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Oft Made to Wonder
A young girl’s journey

Cover art by Jia Apple titled This Time Around. It is a Life Painting representing events surrounding the author’s life.

Oft Made to Wonder
A young girl’s journey

Jia Apple

Washtay Publishing Co.


Copyright © 2018 by Washtay Publishing Co.

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.

First Printing: 2018


Washtay Publishing Co.
P.O Box 121
Elbert, CO 80106

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For Mother

I would never think to leave out the challenging parts; it is how we know where we come from and what we have come through. I would also never think to be cruel with my truth. This is about honoring the path, honoring my family and honoring myself.

Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long;
While there are others living about us,
Never molested, though in the wrong.

Farther along we’ll know more about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand

it all by and by

W. A. Fletcher

I love you Mom


Many heartfelt thanks go out to those who read and reread the several drafts and title changes during the evolution of this book. My loving and supportive wife, Judy; my incredible family—Dennis, Judy, Beverly, Joe and his wife Jean, Mike, Joyce, David, Scott, Missy; my daughter Joi; my son in-law, Joshua; Jessica, Marita, Shelley, Shirley, Priscilla, Lori, Sazi, Kristi and Wendy. Thanks to Jill Bowling who gave me my first-draft edit. Special thanks to my editor, Barbara Bennett who spent many hours of rereads and edits. Thank you, Barbara for always greeting me with a smile and endless words of encouragement. You’re the best! I owe an incredible debt to all of my siblings who took a brave look back in order to help me piece our collective past together. Thank you all. I love you.







1. Sleep

2. The Ten

3. Dennis Lee

4. Judith Ann

5. Beverly Kay

6. Joseph Gilbert

7. Michael Ray

8. Joyce Elaine

9. David Allen

10. Jeanette Irene

11. Scott Evan

12. Melissa Lynn

13. Dad, Gilbert Joseph

14. Mother, Irene Wisehart

15. Church of Riley

16. Over lunch, Job 1:6

17. School

18. The Oak Tree

19. Christmas

20. The Second Coming

21. Anna



Jia Apple’s Oft Made to Wonder is not for the faint-of-heart reader. Dozens of memoirs have been written which transpose into the key of “nice,” that end up declaring, “and they all lived happily ever after.” I avoid those memoirs. I prefer the “Oh my God!!!” memoir. As I read, I thought Jia Apple was holding up a mirror and saying, “Look at your own family narrative” especially for those who grew up among the holiness. I, too, have been “oft made to wonder” who I would be had I not grown up in a “holiness” tradition. Reading about Jia’s parents, family and church stirred raw memories along the corridors of my soul. Jia Apple is a survivor extraordinaire! Others—too many others---have not survived such a childhood and adolescence. Oft Made to Wonder is not a one-read memoir. Rereading it, in order to write this endorsement, although knowing what was coming on the next page, in the next chapter, still ambushed me.  Am I glad I read Oft Made to Wonder? I am. Jia’s writing is a witness, much needed, asserting that one can survive the unimaginable, the indefensible. God—the real God---devises ways to bring the wounded home to his heart. Jia’s honesty and diligence in confronting memories and wrestling words and memories onto pages, is what someone---many someones—need to read today. Jia’s courageous hope captured on these pages will touch lives beyond her knowledge.

Harold Ivan Smith, DMIN, FT
21 November 2017

Olathe, Kansas


In all truth…

Although all of the historical events here concerning my family are true, I decided to leave out some delicate and sensitive subject matter out of respect for my family. All the things you read in these pages are events that happened just the way I am telling them, through the looking glass of my young eyes. The man I came to marry has decided to stay anonymous, so I have changed his name. I have done my best to accurately reflect the memories of my siblings in all cases. My siblings and I interchangeably refer to our mother as both Mom and Mother. My hope is that it will not confuse the reader but help explain the duality we dealt with throughout our lives.

