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A Journey to Faith
The Fruit of the Spirit Series
By Jean Ellis Hudson
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2013 Jean Ellis Hudson
All rights reserved.
It looks like it might snow, Moriah thought, looking up into the heavy clouds. They're just full of snow. I gotta get this wood split and get it in the house. I am no good at this. I wish.... She didn't finish her thought but picked up the piece of wood for the third time to try to split it with the axe.
Moriah was a slender, small-boned woman with long, dark hair and lovely green eyes. Jeff had always loved her eyes. Ah, Jeff, where are you? How are you? Are you still alive? Are you ever comin' home? The war's been over for almost eight months. I can't last here much longer by myself. A big tear rolled down her cheek, followed by several more as she thought about her husband Jeff. He had been gone for three years fighting with the Virginia Infantry in the war between the states. She had seen him only once during that time when he had managed to come home on leave for a week and that had been over a year ago. It had been a wonderful week but far too short. The only news she had received was that he had been wounded several months ago, but she didn't know if he was still alive or dead. She couldn't face the possibility that he might be dead. She had held on here at their farm but just barely with the help of good neighbors. One day soon she would have to move to Georgia to live with her parents.
She had paused in trying to split wood while she was thinking, and now she glanced up at the sky again as the first big flake drifted slowly down to the brown, lifeless ground. Well, at least, maybe it'll be a white Christmas, she sighed. Christmas is only five days away and, oh, wouldn't it be wonderful if.... Her thoughts trailed off as her eyes swept the woods around their farm and caught movement in the long path up to the house. She squinted her eyes trying to see who it might be. Probably just Sam from the next farm over. He's been so good to see after things on the farm while Jeff's been gone, but, no, that doesn't look like Sam. This one is walking and, in fact, limpin'.... Limpin'! Could it be ...? No, it can't be. But he walks like ... Jeff!
Moriah dropped the axe and started slowly walking toward the figure coming up the path. Softly she said, "Jeff? Is that you?" Then louder, "Jeff, is that you? It is." She began to run toward him and he began to limp faster toward her. "Moriah, I'm home! At last, I'm home!"
They ran into each other's arms, crying and laughing, hugging and looking. "Oh, Jeff, I've missed you so much. I didn't know if you were alive or—not. I love you, Jeff! Please don't ever leave me again."
"I won't, Moriah. I'm home to stay. I've missed you, too, and I love you. I'll tell you all about what's happened to me, but let's go inside out of the cold. I need to rest bad."
Moriah took her newly returned husband by the arm and together they went into the house and sat down by the fire where Jeff could thaw out. She began to prepare food for him while he began to relax. He didn't talk for a while but finally started to open up and tell her about the horrible things he had experienced in the war.
"Moriah, I don't want to scare you, but it was awful. The whole war. Everythin'. All the dyin' and killin'. I don't ever want to see what I saw again."
"I'm so sorry, Jeff. I know it must have been terrible. But what happened to you? How were you wounded?"
"I was hit in the stomach with grapeshot shrapnel. I was unconscious for about a week, they said. All I remember is pain and fadin' in and out a few times. They said I kept callin' out for you. I've been in the hospital for some months. Don't really know how long exactly. They finally said I was strong enough to leave, but there was no way to get home but walkin' and hitchin' a ride. It's took me, I guess, a month to get home. Ah, it's good to see you, Moriah. I didn't know if I'd ever see your beautiful face again. But, thanks be to God, here I am lookin' at you! You look thin and pale, girl."
"Jeff, you're the one who's thin and pale. Just let me get my hands on you and I'll fatten you up. Oh, Jeff, I'm so glad you're finally here." Moriah began to cry. "I didn't think I could hold on much longer. I didn't know if I would ever feel your arms around me again. Thank you, Lord!" Wiping the tears from her eyes, she dished up some of her homemade stew and bread and set it out for Jeff, feeling so proud to be able to do that simple thing again for her husband.
Jeff ate heartily, and then they sat together before the fire in their favorite place, Jeff in the rocking chair and Moriah sitting on the floor with her head in his lap. She just couldn't take her eyes off him! Jeff began to grow sleepy and finally dozed off. She let him sleep awhile and then woke him up enough to get him undressed and into bed. She stood looking at him for some time as he slept. Oh, how good it is to have him home, but he looks so pale and thin. I hope he's alright. I'll nurse him and feed him and he'll be well before long. He's still as handsome as ever to me with his dark hair and eyes. She reached to push back a lock of brown hair from his forehead. "Oh, my love for you is so great, it's almost overwhelmin', Jeff!"
Moriah knelt before the rocking chair near the fireplace. She prayed aloud, "Oh, Heavenly Father, thank You for bringin' Jeff home to me alive. Thank You for him and the love we share. You gave us to each other a few years ago and I thank You for that. Thank You for sparin' his life and mine in this awful war and bringin' us together again. We love You, Lord, and we'll praise You for the rest of our days for all the good things You've done for us. In Jesus' Name, Amen. And, oh, Lord, heal Jeff and help him be as good as new soon. Thank You, Amen."
