Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Lasting Legacy: Be a Doer of The Word

by Debra DuPree Williams

Hands Clasped, Debbie and her Daddy
My Papa My Daddy, Bob DuPree, was an avid gardener. Gardening was one of his many hobbies, but was the one he loved most and the one he was able to do up to the day he died. He passed away five years ago, leaving a legacy of hard work, patience, compassion, love, but most of all, what it means to be a doer of the Word.

Papa, as I always call him, was a simple man. He didn’t require a lot to be happy. When my sister and I were wee ones, Papa’s sport was hunting. One day he came home with his prizes, a squirrel or two, maybe a bird as well. When my sister and I cried over the poor little animals,he put away his hunting rifle and never went hunting again. He was willing to sacrifice a sport he truly loved for the sake of the hearts of his two girls.

Fishing became his next joy. Mama, Sissy and I often went fishing with Papa. He was always patient with us, showing us how to bait our hooks, taking time to show us how to cast our lines. He even spent time teaching us the songs he sang to the fish, urging them to grab hold of the tasty morsel on the end of the hook. I can still hear him, “Dance with me, Henry. Waltz with me, baby. Come on Henry, talk to me.”

Even with these hobbies, Papa still had his flowers. He had been a sickly child, the smaller of twin boys. Because of this, he was a couple of years behind his brother, William,  in school. Papa stayed home with his mother who taught him to keep house, to cook, and to tend to the vegetable and flower gardens . Keeping house may not have been a passion, but he took to cooking and gardening. He became a Mess Sergeant in the Army during WWII.

Avid Gardener
Papa and his day lilies
Once Papa was older, he didn’t fish so much. Most of his fishing buddies, including his brother, my Uncle Shep, were long gone. But he still had his flowers. His two favorites were day lilies and amaryllis. He tended his garden up to the time he had to go into a rehab/nursing home facility. While there, they gave him a little plot of land where he planted his beloved flowers, sharing their beauty with his fellow housemates.

Raising Girls and Flowers
The lessons of caring for these flowers are some my sister and I treasure. Day lilies aren’t persnickety, but you do have to divide them every couple of years if you want the biggest, best blooms possible. Papa patiently taught us how to pull the tangled mass of the tubers, releasing one plant from another. He had us to help him pull the weeds so that the blossoms could show off their true beauty. He showed us how to go digging up dirt, preparing a hole for planting, mounding the dirt in the middle and spreading the tuber fingers across the mound, getting the plant just right for proper growth. Feeding them the correct plant food was essential to growth and beautiful blooms. (Luke 12:22-31)

Papilio, One of Papa's Amaryllis
When he added amaryllis to his favorites, he took the time to show us how to care for those, too, teaching us that we had to be patient with the baby plants as they wouldn’t bloom until they were mature. They had to learn how to grow away from the mother plant and to become strong enough to survive and bloom on their own. If you pollinate them just right, the mother plant will yield swollen pods full of seeds for future generations.

Every person Papa met was treated with the same love, care, and attention he gave to his garden. By his example with his flowers as with people, my sister and I learned the lessons of not only our earthly father, but of our Heavenly Father. We need to weed or get rid of those parts of ourselves that will keep us from being the beautiful reflections of Christ that we were created to be. We have to feed our souls on God’s Word. We have to be planted securely in that Word and mature in it, so that we can stand in that Word, sowing God’s seeds near and far.
Our Legacy of Love
Papa loved his fellow man as he loved his flowers, unconditionally and with great care. He left each person he met with these words, “God loves you, and so do I.”  As I walk out onto my porch to water the day lilies once tended so lovingly by my Papa, I can only be thankful for the lasting legacy he left to Sissy and me. We are so blessed to have been able to call him our Daddy.

Now it's your turn. Share what legacies were left to you or what you want to leave behind. Leave your comments in the section below.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Digging Up Dirt and Other Joys of Being a Genealogist

by Debra DuPree Williams

My family considers my sister Bobbie and me to be the family genealogists. Neither of us is a professional, but we have learned a thing or two in our ventures into the world of family trees, graveyards, and lineage societies.

