Thursday, March 22, 2012

A New Leaf

It was my day off and I was still in the process of moving into the parsonage in Ottumwa, Iowa.  My wife is still in Alaska, pastoring the two churches I left to come to Ottumwa First UMC.  The thought of spending more time unpacking and arranging things that will only be rearranged when my better half arrives in July was depressing; I’ve done nothing but that on my days off for a month now.  I needed a distraction.  I needed something totally different.  Nothing to do with church…nothing to do with unpacking…

Several months ago, I’d received one of those family tree programs as a gift.  For whatever reason, I hadn’t taken the time to start that process.  But, it did sound like the perfect distraction.  I thought I’d give it an hour…90 minutes tops…before my short attention span would draw me to another shiny object with which to amuse myself…

FIVE HOURS LATER…I’m looking at digital pictures of gravestones in Truro, England with my mother’s last name on them.  I’ve been captivated by digital photos of census records from 1830; bills of lading listing passengers from places like Belgium, Germany and England.  I’ve learned that one of my ancestors had a child whose place of death and burial is Boston Harbor.  Another ancestor died while guiding logs down a river (ala “Axmen”) in New Jersey.  My 9th Great-Grandfather, John Webster, was Governor of the Colony of Connecticut from 1657 to 1659.  I even traced the itineration of my Great-Grand-Uncle the Rev. Frank E. Brush who was pastor of First United Methodist Church, Ottumwa (the church I now pastor) from 1895-1900.  I’ve read census and burial records of distant relatives who’d had 8 or 9 children; only 4 of which lived to be adults. 

I know none of these experiences are unique to my family; nevertheless, it is humbling.  I expect to be a grandfather for the first time in the coming 7 to 10 days…a new leaf on the family tree…the first in a new generation.  I know I will look at that new life with wonder and hope.  I wonder about the world in which s/he will live as an adult…and I will do so with more than a little fear and, yet, a good measure of hope.  I pray on the eve of his/her first grandchild’s birth decades from now this new leaf will be able to wonder with hope as well.  As did my 9th Great-Grandfather Webster nearly 400 years ago.  

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