* * *
As the days passed, Moriah realized how lacking in strength Jeff really was. He was going to need a lot of nursing to regain his strength, but she was eager to do all she could to help him get back to normal. Their days fell into a pattern of sleeping late, eating as much breakfast as she could coax down him, talking for a while by the fire, followed by Jeff resting while she did the necessary chores. Since it was winter, chores were not too strenuous, except that splitting wood! The war had taken most of their livestock; the horses and chickens were gone as well as all the cows but one. Somehow Old Maude had missed being stolen. Moriah had found her wandering down by the creek after a Union raid one day. Maybe Old Maude knew how to hide! Moriah was very grateful to have even one cow left. Times were hard. All the food she had canned or dried last summer would have to see them through the winter. Maybe when Jeff was stronger he could go hunting for some meat. They could sure use some.
After about three weeks of Moriah's good cooking and loving care, Jeff did regain some strength and began to take long walks with Moriah every day down to the creek and back, walking a little further every day. These were good days for Jeff and Moriah. They had each other and shared many dreams and hopes for the future as they walked and talked together. In the years ahead, Moriah would look back on these days with a warm heart as some of the best they ever had because they had each other. If she had known how short they would be, she would've filled them even fuller with making memories with Jeff.
* * *
It was about the middle of March, 1866, and Moriah was now sure that she was expecting a baby. She had suspected it for a few weeks but wanted to wait and be sure before she told Jeff.
On one rather mild March morning, Jeff was out in the barn milking Old Maude when Moriah decided it was time to tell him about the baby. As she opened the squeaky barn door, Jeff looked up and said, "Good mornin', darlin'! You're up early. Come, give me a kiss from the prettiest girl I know anywhere."
"Oh, Jeff. You're too good to me." She leaned over and kissed him as he sat on the stool. Suddenly, she was shy in trying to tell him he was going to be a father. She wandered around the barn some, and, of course, he knew she had something she wanted to say.
"What are you wantin' to say, lass?"
"What do you mean, Jeff?"
"You look like the cat that ate the canary. What is it?"
"Jeff—how would you like to be a father?" This was followed by silence for a short time. Jeff jumped up and cried, "You mean—we're goin' to have a baby!"
"Whoopee!" He grabbed her and hugged hard. "Oh, I better be careful with you." Moriah only laughed.
What a glorious time they shared that day! They talked and planned, tried to think of names for boys and girls, talked about building a cradle, tried to decide what "he" would do when he grew up! Moriah reminded him it could be a girl.
As the day drew to a close and the sun was going down, they knelt together and prayed for this new life God was blessing them with. Jeff prayed first, "Father, thank You for lovin' us, dyin' for us, and livin' for us. Thank You for Moriah, and, oh, Lord, thank You especially for blessin' us with this little life inside my wife's body right now. Help everythin' to go well and help us to be the parents You want us to be." Before he could finish, Jeff was crying openly and freely for the blessings of the Lord. Moriah took up the prayer, "Lord, thank You for Jeff and his love and for this new life we're bringin' into the world. Help us to be fit parents and to give this baby all the love we can. Help him, or her, to be strong and to serve You all his days. In Jesus' Name, Amen."
* * *
Moriah began to notice small changes in Jeff as the next few days passed. He moved slower, had to stop often to rest or catch his breath, and sweated a lot. He still had not gained much weight. She began to worry and pray. She couldn't lose Jeff now. Not now!
Jeff also was aware of the changes but said nothing to Moriah. He was afraid too and prayed often. He knew he was growing weaker but didn't understand why. He thought he had been getting stronger for a while but now—he knew he was wasn't.
One lovely spring morning with a touch of green beginning to show in the trees and woods, Jeff was out splitting wood, Moriah's favorite job she always reminded him! Moriah stepped out on the porch and began, "Jeff, did you know it's March 26? It's only four days till your birthday! What special—." She stopped short as she watched Jeff wipe sweat from his face with his sleeve, slump against the old stump they used to split wood on, and then roll to the ground. "Jeff!" she screamed, running to him. He was conscious but very weak. "Oh, Jeff, we've got to get you in the house. Can you help me?" He tried to nod, but his head just lolled to one side. Somehow Moriah managed to get him in the house and into bed. She never knew where the strength came from.
For the next twenty-four hours Moriah never left Jeff's side except to bring him broth or a cold cloth for his head. He ate little and slept a lot. Around noon the next day he was more alert than he had been and began to talk.
"Moriah—I love you. I always have. Ever since we was kids."
"Don't try to talk, darlin'. Save your strength."
"No, I need to talk. I need to tell you—. Moriah, I'm not goin' to make it."
"No, Jeff! Don't say that! I can't go on without you." Tears were streaming down her face.
"Yes, you can, Moriah. You have to—for the little one," placing his hand on her abdomen. Jeff was crying now too. "You gotta be strong, girl, for the child. I wish I could've seen him. He'll prob'ly look like you, dark hair and green eyes. I hope so. Give him twice as much love since I won't be here to give him mine."
"Jeff, please—stop. I can't stand to think about this."
