of the local published writers, but I want to list a few women who have published novels and memoirs this century that I’ve enjoyed. They all live in the state and their books are available in local stores, on the Internet or through the authors’ websites.

Paulette and I both signed books at a craft fair last fall.

  • Jessie Veeder, Coming Home. Stories and photos take the reader into life on a ranch in western North Dakota. A singer and songwriter, her authentic voice shines through. www.jessieveedermusic.com.
  • Melanie Carvell, Running with the Antelope. A popular motivational speaker and athlete, relates how growing up in a large family in the southwestern North Dakota affected her career choices. http://melaniecarvell.com.
  • Paulette Bullinger, Nothing Hidden. As a historical fiction, this book is the most closely aligned with Secrets of the Dark Closet, based on facts from over a century ago, set in Fort Rice, N.D.
  • Roxanne Henke, Coming Home to Brewster Series. Published by major publishing houses, these books are so good, I practically ate them. My favorite: Becoming Olivia.
  • Dr. Mary Ellen Erickson, Geezettes and an assortment of children’s books. She gets the award for producing the most books and for her desire to encourage children’s reading. www.drmarysbooks.com.
  • Shannon McNear, Pioneer Christmas Collection series. Shannon’s novellas are included in this series. She lives in Jamestown and can be found at www.shannonmcnear.com.
  • Dr. Lorraine Dopson, Hard Road Home. This novel takes you into the Bakken Oil Field during the recent oil boom and what life was like in a noteworthy period of the state’s history. www.lorrainedopson.com.
  • Margaret Barnhart, Home for Supper. Filled with folksy info and old-time recipes. Published by a small press and set in western North Dakota in the 1960s.

All of these women set their stories in North Dakota. They capture the landscape and the unique culture found here. These don’t even include the dozens of nonfiction, devotionals or other genres, or books published by men.

I also want to mention two out-of-state authors who are on the writing and publishing journey with me. Linda Lewis, Golden Memories. Linda’s memoir is set in rural Michigan in the 1920s. It offers a charming look at life in that era through the writing of her mother. Barbara Brabec, Marcella’s Secret Dream. Barbara lives in Chicago and her memoir takes the reader on a journey into her mother’s life in rural Illinois.

If you have always wanted to write, 2018 is a great time to step out and let your voice join those of other writers across the region. If you are already writing, take heart, local and regional work is coming of age.

Readers: Do you have a favorite author that writes of the culture where you live? I’d love to hear from you. Just post a comment in the box at the bottom of this blog post.

 

 

On Christmas Weddings, Plus a Writing Update

Bessie & Gale, December 1907

While we usually think of celebrating Christmas in December, it is also a lovely month for weddings.

It’s been 110 years since my grandparents, Gale Muir and Bessie Kloubec, were married on Christmas Day 1907. While there were many things revealed about Bessie’s life in Secrets of the Dark Closet, there was nothing secret about their wedding. It was a happy event.

I’d love to slip back in time and watch the wedding preparations. The farmhouse must have bustled with relatives coming and going as they made food and decorated the house. Bessie, her sister Carrie, and their mother certainly sewed their own wedding clothes, as they were excellent seamstresses.

Here is a copy of a handwritten invitation to the wedding, followed by a story from the LaMoure Chronicle dated Dec. 27, 1907:

 

Christmas Wedding

The home of Mrs. Mary Roots in Cottonwood was the scene of a pretty wedding Christmas day at high noon when Miss Bessie Kloubeck, daughter of Mrs. Roots, became the bride of Gale Muir, youngest brother of John W. Muir. Rev. J.G. Noordawter read the service, the bridal couple standing beneath a pretty area of Christmas greens. The bride wore a gown of cream crepe and carried bride roses. After the ceremony the family and invited guests partook a sumptuous Christmas dinner. Mr. and Mrs. Muir departed on the afternoon train for the Twin Cities and other Minnesota points for a visit of several weeks. The young couple are highly regarded by many friends all who join with the Chronicle in hearty congratulations and wishes for many Happy New Years.

Now, in December 2017, we are invited to the wedding of a friend. June is a widow with children and grandchildren. After a successful 42-year marriage, she was content with her life, which included volunteering at a local thrift store. Then one day a fellow named Ordean visited the shop. Soon he also became a volunteer, and they became friends. In October he proposed and she said “Yes.”