Genealogy Adventures
I should actually call these adventures as we have had quite the time in our search for the truth. One of our cousins shared her research saying, “Be sure to wear long pants, jeans preferred, and long socks. Tuck the bottoms of your jeans into your socks. Wear a long-sleeved shirt, a hat, and get some good bug repellent and spray generously.” My sister and I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into, but we were outfitted thusly the morning we met her on the side of the road in a teeny-tiny little town, far off the beaten paths, in south Alabama.

Grave of Sampson Worsley born in 1789
We climbed out of my car and followed her over ditches, through briar and bramble and some of the deepest woods you can imagine. But there, in a clearing, stood the stacked-stone grave of our three times great grandfather, Sampson Worsley, 1789-1863. Unbelievable. Now, you’d have to know that we had no prior knowledge of this man’s name. We only knew our Granny was a Smith and we knew her father, but that was as far as we could take that side. Here we stood at the grave of an ancestor with whom we had had no connections, but believe me when I tell you that every single time we found a “new” ancestor, be it his or her grave or even just a record of them, we were in tears. They are a part of who we are. Once we had taken our photos and paid our respects, our cousin took us to his home, which, at the time, was still standing. What a wonderful thing, to connect to our past.

Adventures in Georgia
On a trip to Savannah with my sister and her husband, we decided to take a side trip through Andersonville Cemetery in Georgia. Yes, that Andersonville. If you have never visited, you should. There is an outstanding museum there. It will be an experience that you will never forget. This is the final resting place of our four times great grandfather, Jeremiah DuPree. Grandpa Jeremiah is the person on whom Bobbie and I entered the DAR, our patriot. Because of finding him and proving his record for this great organization, we have formed lasting relationships with some of the finest women I know. And because of becoming a member, I have attended a genealogy workshop where I learned so much more than I had known about research and documenting discoveries. I helped my chapter registrar with proving the lineage of several prospective members of my Florida chapter. My sister became the registrar of her south Alabama chapter.
Monument to Those Slain at The Alamo,
including William Barret Travis
The Alamo
I have found the final resting place of many generations of my family and my husband’s family. I made a connection with one of his distant cousins who informed me that my husband’s line includes his three times great uncle, William Barret Travis, of Alamo fame. His family had never known of this connection. I gifted him with membership in the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association, Christmas of 2013.

Adventures in Virginia
The most-moving find, to me personally, was finding my Great grandfather’s grave in the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. My mother’s father was thirty years older than her mother. He had grown children when he married my Granny, but he also had some little ones with whom he needed help after the death of his first wife. He and Granny married and they had eight children. Our mother was a twin, born last, making her the youngest of seventeen siblings.

I guess it was because Grandpa Wilburn, Mama’s daddy, passed away when Mama was only seven, that Mama didn’t know her Bass family very well. So many were grown and had moved away, Uncle Buck going all the way to Texas. She knew only a handful of cousins and that her grandfather’s name was Andrew. When my sister and I began our research on this family, we had no clue that we would be able to find so many Bass ancestors, including our nine-times great grandmother, Elizabeth, of the Nansemond Tribe, part of the Powhatan Nation, who married our nine-times great grandfather, John Bass, born in 1616.  

My son, Daniel, at the grave site of Andrew Jackson Bass,
his GG grandfather
In 2003 during a trip to Virginia, we stopped at the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. I became the first person in the family to ever stand at the grave of my great grandfather, Andrew Jackson Bass. He died there in 1862 of the measles. If you are ever there, look for grave S 333. This is my son pictured at his great, great grandfather's grave. I had a search done on Andrew in the Alabama Archives which produced not only his service records, but a letter written by him to my great Grandmother, Ellen Davis Bass, just three weeks prior to his death. I transcribed this letter to the best of my abilities and it is available on ancestry. Let me tell you, the tears were falling as I stood at his grave and told him that his great granddaughter had come, and that his family loves him. You will know what I mean if you are into genealogy.

Hello Cousin
In 2015, I attended Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for the second time. I was drawn to one woman in particular. I spoke to her many times during the week, but because our areas of interest were not the same, I didn’t spend a great deal of time with her until we wound up sitting at the same table during the awards banquet. We discovered that we are both classically trained vocalists. We became friends on social media and through a post on there one day, we discovered that we are cousins. Each of us displays within our gifts and talents, the ability to sing, to write, and to paint, traits passed down to us, at least in part, by our Bassano and Lanier families. Be kind to everyone. That person sitting next to you could be your kin.  

