Finding A Piece of Destiny

Suddenly a memory pops into your head.  It isn’t a smell or an image provoking it, it is just a thought.  A thought popping up much like those annoying ads on websites you go to.  The site loads and up pops this little box trying to force you to sign up for something. This has been happening to me a lot lately.  My sister’s face comes up in dreams and in thoughts.  Yesterday it was my sister and my dad.  Last week it was my grandmother on my mother’s side.  They are bringing with them remembrances that are sweet and make me smile. With it comes a huge ache in my chest.  I miss them all.

Popes AnniversaryI think it is because in researching my ancestry I have made some very interesting and exciting discoveries that I would love to share with them and I can’t.  It seems those around me are not as excited about the pieces of treasure I have uncovered.  I want to call my sister and tell her what I found.  I want to call my dad and share with him the stories that I have read.  I would love to sit down with my grandmother and share with her the history of her family.  I wonder if she knew that her family founded the very town she raised her children in. Both my mother and my aunt had no idea so I believe she did not. What a shame to not know how your family staked a claim that future generations would call home.

I learned that three men, a father and two sons, set out from Tennessee to go West.  The father, William Murphy, was from Richmond, Virginia and was a Baptist minister. He and his family had settled in Tennessee after the Revolutionary War for a short time. The three men decided go a little to the south-west into what was known as the Louisiana Territory.  They were adventurous to be heading into the unknown. Reports say this was in the year 1798, which means the territory was under Spanish control, having been previously owned by France some 35 years before. The men arrived in what was known as Ste. Genevieve (Upper Louisiana) or later to be known as the south-eastern part of Missouri.

While everyone in the area was french and said to be very hospitable, no one spoke English. They had to send out for a man who could interpret for them. The man took them to his home and spent the rest of the night telling them about the area and where the good land was.  The next day with the assistance of an indian guide each of the men found land to claim. They filed their claims and the land was granted by Spain. They headed back to Tennessee to retrieve their families, however the father did not make it home. They had stopped at his son’s house in Kentucky and it is told he died there.  The brothers did however make it back to Tennessee and soon started back to their claims along with another brother who would work their father’s claim.  Later their mother, a woman named Sarah Barton Murphy, followed with the remaining family.

Sarah was a woman of faith.  And fearless it seems.  She took her remaining household on a trip in a keel boat that began on the Holston River, to the mouth of theOmaha keelboat Ohio River and eventually up the Mississippi River using ropes and poles.  She and her traveling companions managed to pass in the night the areas inhabited by hostile indians. They stayed close to the bank during the day for some concealment.  At the end of the trip on the river they walked another 28 miles over land to the final destination. It is calculated they traveled over 1000 miles and when they arrived, those greeting the party gave them a standing ovation.  They arrived June 12, 1802.*

Even though France took back the Louisiana Territory in 1800, it was done in secret, so it was still under the Spanish law until 1803. During the time of Spanish rule, it was against the law to worship God as a Protestant. So those who had lived there spent many years without corporate worship or fellowship. That did not seem to stop Sarah. Being a Christians lady, she would not have the men doing such things as fishing on the Lord’s day so she began a bible study.  The first one west of the Mississippi.  There is a monument to her today in the town of Farmington, Missouri to attest to the fact.

“On this spot the first Sunday School west of the Mississippi River was organized and taught by Sarah Barton Murphy in the year 1805 in the Old Log Meeting House, which was the first Protestant Church west of the Mississippi.” 

sarah barton murphyI have spent some time reading and re-reading the accounts of this family.  The family who worked the land and created what was known as the Murphy Settlement. And then later called Farmington, Missouri.  There are many more stories I want to explore and search out. But just gaining this knowledge has inspired me.  It has given me encouragement that each one of us has an opportunity to stake a claim for our family. We may not head out into unknown lands or have to travel under dangerous conditions to get there.  Maybe it is staking a claim for the Lord.  A claim to His promises to bless those who serve and honor Him.

I made such a claim years ago when I came to know the Lord Jesus as my Savior. I wanted to raise my children in the ‘nurture and admonition’ of the Lord. My desire was to make a change in the way my family had lived.  It now seems my family had grown away from the Lord in the generations since the Murphy’s. While it is exciting to learn of the Christian heritage I have, I did not learn of it until about 7 or 8 years ago.   I had already made the claim years before when my life was falling apart around me and I turned to God for help.  The heartache and destruction of alcoholism and drug addiction had been passed down in my family but can not be sure of who it started with or when. I take comfort in knowing that there may have been one, two or more Christian men and women praying for their descendents.  And those prayers found me when the bottom fell out of my life.