The dreams I have recorded are ones I have had in the course of my lifetime; not all of them happened when I was a young girl. Some were after the fact and some before. There are many I have not mentioned here. There are also some that came to me as impressions and are not literal in the way we experience dreams as a societal norm. The visions I saw are true, although not all of them happened when I was a young girl. These I experienced as apparitions that had a more “physical” appearance. I have placed all of them into this time to help with the telling of this story, and there are some I haven’t mentioned at all. The dates I used for the dream sequences do not reflect the actual date of the dream but are dates that are significant to my life or the lives of my siblings. I have used these significant dates to move the reader through time but also to foretell the events to come.

My earnest desire here is to tell you a story of a family and, more specifically, of a girl who was able to walk into what seemed at times like a preordained and tragic life. A life that was decidedly difficult but was enmeshed with bravery, courage and a hope that she had a purpose on this earth.

I still believe this is true.



On November 16, 1973 at age 13, I dreamed I was standing in my front yard facing the railroad tracks. The same tracks I would often walk on and always wonder what it would be like to follow them to any place other than where I was. It was the same house where I was born. I’ve only ever lived here on Verdin Street in Oaklandon, Indiana. Standing there, I saw a baby appeared floating in front of me. Instantly I wondered whose baby it was but I knew it belonged to me. The baby was a girl and she had dark hair and dark eyes. As she looked at me, another baby appeared. This baby had blonde hair and golden-brown eyes. I held them in my arms because I was afraid they would drop to the ground. Just as I took them into my arms, another baby appeared. This one had black hair and Asian eyes.

I couldn’t hold three babies at once and didn’t know what to do. Just then, the blonde-haired baby disappeared, and I grabbed the third baby into my arms. I knew my inability to hold all three meant one had to go. It was very traumatic. I fell to my knees and cried...holding the two remaining babies in my arms.

I asked my Mom one day what a witness was. At the Wednesday night church service, the preacher had asked people if they wanted to give their testimony in front of the witnesses. “A witness is someone who listens to the truth,” she said. I am writing this so I have a witness, so that someone besides my Mother will always know my truth.

“A thorn of experience is worth a whole wilderness of warning.”

James Russell Lowell

Names and events have been changed and or modified as requested.

Chapter 1


April 12, 1974

I dreamed Jesus came for me just after I turned 14. I was lying on my bed, glowing yellow and pink. He came down from above me as I was lying there. He looked just like the image of him when the velvet and chalk artist would come to our church and draw the image of Christ while he was telling us a story about him. His hair was brown, his eyes were dark and kind. He looked directly into my eyes while floating above me and said, “Are you coming?” I sat up and reached toward him with my left hand, he reached for me with his right. As I reached for him my hand hit a glass plate. It was there between us and my palm landed flat against it. I could not go. I watched as he drifted away, keeping eye contact with me until he was out of sight. My heart sank. I had to stay.

Every day that I get to school I’m a little surprised. Sleep is one of the only things I’m really sure of, so waking up and doing anything right away seems difficult most days. If we had more money I could ask for a clock and get up on my own but we don’t so I am stuck with the toe pulling. Mom seems to think pulling my toe is a good alarm clock. She pulls my toe because it is the farthest away she can get from me and still wake me up. I have been known to take a swing at anyone trying to wake me. My sleep is deep, satisfying and precious to me and so getting me to a waking state has been tricky at best, even for my Mother. An alarm clock would give me a chance to figure it out on my own. Besides, many days Mom doesn’t wake up either.

I have been known to sleep for up to 19 hours in one stretch. I think if life is so challenging to make a person that tired, you should let them sleep, school or not. I’m pretty young as age is April 14, 1974. When I turned 14 I started feeling older than what I imagine other kids my age feel. I started caring about things that I never really noticed before when 14 hit me, and also about what was really true. Now I am going on 15 and my list of questions and concerns is growing. I am concerned about my dreams. I dream a lot and my dreams feel very real to me. This may be due to the amount of sleep I get, but my dreams are like another living world and I swear I have seen the future in some of them...and I don’t dare tell anyone what I’ve seen. There are times when I don't want to tell myself. I suppose if I thought it was going to be good, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to see it coming. As I see it today, some of it isn’t all that great. What I really want to believe is that it isn’t real and that dreams are just fluffy stuff that don’t matter, but I know different.