Bottom Line
Yes, genealogy can take one on some wild rides, from backwoods cemeteries, slipping and sliding on wet, red-clay Alabama roads, through national monument cemeteries, to historic sites like Andersonville and The Alamo. The one thing that connects all these places is the connection those interred have with those of us who are still living. Family lore is put aside, making way for facts backed up by records and now DNA testing.

The best thought to me is that we are all related. We all descend from the mind of Father God. We have all been created in His image, man and woman alike (Genesis 1:27). As we delve further into our lineage and more and more generations are revealed, it is easy to see how we all connect, across oceans and land masses. But it all still comes back to the Source of all life. In finding the truth about our lineage, we cannot help but run into The Truth. And it is the Truth that sets us free for all time.

Have you done family research? Did you find surprises along the way? Could we be cousins? Leave your comments in the section below.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Have You Considered Attending a Writers Conference?

By Debra DuPree Williams @ddupreewilliams

I never thought I’d attend a writers conference—especially at my age. These are some of the doubts that plagued me:
  • What could I possibly have to say that anyone would want to read?
  • Am I even a writer? 
  • What if I go and embarrass myself?
  • What am I supposed to wear?
  • What should I bring?
  • What am I even doing here?
If you’re feeling doubts about your own calling, you’re not alone. When I first attended the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in 2014, I knew nothing and no one. I sat in the back row. Even worship was different for me as I come from a tradition of hymns and a rather high-church service. I felt like a fish out of water, or a Presbyterian in a pool of Baptists. Now I  raise my hands with everyone else, and it feels like I should have been doing this all of my life.

Check-In Point for Conferences At Ridgecrest

I quickly learned that this was a place of love, joy, acceptance, and growth not only as a writer, but as a Christian. By week’s end, I’d made new friends and formed what would become lasting relationships with some of the most well-known Christian authors and teachers out there.
If you are considering attending a conference, let me urge you to do so. You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Here are some things I have learned in the past few years:

Don’t worry. Just hand all of this over to God and let Him lead you where He wants you to go. You are writing to advance His Kingdom. You really can’t take a misstep at a conference. And so what if you do? There will always be someone there to pick you up. They will even pray with you and for you.

What do I wear? On the sidebar on Edie Melson’s blog, The Write Conversation, is posted a list of questions and answers about what to expect at a writers conference. It includes tips about how to dress among many others. I would say, casual Sunday for the most part. Dress tastefully and comfortably. Wear comfy shoes for sure. You will be doing a lot of walking, and if your conference is in the mountains, as the ones I have attended, you will be climbing up and down steps a few times each day.

Be friendly. I don’t normally have trouble talking to strangers, but I was a bit intimidated at my first conference. And for nothing. One thing I learned early on was that all the people there are in your corner. They want you to succeed, for when you do, so does God. And believe me when I tell you, you are going to form lasting friendships.

Do bring business cards. I had some at the first conference. They had my photo, my name, my city, and my email. That was about it. But at least people could get in touch with me. By the way, bring a lot of cards, on good, thick card-stock. You will exchange cards with everyone. You are going to want to remember these people and they will want to remember you.

Go to the conference's website. See who is on the faculty and what classes are being taught. If there is a map, try to figure out the basic layout of your campus.

Don’t forget your computer. Most people have those little ones these days. Two years ago, I only had my big laptop. I lugged that thing from the fourth floor down a million steps and back up again, countless times every day. I still don’t have a small enough netbook or Apple. I guess I’m going to have some powerful muscles one day. But if you operate on just a pencil and a notebook, that’s okay too, and a lot lighter than my big ole laptop!

Is there an age limit? The first year I attended BRMCWC, the oldest person there was ninety-six years old and he was still writing and publishing devotions.  I’m not sure of the age of the youngest, but at the Novel Retreat, one young lady was seventeen or so. And she was about to be published, if she hadn’t already been. Don’t let your age keep you from coming. You have something to say that only you can say. No one looks at life the way you do. No one has your voice to say it.

The Cross at Ridgecrest Visible for Miles
Come prepared to be blessed.  I have only attended conferences at Ridgecrest—BRMCWC and the Blue Ridge Autumn in the Mountains Novelist Retreat, led by Yvonne Lehman. I can tell you that attending these conferences has been one of the biggest blessings of my life. Not just in the knowledge gained or the friendships made, but by the outpouring of The Holy Spirit upon me. You can feel His presence everywhere you go. Be sure to stroll through the prayer garden if this is the campus you visit. Sit on the porch in one of the rockers and soak up some sun while talking to the Son.

