Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Martha By Any Other Name

by Debra DuPree Williams  @DDuPreeWilliams

I’ve written a couple of blog posts that featured my daddy. But, obviously, I also had a mother. Now you may say that your mother is or was one-of-a-kind, but my mother, Dot, wasn’t. She had an identical twin, my Aunt Doris. But even though she had someone on earth who looked exactly like her, Mama was definitely her own person.

Mama was one of those people who just naturally excelled at anything she did. Except cooking. She hated to cook. But she loved to entertain and make party foods.

I don’t remember her ever putting a roast in the oven for a week night or Sunday dinner. But could she ever make party food. We had more parties at our home in one year than most of my friends’ moms had in ten years. Mama just loved entertaining, getting out her good dishes, and putting on the dog, as we say in the south.

It's Party Time
Mama on the left with Hemerocallis Garden Club Ladies, 1960s
If she wasn’t having the garden club Christmas party, she was having her Sunday school party. If it wasn’t that, then it was her business women’s club. Every time we turned around, there was one group or another of ladies, coming and going. One of her favorite things to make were little finger sandwiches with the cream cheese colored to match her theme of the day. Red and green at Christmas, blue and yellow for Easter. This may seem a little bland compared to the nachos and buffalo wings so popular today, but back in the fifties and sixties, those little sandwiches were a must-have at any decent hostess’s party. Oh, they never, ever had a crust. Ever.

In those days lemon-ice-box pies or strawberry-ice-box pies were the rage. I’ve never made one, but I do remember that they were one of my favorites. So simple, you start with Jell-o.

Swedish meatballs were quite the rage in those days, too. Today we can just go buy them at IKEA or Publix or your favorite local market, but back then, you had to make your own from scratch. I don’t think she had a party at which these little round morsels didn’t make an appearance. Poke it with a colored toothpick, and you were good to go. Take two or three, after all, they’re small.

One of Mama's Table-Top Creations
Table Top Decor  
Of course, the food had to be displayed properly. This is when Mama pulled out all the stops and
turned our simple kitchen table into an artistic
display worthy of Martha Stewart. In fact,
after Mama’s death, my sister and I dubbed her,“The Martha Stewart of the South.” She could turn the ordinary into something special. The display at the right is made from our everyday, wooden salad bowls, filled with a variety of nuts. She then took Christmas greenery, small Christmas ornaments, and long skinny candles. All of this was arranged with Christmas greenery in the shape of a star.                 
Mary and Martha
I wondered about giving her the label of being a Martha of any kind. Remember in Luke 10:38-42, Martha was scurrying around trying to prepare her home and the foods for Jesus while Mary only wanted to sit at His feet and learn from the Master. I have no doubt that Mama would have been able to pull off both. She would have had things ready for any surprise visitors long before Jesus knocked on her door. She could have served but listened, too. Yes, Mama was a Martha, but she was a Mary, also.

This blog is just the appetizer, giving you a small taste of who my Mama was. Stay tuned for more blogs about life in the fifties and sixties and the amazing woman I got to call Mama.

Did your mother like to entertain? Did she make foods like these? Tell us something special about the mother you were/are blessed to have. Leave your comments below.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The DNA of Jesus

by Debra DuPree Williams @DDuPreeWilliam

If you read my blog regularly, you have figured out that I am deeply involved in doing my family’s genealogy. I’ve been researching any and all sides of my family for decades. With the addition of DNA testing, I have connected with more cousins than I would have thought possible. Just this week I heard from two “new” cousins whose DNA was a match to mine. Turns out, one of the ladies and I are closely related. My great grandparents are her great-great grands. We will be getting in touch sometime this week.

That brings me to a show we recorded last week, the week of Easter. There are many such shows on at that time of the year, as if it is the only time we become interested in learning about Jesus. This particular show was a bit different. It was on the History channel and was called The Jesus Strand: A Search for DNA.

The Shroud of Turin
Two men, one a Bible scholar, the other a geneticist, traveled to many parts of the world, from
Italy to Egypt, to Bulgaria to Israel, in search of any relic that might contain DNA from Jesus. Of course, they went to the Shroud of Turin and were actually given a sample of DNA from the blood which is still present on that garment. They went to Bulgaria to view and obtain DNA from what are believed to be the bones of John the Baptist, the kinsman of Jesus. Remember, Mary, mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, were relatives. (Luke 1:26-56)

On their quest, these men even went to the home of a man who claimed to have bones from an ossuary, or bone box, obtained from a cave in Israel. These ossuaries had written on them Jesus, Joseph, Mary, Mary Magdalena, and Judah, son of Jesus. They were interested until they were told that the box with Judah written on it said that Judah was the son of Jesus. We all know that there is no Biblical foundation to say that Jesus had a son. The Bible scholar was quick to point out that these names were among the most-common of first century Israel and that there is no evidence that Jesus ever had a son. Skeptical? That would be putting it mildly.