Today is Sunday and although it should be a day of rest, it is one of the busiest days of the week for my family. My Mom and Dad have a blue radio shaped like a breadbox and it fills our whole house with sound when the alarm goes off. On Sunday mornings it plays the local Christian radio music and Dad likes to play it loud enough to wake us all up. If it were just the radio I could probably sleep through it, but he steps it up a notch when he gets up and turns on the television. Usually the Jubilee Gospel Hour is going and they sing like they are all trying to reach God with their voices. My family knows it is Sunday. We all have to get up and go to church. I wonder if the rest of them feel like I do about it. There will be no sleeping in on Sunday unless you are deathly sick. The dueling sound machines in our house are my parents’ way of saying church is a celebration and we are going to spend the day giving it our all. I think that's what it’s about anyway. For me, it is duty. It is also something I do because if I tried not to, I would not survive my home life.

I’m guessing that the Apple family sleeping “sickness” is genetic, although I believe we have had a certain amount of training for it as well. All the babies that are born into our family start out in the baby bed in Mom’s and Dad’s room. It is a small cage-like bed with a vinyl mattress and just enough spring in it that we can hold onto the railing and jump high enough to almost launch out of there. There were times when hours would pass with no one coming. The only thing to do was look at the vast array of Avon bottles on Mom’s dresser and hope the door would open and someone would come to get you out. The only other option was sleep. Sleep has always seemed like the sweetest relief from disappointment and the reality of what was going on in our home.

My brothers and sisters all have the “sleep gene,” too. I wonder if their dreams are like mine. Most times they are like windows into a future that’s coming soon. This door of sleep is very important for me and yet there is so much I don’t understand about it. I don’t think it is a disease. I think we are all super tired for our own reasons and we have been given a gift of sleep. It seems like a crazy cool present and I am grateful for it. As good as we all are at it, I’m still not sure we ever get enough. The only best friend I have ever had besides my church best friend, because that is way different, is Lori Bragdon. Sometimes I tell her about the dreams I have, although I haven’t told anyone about the Jesus dream because I’m not sure it was a dream. Lori says, “Apple, with the dreams you have, you should write ’em down so you can show ’em to your kids one day.” I never write them down because I know I won’t forget them.

The only one who doesn’t sleep like the rest of us is my Dad. He works a lot and has a lot of rage, although you never really know when he will show it. Usually these days he is angry all the time. His anger is a silent one—until it is not. You can always feel it, though. It’s like a really hot stove. There’s fire in it and the closer you stand to it, the hotter it is. That’s my Dad these days.

Mom must be where we get the sleep gene. She sleeps a lot but I always think it is because of the medicine the doctors give her. They don’t understand her so they knock her out. Sometimes when she is lying in bed and I think she has had enough sleep, I try to wake her up. There are a lot of times like that. Mostly I worry about her. Sometimes she will wake up enough to try and talk to me. When that happens it looks like her tongue is too big inside her mouth and her words sound like her mouth is full of cotton. Then she falls back to sleep. There’s no trying to wake her when she’s like that. It's best just to keep an eye on her and let her sleep. She always wakes up sometime.

I hear Mom get up at night almost every night. It’s easy to tell where she is because the hardwood floors in our house squeak when you walk on them. She will get up, go to the bathroom, which is directly across the hall from the girls’ room where I sleep, then go to the kitchen and open the cabinet with the drinking glasses in it. The shelf above the glasses has her medicine on it. There are several vials with an assortment of pills in them and there is a brown bottle with strange red liquid in it. The label says, Noctec. I think that’s the one that makes her sleep. Sometimes I hear the pills as she is getting them. She turns on the water at the faucet to get a drink, then walks back to bed. I know she is asleep when she starts snoring.

Mom carries a lot of weight on her shoulders and needs to sleep. How she handles the constant drugs the doctors give her, I don’t know. I hope they help her somehow. It is in me to watch my Mom and make sure she doesn’t die in her sleep, so I check on her a lot. I’ve tended to her many times as she was sleeping like a rock. I’d get the lotion from her dresser top where it sits next to the dozen or so Avon bottles, each one filled with a different mixture of smells, each one different but strangely the same. Each bottle with a shape that was supposed to somehow express the smell in the bottle. Avon was forever coming out with new exotic potions that my Mother absolutely loved and even the lotion is from Avon and it has the smell of roses, sort of. The rose smell is her favorite.