This plate was a wedding gift to Bessie & Gale now belongs to a great-granddaughter

Nothing speaks of new beginnings quite like a wedding. It is two people willing to launch into the next phase of life with faith, hope, joy…and wedding gifts.

Of course, Christmas might be explained in a similar way, as faith, hope and joy coming to earth wrapped up as a baby.

I still remember a Christmas Eve service we attended in Healdsburg, Calif., where the speaker asked the congregation if we were to find a baby lying on the pew next to us, what would we do with that baby? Would we leave him lying there or take him home with us?

His point was that we celebrate the birth of Jesus every year, but then we must choose what to do with Him. Do we leave Jesus at the church or do we embrace him and take him with us?

In The Purpose of Christmas, Rick Warren discusses the most important gift we’ll ever receive. Writes Warren, “We often celebrate Christmas year after year after year without receiving God’s gift to us. And if you were to give me a Christmas gift, or any kind of gift, and a year later, you go ‘Hey Rick, how did you like my gift’ and I go, ‘well actually I’m really glad you gave it to me, Steve, but I didn’t have a chance to open it, I was really busy.’ Well you’d be offended and I would miss the benefit of the gift.”

Gale & Bessie, circa 1940s

Bessie and Gale gave themselves to each other that Christmas day and every day for the next 50 years, until his death in May of 1957. On their wedding day, they didn’t know all they would live through, but even if they could have foreseen the future, I’m certain they would have still chosen each other.

In the same way, we can’t see the future, but we can chose to find faith and hope in God. A favorite Christmas carol, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, ends with these words, “O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel.” That is a good prayer for this season and for all of our lives.

 

Writing Update

Since August, I’ve signed books 11 days in eight different venues in Bismarck and LaMoure. Now the comments and reviews are coming in. Your kind and thought-filled words are a great reward. Thank you from the bottom of my prairie heart! Here is an email from a nephew. It is so sweet, I thought about saving it for Valentine’s Day, but it’s too good to hold onto.

Gayle,

I read to (my wife) every night, usually a good Christian book or biography, and then the Bible before we drift off to sleep. We’re now reading Secrets of the Dark Closet. I’ll only read one or two chapters an evening savoring each one like dark chocolates. We REALLY like this book. You write so well with such descriptions as to take us into each setting and feeling what Bessie felt. Being personally connected is another bonus for me in that I remember Bessie and especially Carrie.  I am so blessed and proud of you Auntie Gayle.

Thanks so much!

And thank you for sharing your kind words and this intimate glimpse inside your marriage. That special time you spend together each evening is sooo romantic, it’s possible a few women readers will want to read your message to their husbands!

What’s up next? Well, there are parties and a Christmas wedding to attend. And perhaps it’s time to send some cards, purchase a few gifts and bake some cookies. By the way, congratulations to June and Ardean. May you have many Happy New Years!

By the beginning of 2018, I will be ready to talk to groups about the writing process and do more book-signing events. And…there is another book begging to be finished.

Please feel free to leave a reply in the box at the bottom of this page.


MAY YOUR CHRISTMAS BE FILLED WITH FAITH, HOPE AND JOY!

 

Letter from a War Hero

Corp. Bill Kloubec

At this moment 99 years ago, the U.S. was in the thick World War I. The armistice ending the war wouldn’t be declared for another year, on Nov. 11, 1918.

Bill Kloubec was one of the heroes of World War I. He went into the military a country boy and came out of the war with the Silver Star for gallantry and the Purple Heart for being wounded.

Bill is Bessie Kloubec’s baby brother in my historical novel, Secrets of the Dark Closet. Since readers say they want to know more about the characters in the book, Veteran’s Day seems like a good time to tell a little of Bill’s story. Fortunately, Bill kept a diary and wrote letters home during the war. His son, Dick Kloubec, wrote about his father’s war years in the Muir-Kloubec Genealogy & History 1708-2005.

Bill moved with his family to North Dakota in 1904, attended country school, then graduated from LaMoure High School. He enlisted in the North Dakota National Guard on April 24, 1917, just 18 days after the United States entered the war. Bill went overseas on the “SS Leviathan,” arriving in Liverpool in December 1917.

On Jan. 18, 1918, the unit went to the 1st Division AEF Co. M 26th Infantry. He was a private first class, then corporal. On June 9, 1918, he was wounded with mustard gas near Montdidier, France, and hospitalized in Limoge, south of Paris.

