Last week, I introduced Theophilus Daniel and shared a photo of a square of homespun fabric he made for his granddaughter sometime in the mid-1800’s. It’s said that he owned a flock of sheep, as well as a spinning wheel and a loom. The details of the fabric have long been lost to history, but our family assumes that Theo used wool from his sheep to spin thread and then weave the fabric.
After I wrote the story of Theo, I began to wonder about his wife, Penelope, and if there were any interesting tales from her life.
Penelope Goodson was born in 1874 to James and Jane Goodson of Darlington, SC. Her father fought in the American Revolution.
In 1803, Penelope married Theophilus, a man two years her junior. They were living in South Carolina at the time. However, two years later in 1805, her first child was born in Washington, GA.
Over the next 25 years, Penelope seems to have spent a lot of time doing two things: giving birth and moving. Here’s a list of her children, along with the years and places of their birth:
Ephraim Elias (1805)
William Eli (1811)
Sarah Jane (1814)
Josiah Goodson “Squire” (1816)
Elizabeth “Betsy” (1817)
Theophilus Jackson (1822)
John Adams (1825)
Penelope Louisa (1830)
That’s 14 children and 4 moves!
According to the Alabama Department of Archives and History (Alabama Surname Files Expanded, page 55), Theo and Penny came to Alabama by way of the Old Federal Road. They settled in what was then Creek Indian Territory. This same source also noted that the first acreage they purchased is now located within the city of Montgomery, AL.
Theophilus and Penelope were married 62 years. She died in 1873 at the age of 89 years old. She had outlived her husband by 8 years.
Whenever I read about Theo and Penny, I can’t help but think of what an interesting lifespan they both had … born prior to the United States Constitution being ratified and dying after the end of the Civil War.
During that period of American history, our nation was growing and expanding across the continent. And even though Penelope and her husband didn’t manage to go all the way to the West Coast, they did joined thousands of others in settling across the middle areas of the South.
This post is part of a 52-week series on sharing the stories of my ancestors.
This weekend, I spent some time creating a vision/encouragement board for desk area. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out when I started, but I love it! It has a fun vibe that makes me eager to plow ahead with the work I feel God has called me to do.
On the board, you may notice two handwritten squares. One of them boldly states, “I am a WRITER.” I’ve never called myself a writer before, but I decided that starting in 2020 I would use this descriptor.
Last Wednesday at our church supper, a rather precocious 5 year old girl was sitting at the table where Jon and I were eating. She peppered us with all sorts of questions. She asked Jon what sort of job he had, and when he told her that he was a geologist, she nodded her head as if she knew exactly what that meant. Then she turned to me and asked, “What is your job?”
I almost said, “I am just a mom.” But I caught myself.
“I’m a writer,” I said.
“A writer. I write books.“
There was a moment of silence as she considered my words. Then she asked, “Do you mean librarian?”
I have to admit that even though the line of questioning was making me feel a bit like I was about to be accused of just pretending at what sort of job I had, I was impressed with this kid’s vocabulary.
“No,” I said. “I’m not a librarian. I am a writer. I write the words that you read inside the books at the library.”
“Oh … a writer.” She sighed, picked up her fork and said, “That’s a weird job.”
Weird or not, it’s what God has called me to do.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In 2012, I attended two writer’s conferences.
Up until this point, I wrote as I felt the urge. I had a blog, but it was mostly just a hobby for me. But then my parents insisted I go to a local writer’s conference one weekend in March. I couldn’t say no as they paid the conference fee and kept all five of my kids for the weekend. I spent the entire conference wondering why I was there.
But, when it was over, I met a sweet friend named Christie … and somehow we ended up in Michigan three months later at a big national writer’s conference. Talk about being out of my league! I left there questioning what it was God wanted to do in my life in regards to writing.
All that summer, I prayed and asked God, “Do you want me to write?” Over and over and over I prayed and asked for direction.
That September I turned 40.
Remember Christie, my writer friend? Well, she sent me a box of gifts to open, one gift for each day of the week of my birthday. Each gift was wrapped individually and had a tag with a Scripture reference.
I had been opening gifts for three or four days when my actual birthday arrived. That morning, the kids excitedly asked if they could pick me a gift to open from the box. When I agreed, they brought me a gift … and when I opened it, I found a beautiful new ink pen, tagged with the Scripture Psalm 45:1.
My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready writer.