Finding Jesus and learning more about Him literally saved my life. It impacted my life in such a way that it changed the lives of those around me.  My children know God, my father came to know God, my 1st husband came to know God and now my grandchildren are learning of God.  Like finding an ancestor that made a difference in their time, changing the course of the lives around them by pointing them to Jesus. What a treasure to have knowledge of this. I know our focus should not always be on the past.  I know God is wanting us to keep our eyes focused on Him in any and all endeavors.  So I praise Him for showing me these new things. How good of Him to reveal the little details of our past weaved together for His glory!

God has been speaking to me about serving in the moment.  Not waiting for an event, or planning a program or praying about it….He wants me fully engaged NOW! Moment by moment being Christ to the world.  Serving Christ in my church daily not just on Sunday.  In my workplace, in my home and even in my commute.  But most importantly serving Him in my relationships.

As I get older I am understanding more the loneliness of age.  When we are young, we set out to connect with others in the world.  Our lives are weaved with relationships that either bring a balance to our lives or ones that knock us off course.  While we alone choose the people we keep in our life there are times when we have no choice whatsoever on who is in and who is out.  We can try to keep some in but if they want to leave we have to let them go.  We can try to leave some but they won’t let us. As we get older the relationships seem to thin out.  People die or move away.  Our kids grow up and have their own lives to attend to. Those connections I have to my childhood are getting fewer and fewer each year.  Maybe that is why Facebook is such a novelty to some of us. It has allowed us to reach back to the years through friends and acquaintances we had during that time. I think in some ways it validates a time stamp.  “See, we were there.”  “I lived there.” “I was connected there.”

I believe the desire to search out the stories of my ancestors is perhaps a tug of my heart to find a connection to destiny.  Or maybe it is the words of my great-grandparents prayers they offered up to God, to Jesus that someday their descendants would see that they were there.  That they lived and they served Him. That we would be connected to the very same God they were connected to. That their worship and service was not in vain. I want to know that too as I offer up prayers of my own.

The thought overwhelms me that the Murphy’s looked at the same moon & stars,  warmed their  faces under the same sun and kneeled to the same Lord of Lord and King of Kings and some day when I am present with the Lord I pray my great-grandchildren will do the same!

My American Story

Looking back over the years of my life I can see a tapestry of colors weaved by time, circumstance and divine hands.  In the beginning my understanding of the world was small…born to a middle class white family, in the Midwest. I lived on a street that was busy and long.  Our home was small and white and had a speed limit sign in the front yard.  As a little girl, on summer afternoons, I tumbled in the front yard, climbed the apple tree in the backyard and played hide and seek with the neighborhood kids.  Chasing lightning bugs and making dandelion flower necklaces was the past time of my sister and I.

I had two types of Grandparents. One side was the ‘come on in and take your shoes off’ kind of folks and the other was fancy, the ‘put your napkin on your lap’ kind.  I drew a lot of knowledge from both.  I tucked away the memories of time spent listening to their conversations about how “things use to be.”  Both of my grandfathers served in WWII.   One was in the Army and the other in Army Air Corp as an Armorer Gunner.  In my adult years I would follow them in serving our country in the United States Air Force.

At the age of eight my parents divorced. And that was the beginning of my world getting bigger.  Everything changed for our family.  I became the daughter of single mother trying to make ends meet.  Back and forth between two homes, to visit my father in the one I grew up and that of my mothers, who struggled to make a life for my sister and me.

While the divorce itself was hurtful and traumatic, the greatest impact on my life at the time was the culture in which I was thrust.  It was before desegregation took place where I had lived.  My mother had friends she worked with that were African-American so it was not like I had not known any but I certainly had not spent much time with them.  When my mother took my sister and me to live in Virginia I was sent to a school that was probably 90% African-American.  Back home, the school I attended was 100% White.

Because of my loneliness, missing my home and friends, I eventually chose to live with my father.  Going back home, to what I knew and to the school I had started Kindergarten I would come to understand the experience in Virginia was God’s divine hand in my life.  When I began 6th grade the district had decided to desegregate the schools.  Mine was one of the first.  Everyone around me was very fearful and I, even in my limited knowledge of the world, knew why.  I admit there was some fear on my part but only because I think it was the group fear surrounding me.  It came, it went, we all survived and I believe we became better and stronger for it.

The really tumultuous years were my teenager years.  In the awkwardness learning about myself and the world around me I stood witness to the threads of history that would resonate and mold my future world view.  The dark images of the Vietnam War on television, Walter Cronkite narrating man’s first step on the moon, Roe V Wade, the first United States president resigning, our country celebrating 200 years, a young girl scoring perfect 10’s in gymnastics and the first woman in space.  While that list is incomplete and I did not fully understand their influence in my life at the time, in their own way made a profound effect on my dreams and desires for my life.