Germany was the first country to use mustard gas. They filled artillery shells with the poison. When the shells exploded, a cloud of gas would settle over the troops. The gas caused the victims’ skin to blister and their eyes to be very sore. It also caused internal and external bleeding and attacked the bronchial tubes, stripping off the mucous membrane. There were reportedly 185,000 gas casualties in World War I, with about 6,000 dying.

Bill wrote this letter home while he was hospitalized:

France, June 16, 1918

Dear Mother:

I suppose that you are getting somewhat anxious so, I’d better scribble a little. I wrote about a week or two ago, but hardly think it was sent. Suppose that you are worrying a little by now, but you need not.

I got a shot of gas, but not bad. My eyes are as good as ever now and lungs too, only the skin is burned a little yet. I’ll be ready for business again in a week. You see it burns the skin like a mustard plaster. Have been in the hospital since the 10th and will probably be transferred to another one tomorrow. Am getting the best of care. We have one Amex nurse and the best gas doctor in France, a Frenchman. Jake got a little hurt but not much.

We went out and dug ourselves in, in a field just after the squareheads had peppered it with gas shells. When we got that done they started throwing sourkraut barrels at us, none of them hurt anyone but we were almighty lucky. We thought they were after us, but guess it was the “frogs” they were after, but they got it in the neck. They don’t like to get tough with us very much for we gave them a few good trouncings and are good for some more. We cheated them out of a town a while ago and they’ve still got a bad taste in the mouths.

I’ll have to close now. Am feeling fine. Hope you are too.

Yours,

Corp. W.H. Kloubec, Co. M 26th Inf. Amex

Although Bill downplayed his wounds, he spent over a month in the hospital. Then he returned to the front for two more battles in France. After Armistice, the unit went to Germany as the occupying force, where he lived in the town of Molsberg. He was discharged from the military at Camp Dodge, Iowa, on Sept. 24, 1919, after receiving the Purple Heart and Silver Star.

Bill Kloubec in 1920

In 1925, Bill graduated from the University of North Dakota. He managed the Gamble Store in Fargo, N.D., where he sold the latest technology—radios. Later he managed Gambles in Moorhead, Minn., a manager-training store. He married Vera Pomeroy, and they had a son and later adopted a daughter. The family traveled several weeks out of the year, often to Florida or California. After retiring from Gambles, Bill bought a small farm and acquired rental properties in Fargo.

“He engaged in life and was forward looking,” Dick Kloubec said recently. Bill remained close to his siblings all of his life, especially his sister Carrie. When he died in 1959, Bessie, Carrie, and other family members from LaMoure, traveling to Fargo for the funeral.

During his growing up years, his family was torn apart, not once but twice. He endured the worst of the fighting in the “war to end all wars,” and went back into battle after being wounded. Still he managed to overcome his past and have a successful and interesting life.

Letters written by North Dakota soldiers in World War I were often posted in local newspapers. University of Mary Cultural History students have found and researched the letters and created a database from each county that records the biographies of the letter writers, plot summaries and reference information.

At 1 p.m., November 11, the students will perform a Readers Theater at the N.D. Heritage Center in Bismarck. The “Letters from the Great War” will include a lecture by Professor Joseph Stuart. The event is free and open to the public.

Writing Update

 If you’re like me, your mind is leaping ahead to Christmas. Books are among my favorite gifts to give and receive. Secrets of the Dark Closet and By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek both make excellent Christmas gifts. They are available online and through your favorite bookstore. You may also order a signed copy by contacting me. The cost with shipping is $21.

 

Look for the hand-painted sign at The Big One


Nov. 17-18, I will be at The Big One Art & Craft Fair at the Bismarck Civic Center, with two of my crafty friends. If you’re in Bismarck, please stop by. Just look for the “Christmas Gift Ideas” sign.

 

 

 

 

“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.” Psalm 95: 2-3

 

Finding Refuge in Troubled Times

 

 

This year may be remembered for the troubled times we live in. Hurricanes, floods, drought, fires, mass shootings, and threats of nuclear war have rolled in on us like ocean waves hitting the shore.