Jeff looked off in the distance and knew it wouldn't be long. "Moriah, I gotta say some things. Teach the boy to love God, to be a Christian, to have faith. He can make it if he has faith in God and you can too. Will you name him Clemmons after my father?"
"Yes, Jeff. Whatever you say. I love you so much."
Moriah was on her knees by the bed, holding him as close as she could. Her tears dripped off her chin onto his face and chest. "How can I make it without you Jeff?"
"Faith. You know—'the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen'—." His body went limp and Moriah knew he was gone.
"No, no, no! Jeff, come back to me. How can I make it?"CHAPTER 2
Moriah stayed on her knees beside Jeff holding his hand for several hours—crying and trying to pray. She couldn't seem to find the words to pray—not yet. She felt so numb. As the day drew to a close, she realized upon waking that she had dozed off out of exhaustion. When she first awoke, she had trouble remembering why she was on her knees beside the bed. Then she remembered and hoped it was a nightmare, but she cast her eyes up and saw Jeff still and cold. Tears welled up again and spilled over. What am I goin' to do? Jeff had said—what was it—faith. I've got to have faith for myself and the little one. Slowly she dragged herself up feeling stiff and chilly and knew what she had to do. The last thing she could do for Jeff. She removed his clothes and began to wash his body to prepare it for burial. As she slowly worked, all she felt was numbness. None of this was real somehow. It felt like a dream, but she knew that she had to do this. When she had completed her task, she dressed Jeff in his best homespun shirt and pants and the only boots he owned—the ones he had worn to war. He had been so proud of those black boots when he bought them before the war. Now they're just old and worn thin. I wish I had somethin' better to bury him in.
She wandered into the kitchen but wasn't hungry. She sat at the table and wearily laid her head on her arms. Somehow I'll have to get word to Sam and Bess. They'll help me bury him. Tears began to flow again and with them came a prayer, "Oh, Lord, You're goin' to have to help me. I can't make it on my own anymore. Help me to have faith like Jeff talked about. Lord, help me know what to do." She grew quiet and soon drifted off to sleep out of sheer emotional exhaustion.
* * *
Moriah awoke the next morning with the sun streaming in the window in her face. Out of emotional and physical exhaustion, she had slept until ten o'clock. She lifted her head and looked around. Once again, she had to recall why she was sleeping at the table. When realization came, she slowly pulled herself up as if the weight of the world were on her and forced herself to return to the bedroom to be sure Jeff's death was real. It was. Her heart had never felt so heavy—or so broken.
"Hallo, in the house!" came a call from outside. It was Sam Jones, their neighbor who had been so helpful while Jeff was gone to war. Moriah was glad she wouldn't have to ride over to their farm to tell them. Wrapping her shawl around her in the cool of the spring morning, she walked to the door.
Sam knew something was wrong immediately by the weary, beaten look on Moriah's face. "What is it, child? Has somethin' happened to Jeff?"
"He's gone, Sam. Jeff's dead."
"Whadda you mean? What happened?"
"He collapsed day before yesterday while he was splittin' wood and died yesterday." Her shoulders began to shake with sobs and she began trembling all over. She leaned against the door frame for support.
Although Sam was sixty years old, he came quickly to her side and helped her into the house to a chair in the kitchen. "Don't fret, child, I'll go get Bess and she'll come over and be with you. Don't worry about a thing. We'll take care of things for you." Sam left quickly to get Bess.
Excerpted from A Journey to Faith by Jean Ellis Hudson. Copyright © 2013 Jean Ellis Hudson. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have read A Journey to Faith and found it to be a Godly, inspiring book which makes me want to personally know the characters in the book. The characters are alive and real and face realistic trials and tragedies like we do. Everyone can relate to what they experience, their initial reactions, and their ultimate dependence upon God for their answers. We need more books like this one!
Do you think you have problems? Well think again this book is an eye opening look at post civil war America. It follows the life of Clem Brown from before his birth to when he is a grown man. This book may never win awards or make millions but it will touch the hearts of all those who read it. The author doesn't use any of the traditional plot devices that are often seen in Christian fiction she simply tells her story in a heartfelt manner. There were times when I found myself thinking lord haven't these people had enough? But these were simple hard working salt of the earth people who feared God and had a heart for him. Perhaps my favorite aspect of this book was the special relationship that Clem had with his Gamps. It was treasure to read and a real encouragement as well as an admonition to trust Christ in my own struggles.
Clem Brown’s journey to faith is a journey from one heartbreaking loss to another. Set in the South in the thirty or so years following the Civil War, this book depicts the lives and hardships of an ordinary family with extraordinary faith. Readers who enjoy historical fiction will appreciate the author’s careful attention to the details of everyday life—food, clothing, décor, chores, and customs. References to the Biblical book of Job reinforce the truth of the power of faith in the face of suffering. The Jakes and Brown family face loss from war, accidents, and nature. However, the heart of the story is not the trials they face but the faith that carries them through the trials. A consistent theme of the book is that such faith is available to anyone who is willing to choose to trust God consistently. A reader who wants a story that is uplifting will enjoy this tale of hope in the midst of hardship.