My third great grandmother, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Ellerman left Germany with her four children after the death of her husband in 1855. Her family sailed for New Orleans to find a new way of life. The eleven week voyage was tedious and tragic with Lizzie losing her daughter, Anna, along the way. From New Orleans, Lizzie and family traveled by steamboat up the Mississippi River to Iowa — where her family settled on a farm near Dallas Center.
I discovered this story while conducting research on my ancestry a few years ago. I find the story fascinating for several reasons. Traveling in 1855 across the Atlantic with four children seems like a huge risk. What was their motivation? Also, I admire Lizzie’s determination to make a decision and move forward to try and improve her family’s circumstances. Although, like most decisions, we are not able to see all of the consequences. Sometimes when I think about the family’s journey across the Atlantic and up the Mississippi in 1855, it makes my own life decisions seem trivial in comparison.
In today’s Gospel reading, we learn that Jesus asked a disabled man if he wanted to get well, to pick up his mat, and walk to the Bethesda spring. The man’s decision involved making a change and taking risks — since he was breaking Hebrew laws concerning the Sabbath.
Stories like these inspire me. They inspire me to think about my own life and the obstacles I face. When making decisions, in what ways can I focus on God, become unstuck, and make difficult decisions that will create newness and hope.