Recently a couple living in Northern California awoke to someone pounding on their door. A neighbor pointed to a wild fire burning not too far away. Quickly leaving, they started the 20-mile drive to his parents’ home, but the smoke was thick and every road seemed to be blocked. After hours of anxious maneuvering, they pulled into their parents’ driveway at 4:30 in the morning. You can bet that was a happy reunion and the couple was glad to find refuge.

Safari West truck

Another story out of Northern California also captured my interest. Safari West is a 400-acre nature refuge near Santa Rosa. Begun in the late 1980s by Peter Lang, it is home to a thousand exotic species, such as giraffes and hippos, cheetahs and rhinos. Visitors ride African safari trucks that wind through the hilly terrain. We were blessed to visit there two years ago.

When the Tubbs Fire became a danger, some of the birds and smaller animals were packed into the vehicles of guests and employees, who took them to safety. But that wasn’t an option for the larger animals. Lang, who is now 77, and his crew spent countless hours ensuring the animals were safe. He was, in fact, up all one night battling sparks from the fire. At one point he strung together 10 garden hoses to get water to a blaze that had started. Just a half mile away, Lang’s own home burned to the ground.

Giraffe seen from the truck at Safari West

Lang told a reporter from the San Francisco Press Democrat, “Leaving wasn’t even a decision. I have a thousand souls I’m responsible for.” Lang’s sacrificial love reminds me of the love God shows us.

Psalm 46: 1-3 states that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah.” NIV

Those verses seem especially timely for the days we live in. Did you get that—an ever present help in trouble? When we’re in a tough spot, the best thing we can do is turn to God for help and direction. He cares for our souls, and leaving us isn’t an option. He rescued us for eternity through his son, Jesus, and he continues to care for us as we face trials in our daily lives.

That mysterious word “Selah” at the end of the verse also has meaning. Although it is likely a musical rest, we might also take it to mean “stop and listen.” So let’s not wait until there’s an emergency. Let’s take time to spend with our Lord and Savior every day, stopping to listen for his wisdom and direction.

Writing Update

Sonvy Sammons and me doing our thing

Secrets of the Dark Closet has been out for two months. I’ve done four public book signings, plus a presentation with fellow writer. The publisher is just preparing to send out a big news release. The cover is finally showing on Amazon. The eBook is available. Life is good.

I’m delighted that Bismarck Public Library ordered two copies. One is already checked out of the Burleigh County Bookmobile and the other can be found on the New Book Shelf.

Early reviewers have been more than kind. There are seven 5-star reviews on Amazon! Many more wonderful comments have been made on Facebook and in person. I treasure each one. Keep them coming! I’m especially pleased when someone says “Bessie’s story is my story,” and those who can relate to her emotional journey.

The next planned event is The Big One Art & Craft Fair at the Bismarck Civic Center. This is a fun two-day event on November 17-18. Both Secrets of the Dark Closet and By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek will be for sale. Look for Booth # 84, where I’ll be with two crafty friends. Be sure to stop by if you are in town!

A Gathering of the Clan

Muir Threshing Rig at LaMoure on Sept. 16, 1904

I wonder what Gale and Bessie Muir would have said about the Book Signing Party and Muir-Kloubec clan gathering that took place in LaMoure, N.D., on September 15-16. Would they be surprised that so many friends from LaMoure stopped by? Would Bessie say “For land’s sake!” at seeing extended family trading stories and looking at albums so long after they passed on?

Mostly, I want to know if they would be surprised by their granddaughters. Judy has bought up a lot of their former property in LaMoure, and now I wrote a book about them.

Plans for the weekend began when Nancy Thorson booked a weekend at the Muir Guest House opened by Nick and Judy Muir Meisch last year. Nancy found the guesthouse on Facebook when she was researching the Muir family history. She’s married to Chris Thorson, a descendent of Will Muir of the Jackson, Minnesota Muirs. And Will Muir was a brother to Gale Muir, who was Judy’s and my grandfather.

About that same time, my historical novel Secrets of the Dark Closet was released. It’s based on secrets that Bessie and her siblings took to their graves.

Ready for the Book Signing Party at Meisch Shop

Judy offered to host a Book Signing Party in LaMoure the weekend the Thorsons were coming. The Meisch Shop seemed like the perfect place for all the activities. If the term “shop” conjures up a place that smells like axel grease and has tools strewn around, rest assured, this shop is bright, clean, new and decorated like something on the Home & Garden Channel. It’s used for local events. I’m not sure Nick even gets to park his Kenworth in it very often.