It was many years later, as a young adult,  while serving in the Air Force I stood even closer to the making of history that I finally understood that I was a part of something bigger than myself.  I proudly served under President Ronald Reagan and George H. Busch and those were, perhaps, the most fundamental life changing years of my life. Not only did I become a first time wife and a mother but I became aware of what American Patriotism meant.  I also realized the human vulnerability to life and death.

I watched in horror as the space shuttle, Challenger, exploded soon after liftoff on a television while stationed in Bitburg, Germany.  A couple of months later I was driving on base when our jets flew out to escort the jets that bombed Libya after they were found to be responsible for the London Discotheque bombing.  Several years later, after returning to the United States to a new assignment I watched on the news as the “Berlin wall” came down.

After these events took place three things changed my life and its direction.  Giving birth to my first-born son, my own divorce and an introduction to Jesus Christ after a good friend’s seven year old son died of a debilitating disease.  My view shifted to a Christian world view and slowly became conservative in my way of thinking.  I remember thinking “I wonder how different my life would be if I had seen the world this way before?”

I have traveled to many places and experienced many parts of our country and the world.  I have lived in the states of Missouri, Virginia, Arizona, Idaho, Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Hawaii and North Carolina.  I have been greatly enriched by having lived in all these places and it has given me understanding of the workings of our country and the people in it.  Most especially it has allowed me to meet people from all walks of life.  And because of my growing faith throughout the years I have been overwhelmed by what our country has accomplished and produced with its strength and ingenuity.

Every time a citizen of the United States goes to school to better his/her future; arrives at work to build something greater than himself for his family; teaches another human being something new they did not know; serves a stranger food or clothes them; takes an oath to take up arms to defend others they have never met or promises to civilly serve with honesty and integrity, they become a part of the very fabric of America.  The culture, ethnicity and diversity all make up the colors of our land no matter the calling each has.

Even as I tell my story, it could be anyone’s story in a America because as an American, we are not defined by the means into which we are born or the geography we grow up in but by divine right, the God-given freedom & opportunity we have to make the world around us a better place by our personal contribution.  We are linked together through the roots of this country, all the bad and all the good.  By the blood, sweat, tears and prayers of those that stepped foot on our eastern shores, willingly or unwillingly, our ancestors had dreams of what we now partake of.  Whatever your color, whatever your faith, whatever your political philosophy it was said to us:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

It was preserved for us by those whose blood soaks the ground of our country sides and foreign lands.  It is Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, by all, for all, to all.  ‘We’ are the American story and each of us has a page in it.  My page is just one of many and the fact that I am a woman, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a student, a mother, a wife, a Christian, a United States Air Force veteran and a Republican makes no difference.

In the grander scheme of things it is the culmination of all my experiences, it is the places I have lived in this country, it is the people who poured into my life from those places, it is the people who cared for me, taught me, stood up for me, prayed for me, prayed with me, offered a hand to me, stood by me, served me and served with me, fought with me, fought for me, laughed with me, cried with me, who hated me and who loved me.  It is the people.

The essence of our land is what we, as people have chosen to value and be grateful for through it all, from that day to this.  Yes, I am an American but I am not alone!

grace to you

Shell

Family Tree

Late, Late Picture Show

I love this picture of my grandparents, Wilma and Elbert Pope.  It was taken before my grandfather went  to war and probably around the time they got married.  They look so young and happy.  I spent a lot of time with them as a young girl and a teenager.  My parents divorced when I was eight and so on weekends I would bike over to their house and spend the weekend with them.

Much time was spent playing cards or Yahtzee at their kitchen table.  Grandpa would be cooking a pot of pinto beans and grandma would be making fried potatoes and cornbread.  Yummy!  They would go to bed and I would make a pallet on the floor out of all the blankets and quilts grandma had.  The TV would be on and we watched the “Late, Late Picture Show.”  They would play 3 movies in a row and most of them would be the singing musicals or the ones with swimming ladies in the pool.  I always wondered what those would be like in color.

My favorite musical was Yankee Doodle Dandy about George M. Cohen.  I would stay up to watch every single one and then sleep till I smelled the coffee.  In the morning we would again sit around the table and watch the birds or squirrels sitting in the big wooden box my grandpa built for such a thing.  At some point I would make some hash browns with scrambled eggs.  That is all I knew how to cook at the age of 12.

I miss those weekends some times.  I always felt at home and I could be myself.  It is where life stayed the same.  As I look back on those memories it was my safe haven.  Where I did not really have to grow up.  I miss them both so very much.  But what a sweet memory to have!

Thanks for taking time to share this with me.

