God’s Timing Is Perfect

Photo Credit: quotesgram.com

Photo Credit: quotesgram.com

I couldn’t believe what I was reading with my own eyes. There I was sitting at my computer reading a message addressed to me on Ancestry.com from a man with the same first name as my Dad’s, saying we were a 1st or 2nd generation match through our DNA. What?!

Although I was shocked, it wasn’t a complete surprise to me. My Mom had told us just weeks before she died in 2012 that my brother, sister and I had a half-brother somewhere out there. News which at the time I didn’t understand or appreciate, but now I’m grateful to God that she didn’t let this secret die with her. She said all she knew was he was a boy and he was named after my Dad.

Mom had purchased a DNA test kit through Ancestry.com to have a documented sample of our family’s DNA on the site where she had invested so much time recording our genealogy through the years. Unfortunately, due to her advanced illness, she was unable to do the test. I told her before she died that I would do the test and send it in so her investment didn’t go to waste. Low and behold, it was my DNA that matched this man’s DNA who was contacting me cautiously through the Ancestry website.

My first reaction was uncontrollable tears. Then I called my brother and sister to see what they wanted me to do with this information. We all agreed to contact him and see where it would take us.

I discovered the man contacting us wasn’t our brother, but his son. Of course, I wanted to be sure his dad knew he had contacted us and that he wanted to meet. After double-checking we were happy to hear he was as excited to meet us as we were to meet him. We connected on Facebook–an amazing tool God used in such a marvelous way. We shared stories, photos and joy–much joy.

Finally, this past Saturday night we planned for us all to meet for dinner. The anticipation was palpable on both sides. Thanks to social media I have this photo of my newly discovered brother waiting for us to arrive at the restaurant.

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The first hug was surreal since Stan looks so much like my Dad. The conversation was non-stop as we told our stories of how we had come to this place at this moment in time. We all had an overwhelming sense of God’s kindness to bring us together. The server at the restaurant did a great job keeping the food and drinks coming, and when we told her our amazing story, she joined in our joy.

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My Mom always said, and I’ve quoted this in my book, “When someone dies a library of information dies with them, unless someone takes the time to write it down.” How grateful I am that Mom didn’t let this secret die with her. Although it wasn’t understood at the time she told us, she was caring for us by letting us know that she knew of my Dad’s past and was okay with it. This allowed us to fully embrace our brother with gratitude as a gift from God.

There are so many more dots I could connect of God’s faithfulness to bring us to this point, but suffice it to say–

“The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad.” – Psalm 126:3 ESV

Restoring Family Heirlooms From A Florida Basement

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There is something in my home I count as the most precious possession I own. I pick it up daily and cherish it. I love the way it feels when I take the time to appreciate it for what it is. What is this treasure? It’s my Bible.

I got this particular copy in 2003 and the pages began showing their wear and falling out a couple of years ago, especially the book of Psalms–I could completely remove it from the rest of book. It was time to do something, but I knew I didn’t want to buy a new one. This one has markings in it indicating the revelations God has given me while reading. I have favorite verses underlined. I have comments next to convicting passages.

Imagine how thrilled I was when Tom told me he found an English hand book binder in Daytona Beach who uses the old method in re-binding broken books. As a blessing to me–we drove there last month to have it rebound and recovered.

The book binder’s name is Paul Sawyer. He works in the basement of his old Florida home surrounded by lush landscapes of palms and bouiganvillea flowers. As we descended the steps to his quaint workspace, I felt as if we were entering a hobbit’s hole. When the door opened we were met with his bright smile and the musty smell of recorded history. It was an inviting, albeit crowded space where this gentle man spends much of his waking hours. He was delighted to share with us his workmanship from his recent purchase of a set of old atlases to a handwritten letter from Charles Dickens, it was obvious he loves what he does.

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An interesting discovery as we talked was that he came to America being commissioned to work with the Library of Congress. You can read more about his work and training here.

I also took my great-grandfather’s family Bible from the mid 1800’s and had it cleaned and recovered as well. We found it while going through my Mom’s boxes of books after she passed away. It was on the bottom of a box that had gotten wet in the garage. I was so sad to see the state it was in having endured a house fire at my grandparent’s home in the 60’s and now this damage from water.