The shop is next to the house that Gale and Bessie Muir purchased it in 1922. It’s just a little prairie house, no longer livable, but it holds a lot of family memories. And secrets! In fact, the door to the dark closet is in that house—the door featured on the cover of my book.

Friday afternoon, despite soggy weather, a parade of friends and family stopped by to get a signed copy of Secrets of the Dark Closet, and catch up on each other’s lives over coffee.

Gayle, Nancy and Judy looking at memorabilia

Saturday was less about signing books and more about family gathering. A caterer set up a lovely luncheon about noon and people began to arrive. Several of Bessie and Gale’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren, some driving many miles, were on hand from our branch of the family tree.

The Thorson’s represented the Muirs, while Richard (Dick) and Audrey Kloubec and their son, Bill Kloubec, represented the Kloubec side. Bill was named after his grandfather, who was Bessie’s brother. Readers may recall that in Secrets of the Dark Closet, Bessie teased her brother by calling him Baby Bill.

Cousins Jim Herman, Audrey Kloubec, Gayle Schuck, Dick Kloubec and Judy Meisch

I was pleased that Dick bought the book at Zambroz in Fargo and had read it. (And even said he liked it.) Because of Dick’s influence, the family records left by Wallace Muir are housed at the N.D. Heritage Center. After serving as the Speaker of the House in the State Legislature, Dick was on the Heritage Center board when I had to decide what to do with 55 pounds of family documents. The secrets revealed in those records are the basis for my book.

Nancy brought her beautifully done genealogy album and other information. I had a copy of Uncle Wallace’s Muir-Kloubec Genealogy and History 1705-2003. The noise level in the shop went up as we all traded stories and sorted through information.

Cousins Jim Herman, Gayle Schuck, Judy Meisch and Chris Thorson

One of the photos passed around that day was labeled “Muir Threshing 9/16/13 LaMoure N.Dak.” A hush fell as we realized the photo was taken exactly 104 years ago, to the day. The old threshing machines and teams of horses are gone, but there we were there, in in Gale and Bessie’s hometown, harvesting a bushel of family history in a new century.

For more on the history of the Muir Guest House, check it out on Facebook, or read my May 16, 2016 blog post at www.gaylelarsonschuck.com/blog.

 

Writing Update

The eBook edition of Secrets of the Dark Closet is now available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Next up: Book Talk at Touchmark on West Century at 1 p.m., October 5 in the chapel. I’ll be talking about writing a historical novel and Sonvy Sammons will be talking about memoir writing. She is almost finished with her memoir and a chapter of it has been included in the book Magic of Memoir. This is open to the public.

Thank you so much to everyone who has written a review or commented on the book. Some of the things you said are now at www.gaylelarsonschuck.com.

To submit a review to Amazon.com: Go the Amazon, click on the Secrets of the Dark Closet page, scroll to the bottom where it asks if you want to post a review. You’ll have to submit the password you use to make purchases on Amazon. Write a few words about the book.

Love must be as much a light as it is a flame. Thoreau

The Path to Peace is Clearly Written

Where can you find a Catholic priest, a Black grandmother and a Messianic Jew dancing together? The answer is important today with the social tension that has seized our beloved America, pitting us against each other. Agitators want to stir us up and make us angry with people of other races or beliefs. But there is another way we can live in peace with each other. Not an uneasy peace or surface tolerance, but living with true brotherly love.

Over 50,000 people gathered at the Royals stadium to cheer for…Jesus!

Forty years ago this summer, I was privileged to attend the 1977 Conference on Charismatic Renewal in the Christian Churches in Kansas City. The conference took place in the midst of a spiritual renewal that swept the world beginning in the 1960s.

My journey toward Kansas City actually began four years earlier. I had always believed in God, but he seemed very distant, and Jesus was just a historical figure to me. And then I learned through my mother-in-law that Jesus was alive! My life turned around as I learned more about life in Christ.

Part of my journey included attending a weekly prayer meeting at Corpus Christi Church, where people of many denominations gathered to praise and worship the Lord. Some of my husband’s family attended similar meetings in Aberdeen. The way opened for us all to attend the Kansas City conference.