Besides the Shroud of Turin, they were taken to yet another church which housed, behind heavy, locked, iron gates, a huge box and behind it, enclosed in glass, a cloth said to have covered the face of Jesus, beneath the Shroud of Turin which covered the body of Jesus. The man telling the story said that the marks absolutely lined up with those on the shroud and that it contained the same rare blood type, AB. But could they, or will they ever be able to prove that these relics were those which actually covered the body of Jesus?

Descendants of Jesus?
As the show was nearing its conclusion, they discovered that the DNA samples showed a close association with a group of people called the Druze. They are of Egyptian descent, but they had moved to and lived around Nazareth about the time of Jesus. Until the thirteenth century, they were not a closed religion. At that time and to this day, unless you are born Druze, you may not join their religious order. You may not leave it, either. Their beliefs encompass ideas from most of the main religions of the day, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The one strange thing, at least to me, is that they believe in reincarnation. When you die, you are born as a new baby as the soul goes on and on.

The two men found a modern-day Druze family who willingly gave their DNA to be tested against that taken from the Shroud of Turin. Upon getting the results, they told the man and his daughter that they descend from Jesus. All of this is based on their belief that the shroud is, indeed, the burial cloth of Jesus. Frankly, I don’t know how they can possibly know that for sure. The shroud didn’t even show up for the first time until the thirteenth century when having a relic in a church was common place. Many were fakes. It does date from early first century. But did it really cover the body of Jesus?

Could the man and his daughter be descendants of the family of Jesus? Well, that is possible as Jesus had brothers and sisters. I’m sure many of their descendants still live in that area. But how would they know, without a doubt, that the shroud, from which they got the DNA sample, was that which covered Jesus?

Final Thoughts
These were my thoughts after seeing this show. Some things we aren’t supposed to know. It goes back to a question of faith as spoken of in Hebrews 11:1. I don’t need to prove that the Shroud of Turin was the actual burial cloth of Jesus to know that he suffered and died for you and for me and that he rose from the dead on the third day. I don’t need DNA to prove that he was a kinsman of John the Baptist. The Bible, the source of my beliefs, tells me that. I don’t need to know if there are people on this earth who can prove a blood connection to Jesus.

I argue that as followers of Jesus, we believe, by faith, He suffered and died for us, for our sins and the sin of all of humanity for all time. We believe that He rose again on that first Easter morning, that the tomb was empty. We believe He entered into Heaven and that He is alive today, sitting on the right hand of God the Father. We believe that He will return. That blood connection to Jesus? If we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and ask Him to dwell within us, then we have that blood connection to Him. It was His blood which was shed for us and He is now dwelling within us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Because of our beliefs, we are the children of the King, made in the image of God, our Father. The heirs of the Kingdom.

Did you see this production? What did you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Share your thoughts by leaving your remarks in the section below.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

You Come First

By Debra DuPree Williams @DDuPreeWilliams

Now before you get all in a dither, let me explain. I’m not talking about first as in “it’s all about me.” I see things from a Christian world view, so to me, God is always first.  I’m speaking from a genealogical point of view, and in that case, you do come first.

When I first began searching my family roots back in 1999 or so, I had no clue where to begin. I just knew that I was born a DuPree, Mama’s maiden name, and who my  grandparents were.

My DAC Membership Certificate
DAR and DAC 
All I had at my disposal was a set of two books called The DuPre Trail, compiled by Emimae Pritchard Langley, given to me by my dad’s twin brother, William. I'd had these since I was sixteen. When I tried to make sense of the information inside, it was like trying to read the proverbial Greek. So, they sat, untouched, in a drawer or box for all those years, until one day at church, someone mentioned that one of our choir members was the Regent of the local chapter or the Daughters of the American Revolution. I approached her and told her I might be able to prove my lineage for DAR. She put me in touch with the chapter registrar and a whole new world was opened up to me. Since then, I have proven my DuPree line for the DAR and my Lanier line for the Daughters of the American Colonists.

One of the first things I learned is that in doing one’s genealogy, always begin with you. Then list all the people you know, generation by generation. In every generation, the number of grandparents doubles. By the time you get to your four times great grandparents, you have sixty-four grandparents. And that is just for that one generation. It can become mind-boggling to keep up with all of those people.

This is where a good chart comes in. These can be found by googling ancestral or lineage charts. Some are free. You can print it and begin your work. Fill in all the blanks that you can. Again, you come first. Then your parents, followed by your grandparents, and each subsequent generation until you have filled in as much information as you currently know.