Psalm 45:1 (CSB)
And that was when I knew God was calling me to be a writer.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It’s been 7 years since that September morning. Honestly, I haven’t done much with that calling other than blog. I tried but as a homeschooling mom I often felt pulled in many directions. Ask any stay-at-home mother and she will tell you it’s a full-time job!
Last year, I began to feel like I didn’t have a job anymore. One by one, my teens were leaving the home for college and jobs. With just two left at home, I had all sorts of free time on my hands. I felt confused about what I should do. Go back to teaching? Take in more foster children? Volunteer at some worthy place?
And then God graciously reminded me … He already gave me a job. I’m His writer. I work for Him.
At first I felt guilty. Had I just been wasting time the last seven years? Had I neglected my calling?
And this is the verse God gave me:
Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:19 (CSB)
In the Bible, the number seven represents perfection or completion.
I don’t think the seven years between my calling to write on my 40th birthday to this new season in my life was wasted. God was preparing me and growing me. Instead of feeling confused and uncertain, I am confident in knowing my calling, and eager to do what God has given me to do.
It’s January 2020 … a new month, a new year, a new decade. And for me, it’s the start of a new career.
I am a writer.
Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you.
The first time I ever remember having a distinct feeling that I wasn’t a pretty girl happened on my very first day of kindergarten.
A faded photo taken that morning shows me standing at the end of our driveway, waiting on the school bus. Dressed in denim vest, red shirt and bell-bottom jeans with embroidered pockets, I am clutching a school box filled with crayons and pencils as I smile a confident, snaggletoothed grin at my mother. A sweet Dorothy Hamill haircut framed my chubby face.
Just a couple of hours later, after learning how to recite the pledge to the American flag, there was a knock on the door of the Kindergarten classroom. The teacher answered, and in walked the principal with another student, a little girl named Charlotte.
Not only was Charlotte fashionably late, but she was also wearing the fanciest red dress I had ever seen. Adorned with yards and yards of ruffles, her skirt flounced airily as she walked past my desk; her black patent shoes made a soft clicking sound on the hardwood floors.
The following day Charlotte wore another dress, just as fluffy and frilly, but in a different color. In fact, during that first week of school, Charlotte showed up at school each morning wearing a more beautiful dress than the one she had worn the day before.
It didn’t take long before I became enchanted with Charlotte, who looked just like a living doll. I had never seen anyone so pretty. I loved the way her black curls formed perfect ringlets. My thin, straight hair never held a curl, no matter how many hours it was left in those hated pink, foam rollers.
One afternoon, I confided to my mother how I thought Charlotte must be a real princess. My mother laughed as she patted my head and stated emphatically that there definitely were not any princesses attending my school. But, in my mind’s eye, all Charlotte needed was a tiny tiara on her head and the vision would be complete.
However, I didn’t tell my mother everything I was thinking or feeling in regards to Charlotte … like how ugly I felt in my new cotton shirts and stiff blue jeans, or that my deepest wish was to be pretty and dainty, the way Charlotte looked in her lavish dresses.
I might have been only five years old, but already I felt like…
I wasn’t a very pretty little girl.
I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve felt pretty.
During fifth grade I won a small beauty contest, the sort that is more fundraiser than pageant. The winners didn’t receive crowns or trophies, just ribbons. Even as I stood on the stage holding the 1st place ribbon in my hand, I felt like the results were somehow a fluke, fearful the judge might raise her hand and point out the real winner.
The following week, my dance teacher asked if anyone wanted to share happy news with the class. I raised my hand and when it was my turn told how I won a beauty pageant. All I really wanted to hear was that she agreed with the judges, for her to confirm that I was indeed a pretty young lady.
Instead, my dance teacher smiled and suggested I might like to ride on the “Beauty Queens’ Float” in the upcoming Christmas parade. “Of course, you wouldn’t be able to ride on the dance school float … but if you have a crown and a sash, I believe a spot could be found for you to ride with our other local pageant winners.”
Don’t ask me how, but I managed to borrow a crown and get a sash … and as I rode through the streets, smiling and waving, I felt something I couldn’t remember feeling before.
I felt pretty.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Society tells us that gorgeous women are thin with a headful of thick, flowing hair, and flawless, sleek skin.
Women with PCOS often struggle with weight issues, male-pattern baldness, extra facial and body hair, severe acne, skin tags and psoriasis. This genetic, hormonal disorder strips away all the physical feminine qualities, and sadly there is no cure or quick fix or answer to unraveling this medical mystery.
The women who live with PCOS often struggle with anxiety or depression or low self-esteem. Perhaps a lot of that is driven by a bad body image because a woman with PCOS is rarely going to match society’s standard of beauty.