Final Reminder.  Don’t forget to go to Edie Melson’s blog site, The Write Conversation. By the way, in case you didn’t know it, she’s the director of the Blue Ridge Conference. She’s also a social media guru. Scroll down on the left hand side, very near the bottom, beneath her books and her many awards, and you will find Get Ready For a Writers Conference. Be sure to read that. Come with a positive attitude and pray for the experience you will have there. Pray for the faculty and the attendees. Pray for the staff. Did you know that they pray for you prior to the conference? Come with an open heart and an open mind and you will be blessed. I guarantee it!

Now it’s your turn. What suggestions do you have about attending writing conferences?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Following a Dream Using My Second Voice

by Debra DuPree

I grew up surrounded by music. I began singing in our church with my big sister Bobbie when I was three and she was ten. She taught me the words and melody and she sang harmony. We soon began singing in other churches, nursing homes and civic organizations. We went just about anywhere we were invited to sing.

Once my sister went away to college, our duo became my solo act. I continued our tradition of singing in church but I also joined my high school choral department where I sang in many groups from the Acapella choir to a Gospel trio.

When I went away to Birmingham-Southern College it felt only natural to become a vocal performance major. I received my Bachelor of Music degree in 1972 and my Bachelor of Music Education degree in 1974. Once I married my husband, we both joined our church choirs where ever we lived, from Birmingham to our churches in Ft. Myers and Tampa, Florida.

It was in this last church where, in the middle of rehearsal one night, the director looked pointedly at me and gave me a thumbs-up, but not in a good way. He told me I was singing flat. That was the first indication of hearing loss. Fast forward a few years, four of which were spent in the uniform room of our youngest son’s marching band where I served as uniform mom. Little did I know that the music created by those talented kids would further damage my hearing. I now wear hearing aids, and I no longer sing as much as I once did.

Writing became my second voice.
My Second Voice
But I’ve never been one to keep silent. I had to find another outlet so I returned to a forgotten love, words. I have written poetry as long as I can remember. I wrote my first novel when I was in seventh grade. But this time, I bought many books on craft to learn how to do this writing thing properly.

One day in 2014 as I was writing, my sister phoned and told me about one of her favorite authors. She asked me to check out the author’s web page. I didn’t even know they had web pages. As I scrolled through the site, at the very bottom was a link to the Mt. Hermon Christian Writers ConferenceMount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in Mt. Hermon, California. Wow, that would be helpful and many of my favorite authors would be teaching. But it was that next weekend. There wasn’t any way I could make it happen. Disappointed, I continued to scroll, and there, just below Mt. Hermon was a reference to The BlueRidge Mountains Christian Writers Conference at the Ridgecrest Conference Center just outside of Asheville, North Carolina. It was in Asheville.

Asheville . . . maybe I could do that. When I did some research, I discovered that the conference was being held the very week that my husband and I had to be in Asheville to do the only walk-through we would have on the new home we were building there. What were the odds of  that? It seemed miraculous to me. God had opened a door where I had no clue one existed.

Long story short, I went to that conference. I sat in two classes on writing children's books, and I presented my work to both instructors for their opinions. I needed to know if I should pack that dream away or keep writing. Was I a writer? I’m happy to say they both agreed I was—and still am—a writer. I’m not ashamed to tell you I was in tears.

Blue Ridge Mountains Christian
Writers Conference
Since that time I’ve attended the Blue Ridge conference every May, and I’ve attended Autumn in the Mountains Novelist Retreat, also held at Ridgecrest. I’ve switched from writing for children to writing cozy mysteries. My work in progress received several awards at the novel retreat this past October. It’s still a work in progress, but I hope to complete it soon. Who knows what the future holds for me in this writing world?

I can only tell you that God has a plan for each of us. I often quote Jeremiah 29:11 to my children. Sometimes the path we are on takes twists and turns, but if you put your faith in Him, He will not lead you astray. Now, almost four years after that first conference, many of the authors I have met have become friends and/or mentors.

When genetics took away one voice, God gave me a second voice. I’m humbled and privileged to share the Truth with each of you.

How has God given you a new dream or renewed an old one? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.