A chartered bus picked up a delegation from Bismarck, and then made stops along Interstate 94, where others waited to board with suitcases and big smiles. At Aberdeen, we picked up the largest group of people. It was such a happy crowd. A young brother from the monastery at Richardton led singing all the way down. We must have sung The Lord is a Great and Mighty King at least 50 times!

That happy beginning continued for the next five days. Once in KC, there were hundreds of teaching sessions to choose from during the day. Then in the evening about 50,000 people gathered at the Royals stadium.

This prairie girl had never seen so many people, let alone so many people worshipping God with all of their hearts. I couldn’t but help but notice the Black women next to me, who worshipped with tambourines and the Messianic Jews with their long beards, who worshipped Yeshua, another name for Jesus. We were all one in the Lord that week.

Our joy spilled over on all of Kansas City. And the world noted it. Headlines in the Kansas City Times read: “City Enjoying Biggest, Cleanest, Happiest Rally” and “Stadium Resounds With Praise.” The conference made the headlines from New York to Miami to Los Angeles.

To praise God is to invite his presence. And in his presence is fullness of joy. This is stated so well in Psalm 16: 11. “You have made known to me the path of my life.” That’s from the NIV.

And if we want peace, Ephesians 2: 14 states that Jesus is our peace. The New Living translation of the Bible puts it this way. “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.

Oh how we need the walls of hostility broken down in our nation. But we humans, with our finite abilities, will never succeed without the power of God. We will not see the power of God, until we open our hearts to him.

 

Update on Secrets of the Dark Closet

August 24 was a bell-ringer day. First, three boxes of books arrived on our doorstep. So if anyone wants a signed copy, let me know!

Then the trailer for Secrets of the Dark Closet became available. I clicked on the link and…was dumbfounded. It’s captivating. Appealing. Beautiful music. Spare, accurate story line. Lovely pictures…

But, it’s so modern compared to the story. Like Bessie, I asked, “What to do? What to do?” Say yes to the trailer, or ask the publisher to make it look like 1899 instead of 2017? But the truth is, the theme of the book is timeless and relevant for today. Maybe it’s appropriate to give it a modern look. I said yes! So, you be the judge. What do you think? Here is the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkI_6fYBlwY

 

Upcoming events:

  • Book signing at Capital Christian Center, Sunday, September 10, after the morning services.
  • Book signing at LaMoure on September 16. Stay tuned for details.
  • The Big Event at the Bismarck Civic Center on November 17 & 18.
  • The eBook version is in production and will be out this fall.

Some Day has Arrived

Last Saturday was a sunny August day. The drought-parched prairie had received a good rain and the grass seemed to turn green again overnight. This day the windows were open to a summer breeze. I was making a mess in the kitchen, canning corn relish.

It was an ordinary day except for one thing: Secrets of the Dark Closet was supposed to be available at any time. I already had a few copies, but until they were “uploaded” no one else could have a copy.

And so, mid-afternoon I checked the internet and wa-lah, my historical novel turned up on Amazon!

Suddenly it was no ordinary day. My second book was published. A mountain summit moment. Behind me lay the peaks and valleys of decades of research, years of writing and editing, and months with the publisher.

Writing is nothing if it isn’t a test of perseverance. A.A. Milne, who wrote Winnie the Pooh, said, “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”

My “some day” was Saturday and I was elated. Still, I’m a prairie girl at heart. Practical. Dutiful. So instead whooping it up with friends and family, I finished canning the relish, and even preserved some sweet cherries. Note: The jars all sealed! As every home ec student and 4-H member knows, a sealed jar is the ultimate definition of success.

But back to the book. On Monday, things got even better, because Secrets rose to # 20 in the Top 100, New Young Adult Category on Amazon!

Harvey MacKay said, “When you have a dream that you can’t let go of, trust your instincts and pursue it. But remember: Real dreams take work, they take patience, and sometimes they require you to dig down very deep. Be sure you’re willing to do that.” Publishing Secrets of the Dark Closet is that dream for me.

What are your dreams? Jeremiah 29: 11 states that For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Hopes and dreams can bring a sense of purpose and even add years to your life. You may not want to write a book. Instead, you may dream of opening a business, taking up a new hobby, setting a goal for getting healthy, or traveling to a special place in the world.

So what are you waiting for? Perhaps whatever is burning in your heart was put there by God for a special purpose. Talk to him about it, and then step out in faith. Following that dream can turn an ordinary day into a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

For a summary of Secrets of the Dark Closet, click on the Home page of this website.