And yet, how can we possibly feel pretty when PCOS steals away the very things we are told makes a woman pleasing to look at?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I am wonderfully made. ~Psalm 139:14
Confession time … again.
I don’t think — no, the truth is I don’t believe — I am wonderfully made.
I look at my reflection in the mirror, and all I see is me. My physical flaws. My less-than-perfect features. The bald patches in my hair. The flaky skin on my face. A woman who is far from thin and hasn’t worn a swimsuit in more than a decade.
Oh, how I long to see myself as pretty … yet most of the time I feel so much less than that.
And this presents a problem because the Bible tells me that I am wonderfully made by my Creator.
As a Christian, I must ask myself this question:
If God says I am wonderfully made, and I have judged my body to not be a worthy creation, then which of us is wrong?
Either God is a liar (and how can I be a Christ-follower if I think such a thing), or I must be using the wrong standard for beauty.
One thing is certain.
Both God and I are not correct on this issue.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. ~1 Samuel 16:7
It’s true. Humans tend to focus on outward appearance.
We like to believe we aren’t biased, that we don’t use physical features as a way of judging others. But the evidence says otherwise.
Not long ago, a friend (whom I really love) made a comment about one of my teen girls. “She’s become so pretty, now that she is wearing make-up and fixing her hair and losing a little weight … not that you have to do those things to be beautiful … but you know what I mean.“
Yes. Yes, I do. I’m human too, and somehow (as much as I hate to admit it) the way someone looks matters.
But not to God.
He looks at our hearts and knows our minds … and loves in spite of all the negative, mean-spirited, ugly feelings and ideas we have. His measure for beauty is far above our own earthly ideas.
So what does God have to say about being beautiful?
Here are a few of God’s truths:
We are created in His image. (Genesis 1:27)
We are worth far more than rubies. (Proverbs 31:10)
He makes all things beautiful. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
He brings beauty from ashes. (Isaiah 61:3)
He is enthralled with our beauty. (Psalm 45:11)
All who look to Him are radiant. (Psalm 34:5)
We are a crown of beauty in His hand. (Isaiah 62:3)
The Bible has much more about God’s standards for beauty, but that’s for another post. Today, let’s simply focus on this truth:
Beauty is far more than outward appearances.
Neither PCOS, nor the opinions of humans, can take away our beauty.
Allow me to introduce you to Theophilus Daniel, my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.
Theophilus was born around 1786 in North Carolina to William and Elizabeth Daniel. During his life, Theo moved, first to Georgia and later to Alabama. He married Penelope Goodson, and is known to have supported his family by farming. Records seem to indicate that he had a small flock of sheep, as well as owned a spinning wheel and a loom. He also was reported to have made furniture. We also now that Theophilus Daniel was not a slave owner even though he lived in the south during the years when slavery was legal.
Church records indicate that in 1817 Theophilus was kicked out of church for “not filling his seat.” It is unclear why he skipped church services, but one must wonder if it might have been due to having moved away from the area. Later, in 1827, he was instrumental in the formation of Sweet Water Primitive Baptist church.
At the time of his death on October 2, 1865, Theo was living in Butler, Alabama. His life spanned 79 years, with his birth prior to the ratification of the United States Constitution and his death coming just at the end of the Civil War.
One of the first things I remember my mother having among her genealogical possessions was a very old piece of woven brown cloth.
This material, handed down now for six generations, was actually homespun by Theophilus himself. He made it for his granddaughter, Matilda Caroline Daniel, perhaps as a wedding gift for her marriage in 1851 (although the exact date the cloth was made is unknown). I wonder if the material was woven from thread spun from the wool sheared from Theophilus’ sheep.
Facts about Theophilus Daniel and his life are fairly sparse. His exact date of birth is unknown, and the truth is I have a lot more questions about him than answers:
Why was he skipping church in 1817? Was it due to a move or did he find himself feeling disconnected from the Lord?
What prompted him to form a church ten years later?
And what is that large growth on the side of his face?!
Yet, touching the cloth that he spun for his granddaughter suddenly makes this man leap off the old census records. A piece of cloth doesn’t get saved for 170+ years for no reason. It meant enough to his granddaughter that she passed it down to her children and grandchildren. It meant something to her because she loved her grandfather … probably, I’m imagining, because he loved her too.
Whatever the reason, Theophilus more than lived. He loved. And 155 years after his death, he is still remembered for it.
The memories of the righteous is a blessing … ~Proverbs 10:7