Mr. Paul Sawyer, bookbinder

Mr. Paul Sawyer, bookbinder

What makes this Bible even more precious is that it contains my great-grandfather’s handwriting recording marriages and births of his parents and their children. What a treasure it is for me to have my current Bible sitting next to this family heirloom on my coffee table. Hopefully the generations to come will realize how important it is to read the Bible and to record family history as it happens.

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What old books do you own that are precious to you? Were they passed down in your family, or were they discovered on the dusty shelf of an antique book store? 

You might want to add a note inside in your own handwriting that tells the story of why it is precious to you. There may be a day when someone you love is wanting to know the answer to that question, and you’re no longer around to answer them.

The Expanding Family Tree

Photo Credit: Fall All Year Long on Instagram

Photo Credit: Fall All Year Long on Instagram

We all have one we’re hung upon

the branches of this tree

We might know a few whose branches are new

but there are more who are strangers to me.

~~~

Why do I go to such lengths to know

The stories behind each leaf?

Because what they’ve seen and what it all means

Will help me grow in belief

(that)

God is the author, my great Heavenly Father

of the stories He’s planned so well

Of my sister and brother, my grandfather and mother

And how we got faith, they tell

~~~

God has been faithful and worth the wait for

Him to give meaning to life.

He’s chosen my portion for this I adore Him

His boundaries bring safety from strife.

~~~

I’m waiting today for a call that will say

That my second grandson is born

This green leaf is new as God’s mercies are too

That Vito will be swaddled and warm

~~~

I write to record and to worship the Lord

for His faithfulness which never fails

He was there long ago I’m privileged to know

Because my mom discovered such tales

(of)