Proof of the Marriage of My Great Great Grandparents
A Paper Trail 
 Websites like Ancestry are a great tool in doing your family research. But, a word of warning, just as in anything else, you cannot believe everything you read on Ancestry. After all, it's just people like you and me who are providing the information. I don't always succeed in this but I do try. Never post anything without a paper trail.

Another word of warning. You will very likely find information that isn’t pleasant to hear for the first time. Just keep in mind that these may be your ancestors, but they were only human. They had flaws, and maybe challenges that we cannot begin to imagine these days. I think that, for the most part, they did what they had to do in order to survive or to feed their children and keep a roof over their heads.

Tell us your most amazing or surprising find. Do you have royalty in your tree? Do you have a Patriot? Or was your family member a Loyalist? I have some of each. Just be sure not to post anything that would be hurtful to any members of your family. I may write Digging Up Dirt Mysteries, but this isn’t the place to air dirty laundry. Have fun, and remember, you come first.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Finish What You Start--The True Glory

by Debra DuPree
Williams @DDuPreeWilliams

Sunset at Indian Rocks Beach, Florida,  2011
My sister Bobbie and I are the queens of unfinished projects. I cannot begin to tell you how many times one or the other of us has begun a project of one kind or another and abandoned it for yet another project, promising to get back to it later. You know how that goes. Later never comes. There is always something else out there that seems to be more fun or appealing on any given day.

Case in point, my eldest son and his wife celebrated their fifteenth wedding anniversary in March. Before they even said their I dos, I purchased the perfect fabrics and chose just the right design to make a lovely wedding quilt for them. It was going to be totally hand-sewn with each square having an appliqued design with deep meaning for them. I got the top almost finished and I hated it. It wasn’t so much the design and the work I had done, I’m actually a decent quilter. But the colors I had chosen were not the ones they truly loved. I took it apart and intended to change the colors and remake all those hand-sewn squares. You know this story all too well. That quilt is still packed away, languishing among the many other quilting projects, including the bassoon/orchestra fabric for our professional bassoonist, son number two, and the un-quilted, pieced top for son number three. Forget son number four’s T-shirt quilt. His dad accidentally gave all those saved shirts to a charity as we moved from North Carolina back to Florida. Sigh.

My point is, we all start things and never get around to finishing them. Who knows why—perhaps laziness or boredom? But what does God have to say about those unfinished projects?

Wisdom Then and Now
As a writer, have you finished what you started? Maybe you began a novel but you couldn’t get past the first few chapters. If not a novel, maybe it was a devotional or a poem. Only you know why you walked away, what your reasoning was. Believe me, I’ve probably used every excuse you could name.

At one of the many conferences I’ve attended in the past few years, Torry Martin was a keynote speaker. So many of us know and love Torry for his wit and wisdom, as well as for his God-given talents as an actor and writer. But I’ll never forget what he had to say one year.

When we don’t finish that novel, devotional, poem, picture book, whatever it is, we’re denying God the glory He would have otherwise received by our work being completed. Think about that. We all know that if it isn’t finished, the public isn’t going to get to read it and reap the blessings our words would otherwise have had.

When I heard Torry say those words, it brought to mind an anthem I heard for the first time in 1977. My Birmingham, Alabama church choir, Independent Presbyterian Church, was on a tour of England and Scotland. We had the privilege of attending a concert in Royal Albert Hall, commemorating the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. The participating choirs were members of the Royal School of Church Music. Our choir was humbled to have been given honorary membership in this organization. The anthem was titled, “The True Glory”. It was set, in part, to a text by Sir Francis Drake, written four hundred and thirty years ago, April 27, 1587. The music was composed by Peter Aston. Click on "The True Glory" to see it on YouTube.

What about your unfinished work? Have you  considered that because you didn’t finish it that God is being denied His due Glory? What lives could be changed because of what you have to say? As my friend  Eva Marie Everson said in one of the best keynotes I have heard, “No one can take your place in the wall, if you don’t build (write) it, no one else will. No one can tell your story except you.”(See Nehemiah 2:20).

Debbie and Ken at IPC, Birmingham, AL, 1978
The True Glory
That unfinished quilt is in a box in a storage facility in North Carolina, but I will be retrieving it soon. I think it's time I finished that wedding quilt. By the way, I was seven months pregnant with my first-born son as I sat in Royal Albert Hall and heard "The True Glory" for the first time. Oddly enough, Ken is now studying at Oxford University.

Do you have projects lying around, unfinished, waiting to give glory unto God? Go choose one. Challenge yourself to finish it and see what doors God opens for you.

Leave your comments here and tell us what project you feel led to finish.