In late 1880, Benjamin Franklin Vick raided the home of Louisa Carroll Vick in Pickens, Alabama. His brother and a few cousins accompanied him having ridden with him from Texas. Louisa was his wife, though on a census earlier in that year, she had listed herself as his widow. Whether Louisa lied or actually thought Benjamin was dead or whether the couple had ever divorced or ever did has not been determined, though there are possibly documents that show that. Louisa lived within shouting distance of her parents home in a rundown shack with her two daughters, Ella, 5 years and Nancy Jane, 3 years.
Benjamin entered his wife’s home uninvited for one purpose. He intended to take his daughters back to Texas with him where he had settled near Indian Territory. I cannot image the terror his raid sparked in Louisa or in his daughters either, but at the end of that night, he had accomplished his purpose, leaving Louisa childless and his daughters motherless. Benjamin didn’t marry again and died in 1901 at the age of 46. The records located lose Louisa after the 1890 census when she was living in the home of her parents in Pickens, Alabama.
Ella and Nancy Jane married and moved to Indian Territory in an area that would become Marshall County, Oklahoma during the 1890’s where both gave birth, raised, and buried children. Nancy Jane lost her first son when she administered an incorrect dosage of medication following faulty instructions given to her by the Apothecary. She lost two infant daughters to diphtheria. In all she birthed seven children, four who lived to be adults. My Dad who was born in 1910 was her youngest child.
Over the years following their abduction, Ella shared what little she could remember about their mother and grandparents and the girls gleaned from snatches of Vick family talk a bit more information. There is no indication that Benjamin Vick abused his daughters, but he also refused to share with them any information about their mother.
Years passed. In 1930 with the nation teetering on the brink of financial disaster, Nancy Jane Vick Ivy received a letter from her mother Louisa, who had moved to Tennessee. Ella had passed away without ever getting such a letter. My grandmother was 53 years old when she boarded a train, holding a ticket paid for by funds her husband and her sons managed to scrape together and traveled to Tennessee to see her mother for the first time in fifty years.
I never learned through my Dad’s stories and perhaps he never knew himself how Louisa found Nancy Jane, and though I am curious I don’t think that really matters. What matters is that this FAMILY STORY sparks hope that reunions, reconciliations, and redemption are possible. Family stories intensify our feelings of belonging not just to this patch of time in which we live, but to our ancestors and to future generations as we pass along the stories.
So today I give thanks to God for the stories that have survived time in my family and in my husband’s family and thanks that I have the opportunity to share them, along with a few of my own, with my children and grandchildren.
God leads us in this story telling by His own example, in His own Book, from Genesis to Revelation. He doesn’t spare us the gory details nor the boring details either. There are the Beatitudes–beautiful and memorizable and then there are the Begat’s–skippable and mind numbing. At least that is how I used to think of them, until I heard a preacher, imagine that I was listening, tell me that the Begat’s contained important Family Stories. Tucked into Jesus’ family tree on a few of the branches God put information intended to reveal His heart.
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Elihud, Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah. Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. (Matthew 1:1-17 NIV)
For we find that it was not the first son of Israel, Reuben or the favorite son, Joseph, but Israel and Leah’s fourth son, Judah, who is in the lineage of Jesus.
Must have been because Judah was such an upstanding righteous man that God chose him….NO! Judah helped sell his brother into slavery. And as an old man, it was
Judah, who was deceived by his childless widowed daughter-in-law Tamar, who pretended to be a prostitute so that her father-in-law would get her pregnant. From that less than holy union came twins. One of whom, Perez is in Christ’s lineage…talk about twisted family stories that make soap operas and reality TV look tame.
And, although Tamar’s name appears as the first women mentioned in this family tree, there are three others, all foreigners, Rahab, the prostitute in Jericho, Ruth, the Moabitess, and Uriah’s wife (Bathsheba). The family tree of Jesus has more than its fair share of “bad apples” that God chose as ancestors for his son. Throughout God’s written story he shows us our sin in the stories of others, but more importantly He declares his intentions toward all humanity. He desires that we immerse ourselves in His word so that we can be encouraged by the stories there, so that we can know reunion, reconciliation and redemption. So we can share that hope with others while we wait.
My grandmother waited 50 years before she saw her mother again, but she didn’t pine away, she got on with her life. So let’s get on with living our lives, sharing God’s stories and our own with others as we wait for the culmination of God’s Story that he has written us into.
Thank you Lord for Writing my Name in Your Book…I love being a mere notation in your book of life, because that is the Story that really matters!