To Obtain a Copy:

  • The quickest way is to order it from Amazon, (www.amazon.com). Go to the book section and type in Secrets of the Dark Closet. The book is so new that as I write this, the cover isn’t even showing online yet!
  • If you’re ordering for a store or library, the book is on Ingram.
  • The eBook edition will be out this fall.
  • For a signed copy, email gayleschuck@midco.net for information.
  • Schedule a book signing or reading for a book club, group of friends or other event by sending me an email.

And finally, dear readers, thank you for your encouragement. You’ve made the valleys less deep and the summits a lot more fun.

“A good friend is a blessing from God.” I Samuel 18: 3

 

 

A Light for Your Path

Here is what the cover of the book will look like.

These days, every time the doorbell rings I hope the first copies of Secrets of the Dark Closet have arrived. Anticipation is high. Is the cover appealing? Will anyone read it? Will they like it?

Soon I’ll see the results of the road I’ve taken. At the same time, I keep finding quotes about paths and roads, like this one that surfaced this morning: He will turn troubles into highways—Catherine Marshall. Or this one by Robert Frost that Pastor Dan quoted last Sunday:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Writing is a little like traveling a wooded road, because you can’t see very far in front of you. Back in the 1980s when my uncle, Wallace Muir, began researching the family history, no one suspected his path would lead to the door of Gram’s dark closet.

Uncle Wally wanted to do the genealogy, and lay to rest some rumors that had hovered around the family. He spent more than 20 years on the project. I was fascinated as, one by one, he dug out and documented scandalous facts. But little did I know I’d be compelled to write about my sweet grandmother, Bessie Kloubec Muir, who took so many secrets to her grave.

Gayle with Wallace Muir on Puget Sound in 2003.

“The Muir-Kloubec genealogy and History 1708-2005” was finally published in 2005. Uncle Wally was a good writer and he added many anecdotes to the family history, but the amount of data he included overwhelmed the human story.

When he died three years later (at the age of 87), I inherited 93 pounds of his records. Sifting through census records, letters, early genealogies and other documents he had collected, I tried to imagine what Bessie did, said and thought as each crisis surfaced. After all, she was only 11 when her family came apart at the seams.

Here is the question that troubled Bessie during her growing up years: “A person goes through life making one choice after another. How can you tell if a choice will take you down a road you do not want to go?”

During the years of writing, I asked myself similar questions. Was it worth it to spend so much time writing her story? Would she want her “dirty laundry” aired? Was using real names the right thing to do?

Psalm 119: 105 states: “Thy word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.”

When I read that, my mind’s eye sees a well-lit, paved street stretching into the distance. But in reality, my own journey seems more like Frost’s path through a dark woods. Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Maybe we aren’t given detailed itineraries for our lives so we learn to develop faith and courage.

I often sought God for direction. Doing the following things helped me feel sure I was on the right road. They can help you, too:

  1. Read the Bible every day. Dale Evans and Roy Rogers, the original “Happy Trails” people, recorded a song called “The Bible Tells Me So.” It is still the most reliable place to go for answers.
  2. Get over my independence and ask for guidance. Have you ever found yourself driving around the same block looking for an address? The Lord has better answers than Alexa, so let your requests be known.
  3. Be guided by peace. When we are on the right road, the peace of God settles on us, no matter what our circumstances.

Bessie with some of her grandchildren. We didn’t know she had secrets.

Outwardly, it seemed foolish to write Secrets of the Dark Closet, but when seeking God, I still felt compelled in that direction. Not until I finished the last page, in a blazing to-remember moment, did I begin to understand the power of Bessie’s story.

Recently I was thrilled to receive a letter from my high school English teacher. He was the first person to fuel my desire to write. Now, decades later, he is still the epitome of encouragement and graceful writing. One phrase of his letter really struck me. He said, “God…pieces together the wonderful tapestry of our event-filled lives to give them both temporal and eternal meaning.”

Through the writing process, I’ve come to believe that the landscape of our families is stitched to our hearts in ways we cannot fathom. The journey of our particular family includes the riveting story of a young girl named Bessie. It’s time to shine a light on her path.

Writing Update 

When the book becomes available in a month or so, I will let you know how you can obtain a copy!