Directly above Mom’s and Dad’s bed there is a little lamp. It is fastened to the wall in the middle of them just above the headboard. It has a little lampshade with fuzzy little balls all over it. I think it is a good idea having a bed lamp and the fuzz balls are interesting to me. As is my custom when spending watchful time with her as she sleeps, I rub lotion on her legs and arms and comb her hair. It is difficult to comb her hair while she is lying partly on it, but I manage. I play the game of lifting the dead weight of her arms, and then letting them drop onto the bed with no resistance. If she is knocked out from the medicine, she never wakes up until it runs its course so I can move her any which way with her never knowing it. She has the softest palms that I have ever felt on both of her hands, like the softest silk. I love running my hand over hers. As she sleeps, her fingers fold into her palm with her middle finger leading slightly. I flatten her fingers out to see if they will fold back to that spot and they always do. I compare my hands with hers and I believe mine are soft, too, but hers have the magical softness. She likes to keep her nails long and polished but oftentimes they need to be cleaned and done again. Every once in a while she will wake up just enough to say that it feels good to her…so I keep doing it. It feels as though I am comforting her and this makes me happy. These sleeping watchful times are how I love my Mother and how I feel her love come back to me.

I never touch Dad when he sleeps and Dad doesn't snore. Besides sleeping like a regular person, Dad will take a nap in the recliner on Sunday afternoons after he reads the “Herald of Holiness.” All of those early Sunday morning musical calisthenics must wear him out. I know it does me. Dad's naptime is usually the time I will go ride my bike around the square. We ten kids don't really nap. We are more like bears going down for a long winter...every night.

Chapter 2

The Ten

April 16, 1974

I dreamed there was a tree ripe with apples standing in our front yard. The branches were heavy and soon winter was to come. Many people passed by the tree and took the fruit and ate it. As time passed the tree lost its leaves and looked as though it was dead, but it was merely winter. Eventually spring came and so did the apple blossoms…then a soft and beautiful sound came from inside the house. I took a peek inside and there we all were in a circle around the dining room table. We were singing.

My family is really two families. I think we could be more than that, but two is manageable. It is because there are so many of us and so many years spreading us out. The last time Judy and Dennis were home, I think it was Christmas, I heard them talking about when
they were kids and everything was normal. Mom took care of the children and Dad worked. Things were light, carefree, adventurous and fun. I sat there listening, and had I not already heard other stories they had told, I might’ve believed them. They lived on a farm and then moved to the house on Verdin street, the one closer to the tracks, then to the house where I was born, still on Verdin. Judy says there was lots of music and laughter—mostly Mom's laughter. Mom and Dad invited family and friends over for evening jam sessions, and they followed their music with Mom's chocolate cake and homemade ice cream, which Dad and the guys hand churned. Those do sound like better times to me, although I still think Dad was taken with mean spells of violence.

They all went to the Mt. Zion church, but Mom says she and Dad got saved at the Cadle Tabernacle downtown. I heard later on that it was made to look like the Alamo and had over 10,000 seats in it. I’m sure it must have been a long walk to get to the altar to get saved. Getting “saved” means you decide to live with Jesus inside of you in order to make you good and go to heaven. Come to find out, Cadle Tabernacle was at one time the biggest church in the country and Carole Lombard sold over two million dollars worth of war bonds there right before her plane crashed going back home to Hollywood. It also was used for boxing matches and even a rally for the Ku Klux Klan. I guess it makes sense that it was a place for sinners to get right with God. No matter what, though, it was a special place and it brought my parents to their knees. All of us younger kids have only ever known the “saved” Mom and Dad.

The old Regulator clock that hangs in our dining room was from the Mt. Zion church and I'm pretty sure Dennis remembers all of that. The first four are usually the ones that talk about Mt. Zion and what that was like. Sometime between then and now, my parents converted to the Nazarenes and, well, here we are.