Generations long past of which has out-lasted

the lives of those I’ve yet to meet

They have gone on before to rest in the Lord

And now walk on Heavenly streets

~~~

Each year that passes God’s story surpasses

All we could imagine or think.

When life seems too hard or pleasures too far

It’s good to remember such things

(that)

God is faithful to tell “his story” so well

If we are only willing to ask

Good questions to those who are older and know

the ones that explain our past.

(So)

Purpose to know the branches that grow

In your own family tree

The hope that is hung for victories won

Is worth the effort to see.

A Surprise That Made Me Cry

Photo Credit: Cool Insights blog

Photo Credit: Cool Insights blog

Today I planned to get started on the outline for the sequel to Through The Eyes Of Grace. It’s been hard to think about starting because my Mom is no longer here for me to ask questions. My husband gave me good advice to go into the day prepared to keep a guard on my emotions. He knows this isn’t easy for me, but preparing myself through prayer ahead of time usually provides the will-power to fight being overcome with emotions. I listened to his advice and was doing well until I came up to something I needed to know. Whenever this happened before, I would call Mom, ask the question, get the answer and get right back to my research.

Ugh!

I managed to avoid the tears by talking to myself and keeping my focus on what I needed to do, not on how I was feeling. I had an idea to find the answer to my question;  I would sign onto my Ancestry.com account where I had set up our family tree years ago with my Mom when we were planning a huge family reunion. I was proud of myself for coming up with such a practical solution to what could have been an emotional meltdown.

I spoke too soon. Ugh, again!

Because Mom passed away in December, I hadn’t signed onto Ancestry.com since before then. I wasn’t prepared to see what was waiting for me; Mom was last on the site October 20, 2012, only 7 weeks before she died. She had been working diligently to get me the information she knew I would need for my next book. She had sent me all kinds of updates for me to approve in order to add them to my site. I was overcome with the emotions I had been avoiding. They rushed over me like a flood, but this time they weren’t tears of overwhelming sadness, but tears of gratefulness for a Mom who cared for me and anticipated my need for her help, tears of thankfulness for a God who orchestrated the timing for me to discover this right when I needed it most, and unbelievable humility in realizing how much my God and my Mom love and care for me, even in the smallest of details.

Needless to say, I didn’t get much else done on my book today, but I no longer feel alone in my research. God is my ever-present help in my time of need, and He’s proven that He even cares about the research I’m doing. I am confident He will walk with me down this lonely road and help me do what I wouldn’t be able to do in my own strength. What a God I serve.

When was the last time you sensed God provide for you in ways you never expected or saw coming? How did it affect you? I would love to hear.

Roots Matter

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I’m going to take a break from a specific question today in order to talk about the larger picture of knowing your roots and why it’s so important.

I remember the first time I went to Oklahoma with my Mom back in 2000. I hadn’t been since I was little girl, and I barely remembered it. But this time it felt like home. It was the strangest thing to not know how to get anywhere, but once I did it seemed I had been there many times. Strangers seemed familiar. Restaurants served food I thought my mom had invented. I came to realize that much of who I am stemmed from this community that made my mom and grandmother who they were.

Roots matter, for the family tree is more about the roots than it is about the branches.

Where do your family roots come from? Do you know? Do you care? Oh, I beg you to care. There are stories waiting to be discovered that will encourage you, motivate you and help you understand more of the why’s of your parents’, grand-parents’ and great-grandparents’ decisions.

Starting on Sunday, April 21st, PBS is continuing a new series titled, Finding Your Roots. It will explore the world of immigrants to America and help them go back and uncover stories they have never known. It sounds fascinating! So much so, I want to share with you the following video that explains the motivation behind the series. Pay special attention to Martha Stewart’s interview–I love her heart for uncovering the stories of old.

What stories are hidden from your history waiting to be discovered?

Now That’s A Great Question

Photo Credit: Neodesha Chamber of Commerce

Photo Credit: Neodesha Chamber of Commerce

I am privileged to be taking part in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday during the month of April. I must admit I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with the thought, but I’m compelled to do it. I pray you will find my posts helpful as you take the time to discover your family’s story and hear a bit more about mine.

My goal is to provide a great question each day that you can use to ask your older family members, be it a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or an uncle. You can choose who to ask, hopefully it will be someone who has an interesting answer. Then, come back and share what you’ve discovered with us. It should be a fun and rewarding month as we purpose to uncover stories that may have never before been told.

Question #1

Where were you born, and what is your earliest memory?

oklahoma-landrush-1893My grandmother, Grace Stella Kirwin, was born in Neodesha, Kansas (pronounced Nee-oh’-deh-shay), located in the southeastern corner of the state, on March 2, 1889. Unfortunately, I can’t ask her what her earliest memory was, but I do know that when she was only 4 years old, her Uncle Charley took part in the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1893. He had a race horse named, Pigeon. I wish I knew why in the world he named his horse that–but one can only speculate. Not only was Pigeon a good horse, he was fast. Uncle Charley staked two claims of land for the family.

At precisely twelve noon on September 16, 1893 a cannon’s boom unleashed the largest land rush America ever saw. Carried by all kinds of transportation – horses, wagons, trains, bicycles or on foot – an estimated 100,000 raced to claim plots of land in an area of land in northern Oklahoma Territory known as the Cherokee Strip. There had been a number of previous land rushes in the Territory – but this was the big one. (Source: eyewitness to history website)

The claims ended up being in what is now called Noble County, Oklahoma. My Mom and I had the chance to visit the little town of Ceres, where we think the homestead was located.  It looks like their land is now owned by the power company and is underwater of a man-made lake.

So, what have you discovered about your relatives earliest memories? Won’t you join the conversation? 

“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage, to know who we are and where we came from.”

                                                                                                                   – Alex Haley
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We are taking part in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.
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30 Questions You May Not Know To Ask

Photo Credit: Sorayanulliah blog

Photo Credit: Sorayanulliah blog

Everyone who has ever lived has one.

It separates us from all others and can often make us stand out in a crowd. But sadly many don’t know their’s, or if it even matters. I’m talking about your family’s story. I was privileged to have a mom who loved researching our family’s story. I could ask her any question and if she didn’t know the answer, she would go to work trying to find it. I loved that about her.

But I didn’t always. There was a time when I found our family history quite boring. Didn’t we all? You may still think this subject boring, but please don’t click away from this post just yet. 

Here’s the plan. Starting on Monday, April 1st, I’m going to take part in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post one question each day for the entire month.

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It will be a probing question about your story. You may already know the answer to it, and if you do, I invite you to share it with me using the comment button. If you don’t know the answer to the day’s question, then ask someone in your family who may know it. Taking one question per day will make the process easy to do, even for the busiest among us.

I hope you’ll sign up for my blog, so every day you’ll get the daily question in your inbox. This will make the challenge easy for you to remember, and it will make me happy to have more followers–call me sentimental! 🙂

Finally, I want to share with you the following music video by Brandon Heath, titled Paul Brown Petty. Brandon is an excellent story teller whom I had the privilege of meeting and seeing live in concert last year in Gainesville, FL. This song is off of his latest album, Blue Mountain. Once you listen, I think you’ll understand why I chose to share it with you. Enjoy…