Grace to you

Shell

The Tree

The most amazing thing to me about doing my family tree is the size of it today.  When I started I had 3 generations on both sides of my parents.  Now on some of the branches I have up to 8 generations.  I have seen pictures of some of my family members, I have seen the gravestones and even a picture of the very house my 6th  great-grandfather grew up in located in Germany.  It has been renovated twice and still standing.  I got to show my sister, Amanda the tree today.  She was excited to see how many are actually listed on the tree.  This journey has been so awesome, it would be cool if everyone did it, then it would not be so hard to find people! 🙂

Family Tree

Pictures & Words, Bearing Witness

History remembers only the celebrated, genealogy remembers them all.

Laurence Overmire


I love photography.  I love the art of peering through the lens of a camera to see time standing still.  I love that you can capture it and keep it forever to share with others.  I love that when the photos are put together they tell a story.  I love going back through them one by one, touching them, remembering when.  One of my favorite things to do is scrapbook, to present my pictures in such a way that will forever tell our family’s story, to keep a visual record of days gone by.

While most of the albums that I have completed bear witness to happy celebrations or milestones  recorded for remembering,  there are very few or no pictures of the dark, the broken or the silent days of the past.  Photographs memorialize a moment that allows us to go back in time.    I am realizing more and more how important it is to record with words as well as with images the stories of  our lives.  I have been working on my family tree for almost two years now and every time I find a new family member it opens up so many more questions about who they were and how they lived.  So finding a picture of them along with a story becomes even more precious.

I have kept a journal for years, probably going back to the very early 90’s.  There are gaps between the dates in those pages, sometimes days, months and even years where no words were written.  Most often, they were times when life was happening so fast there were too many details to even write the words down.  There may be an entry here and there that condenses the facts down to a list or short description of the events.   For a  few years I blogged on MSN Spaces about what was going on in my life or something God was showing me at the time, which is now cataloged as my digital archive.   What I loved about blogging was the feedback.  I had many friends stopping by to comment or begin discussion.   I was very grateful to have  that experience.  I felt as if it kept me accountable to the truth.  I took it very serious that we are each responsible for every idle word that comes from our lips.  The blogging and connection with others became a way for me to not become so isolated within myself during a difficult time in my life.

In some of those written records of thoughts or memories are moments I refer to as “glimpse of glory,” those defining times when God did the most personal, miraculous thing in my life.  Yes, I have, on occasion, witnessed God’s glory in my life.  As I look back over the last decade,  I see images in my mind’s eye that are forever engraved on my heart.  They are like framed collages, each image bearing witness to a timeline.   The notable thing about His glory is that it always came upon the back of darkness and brokenness, when life became foggy and dazed.  When our memory dulls or is clouded by emotion the actual photographs bear witness to the blessings in spite of the circumstances.

The truth is that God’s glory can shine brighter in the darkness of brokenness.  It seemed to me in those times in my life I was acutely aware of how God was more real and present in my circumstance than ever before.  As one of my favorite authors, Elisabeth Elliot, has written, “It is in our acceptance of what is given that God gives Himself.” And He truly does.    I realize now that all those memories, images, photo albums and written recordings of my life become the very building material God used to bring about personal growth in my relationship with Him.  I can see it unfold through the timeline filled with snapshots and paragraphs of words.

I know there are many who would say, “quit looking back, you need to look forward” but there is something to keeping record of where we have been so that we can celebrate how far we have come.  Many times in the Old Testament God would tell His children to build a memorial so that their children would know where they traveled or what they overcame.  So I do believe God wants us to remember.  To count our blessings and to avoid veering away from Him.  I guess that is why researching my family tree has been so exciting.  I want to read the stories and see the pictures. I want to know how far “we” have come!

Would you believe that my tree is  so full that I can’t even hardly see around it!  I have to date about 2,391 people, including my husband’s side of the family.  I get to see pictures of Great-Great-Greats, etc that just make me more curious.  I began to wonder what their stories were.  Wondered about their faith, their day-to-day lives, their heart-breaks, their victories.  I want to read their stories…I have found a few which are like gems! An exciting discovery was finding out that  my father’s side of the family was a long line of Christians.

Finding that information was the piece that gave me inspiration to be more diligent about writing it all down, to annotate the pictures, to tell the story about the pictures.  Then a thought occurred to me, as a Christian, I pray for my children, I pray for their mates and for their children.  I know that my ancestors who had the same faith most likely did the same, which means they prayed for my father, for me and for my children.  That was the most incredible realization for me.  It was the understanding  that none of us are alone.  We all belong, we all come from somewhere.  We all are a part of something bigger than ourselves.  Understanding that the Lord is faithful in His answer to prayers from our forefathers, He is faithful in His answer to our prayers.  He is faithful!

Grace to you,

Shell

I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever; With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 89:1

 

Family Tree

More on ancestry: Counting Backwards