“Although I’m an historian and joined my father in family research, our stories never seemed quite so exciting: there’s the great-great-great aunt who was to have sailed on the Titanic, but broke her leg; there’s contracted brides, and the usual family upsets, but nothing drastic or far-reaching. It wasn’t until I moved to my old house and got involved in local Wisconsin history that I began to feel deeply what some of these women had endured. One family in particular has a history that I adore.
Liberta Klessig Jaehnig came to America as a young woman and married a neighborhood man, Ernst Klessig. Together they built a comfortable life in the middle of the nineteenth century. Liberta and Ernst owned and operated the Saxonia House, an inn where immigrants could get a foothold before settling. It was the local store, bar, post office for a time, dance hall, brewery, and meeting place for church and clubs until those groups could establish their own places. The Klessigs had four children, and then Ernst died suddenly.
Although I’m sure Liberta was a brave woman in her own right, it also took strength to reach out and ask for help – in the form of another neighbor who had left town years earlier for the California Gold Rush. Ernst Jaehnig returned to Fillmore and married the widow Klessig. The business became more of a private home and farm, and when Ernst Jaehnig passed on only ten years later, Liberta was able to manage with the help of her older children. I never cease to smile when I think of or visit her grave, where she lies in sight of her once lovely home, between Ernst and Ernst.
In my story, Healing Grace, Grace Runyon has also suffered deep personal losses. She, however, forgets in whom her strength lies and tries to run, ala the biblical Jonah. She learns that God not only knows our every thought, but also is there to meet us wherever we go. Like Liberta, Grace eventually comes to understand that bravery doesn’t always mean acting independently, and strength is best found in numbers, especially familiar people who care for you and want to see you succeed. Grace must use her special gift for God’s greater glory, just as we all must use our God-given special abilities to advance His kingdom.“
About the author: Lisa Lickel lives and writes in Wisconsin, often drawing her stories out of Midwestern lore. She is the author of a cozy mystery, The Gold Standard, from Heartsong Presents: Mysteries; Healing Grace, a story of love and sacrifice, due out in May from Zumaya; and Meander Scar, an adventure of re-discovering home, coming in 2010; as well as numerous newspaper features, magazine articles, and radio drama. Visit her at http://lisalickel.com, and http://livingourfaithoutloud.blogspot.com.
Lisa, thanks for sharing such an inspiring story.