Mom and Dad were both born in 1920. My Dad is a few months older than Mom, as he is a Cancer and Mom is a Sagittarius. I just recently saw my horoscope in the back of a Seventeen magazine that was left in my Home Economics class at school. That’s how I know what my parents’ signs are. I looked at their horoscopes and wondered if they knew they each had a sign. I’m not going to bring it up because I’m fairly sure they would say it was of the Devil. I’m a Libra because my birthday is October 3rd. I checked all of my brothers’ and sisters’ birthdates and what their signs are. It took me a few minutes but it was super interesting to me since before seeing this, I had no idea there was such a thing as a zodiac.

Imagine being able to read something about your fortune or fate that was decided by the moment you were born…even if you were born to someone hearing the voices of God and the Devil. This is amazing to me. I try to imagine that the moment I came screaming out of my Mother, the stars were lined up with other planets and moons and suns and maybe Jesus was there with a few of his important angels and they watched as this little girl with dark curly hair emerged. Of course they talked to each other about me and how I would be a dreamer and an artist who could play ball like no other girl in Oaklandon, not to mention being a pretty good singer. I think Jesus was there for sure since he did come for me later.

For some reason I like Jesus better than God. God scares me. I get the feeling no one else in my family cares as much about Jesus as I do, but we never really talk about it. I never talk about what I am thinking…especially about Jesus or God because I get the feeling someone would kill me just like they killed him. He talked way too much and they killed him. I don’t even care if God brings me back to life again because dying has got to be scary and hard. Maybe Jesus didn’t have a choice and maybe I won’t either, but I’m keeping my mouth least for now. Maybe all of us kids are like that because no one else seems to be talking either.

I have dreamed about all of my brothers and sisters and also about people I don't know and somehow I think I’ve been cursed by these dreams. I’ve also seen angels and demons…for real. Oh, and angels don’t always have wings. Sometimes I think I understand my dreams but mostly they scare me. I asked my Mom if she dreamed and she just stared at me and said, “I don’t know.” I think she does, but sometimes when Mom has her voices talking to her, it’s hard to get her focused on something else.

I think dreams are as real as anything. Everything has to be real. You can’t just say to a kid, “Well, that isn’t real.” If it isn’t, then what’s the point? If dreams, visions or daydreams aren’t real, then why do we have them at all? I think it is all real and we just have to do the best we can to sort it all out.

Jesus is the closest thing I can find for answers so I pay attention to what he says. He spoke in parables, and parables are stories with a message that is supposed to lead you to something that is like the truth, or at least that is what the preachers say. This is what I think my dreams are like. It frustrates me to no end because I feel if I were only smarter, I would know how to sort it all out…for myself and maybe to help my brothers and sisters, too. I get the feeling that Mom has a window she’s looking into and that she has a gift, but she is fighting for her life against those drugs the doctors give her and it’s hard to get her to talk about it.

Honestly, I don't really believe everything was all that normal for my older brothers and sisters when they were kids. They say it was, back then, because now is so much worse than what they can imagine living with. Beverly said that Dad locked Dennis up in the rabbit cage for doing something he didn’t like and that doesn’t sound all that normal to me. The first five all remember the time that someone told a lie to Dad and then he tied them all up until someone confessed. God knows it wasn’t the liar who confessed, so that wasn’t justice. I know it was the one with the biggest heart who confessed and got the beating. I’m just sayin' this all seems kinda violent to me, even if it was mixed with happy times. What I know for sure is that in our family, beatings are how my Dad tries to fix things. Even Mom has taken a switch after me but she doesn’t lose control like Dad does.

I really like the story about the first four on the farm and how Joe was a baby and they had him in a baby carriage and someone decided to rope the carriage to the goat. I guess all kinds of craziness happened after that. It was all long before I was born, but there are pictures of that time. Whether it was normal or not, I’m glad they had some fun without killing themselves.

My sister Judy calls me a miracle. She puts her hands on my face and gets this faraway look in her eyes like she isn't telling me everything she knows and she is just about to cry. Sometimes she does cry a little but then she stops. She does this because her heart is good and full of love, and she knows the truth about our lives at home. My truth is my own but every last ten of us has to come to terms with this very same thing. I’m pretty sure we all have our own truth and each each truth is a little bit different.

I remember the two bouts I had with the measles. At the time, I knew I was sick but they say I nearly died. I was in quarantine and Judy was the only one allowed to come into the room where I was. There were blankets over the windows because light might kill me. Everyone else was outside praying for me. That was back when Doc Miller used to make house calls, and in my sick haze of a memory I can still see him coming in with his black bag and his stethoscope hanging around his neck. He always smelled like cigarettes and medicine. As sicknesses go, our family sickness is the strep throat and we have seen Doc Miller the most about that. I remember when my brother Joe and I both had it at the same time and we had to walk to Dr. Miller’s office because that was the only way we had to get there. We cut over the tracks and then through the field behind Bough’s Drug. When Joe and I got there, I passed out in the office. I woke up on a bed and I have no idea how I got home. They gave me pills to take and because I hadn’t eaten anything I just threw them back up. I was pretty sick then.

My aunt Lillie, when she sees me, says, “Oh Jeanettie, we thought we lost you. You died and Irene threw you into the air to get you breathing again.” I don't remember one part of that and it feels sort of weird to think I was dead and came back to life in the air. Maybe that’s why I like birds so much, and who knows, maybe that’s why I’m a dreamer. Maybe part of me is still trying to get to that other world…the world where we go when we sleep.

My sister Judy hates birds so much that she will actually freak out when one gets too close to her. I’m pretty sure that’s a phobia. When she was a little girl and they all lived on the farm, they had a bad mean rooster named Henry. They tell stories about how this rooster would chase them and attack them. It must be that Henry really tortured my sister for her to have such a fear of all the feathered creatures. Eventually, I believe, Henry got cooked up for dinner. I feel bad every time I see her being afraid of birds because I think they are amazing, and flying in my dreams is the best thing I can think of. I can fly in my dreams as well as any bird I’ve ever seen. I’ve had so many flying dreams that when I was about five years old I would go out in my front yard and twirl myself around and around and then jump up to see if I could catch air and take off. There were a few times when I almost did. That feeling is magical.

The next best thing to catching air was riding my bike around the square or climbing the apple tree in our front yard. I still climb it and the big oak tree in the back. The giant oak is so high that you can see all of Oaklandon and highway 67 and beyond. If you know where to look you can see the Oaklandon Sales where my Dad has worked for over 30 years. It’s tricky climbing the oak tree because the trunk is too big to shimmy, and the boards that were once nailed there that were supposed to be some kind of ladder have busted off, and never worked that well anyway. The limbs are so big and long that you have to start climbing from the end of one that is low enough to the ground to reach it. Then you climb toward the trunk and work your way up. The very top of the oak tree is hollow because it got hit by lightning once and was left that way. If you climb up there and take a look inside that hollow, you might just see a whole family of raccoons. That’s what happened to me once. I think I was more shocked to see them than they were to see me, and they were pretty surprised. Since I was so high up, I got down in a hurry. I didn’t want them to think I meant them any harm.

There are a few things we do as a family: we eat supper and Sunday lunch, we sing, we laugh, we pray and we sleep. When I was little, but not so much now, before we went to bed at night all of us kids would cram into Mom’s and Dad's bedroom, which wasn't very big, and pray. It was always Mom and Dad kneeling next to their bed and then us other kids just crammed in there the best way we could fit. I believed the premium seat was by the door. This would ensure you’d be the first one out. Praying has always felt weird to me. I think mostly it is because it is something we do based on an idea about someone we can't see and don't really know. Anyway, who gets together in a group of people to talk to someone who is dead? Maybe it is because God and Jesus are invisible—and there's more power to it if you talk with other people hearing it—like it proves they are there or something. I’m thinking if there are rules like that for God and Jesus, then the same rules go for everyone. We should talk to everyone we like who has died. Maybe we could pray to Abraham Lincoln and ask for help with the black people who are still being treated badly because they are black. Maybe we could pray to the ones who were truly good people and ask for them to show us a better way. But no, we pray to one Dad and his Son.

I like Jesus a lot, but I think there is something not right about it all. This is when the preacher would say that it is actually the Holy Spirit that ties it all up into a prayer package. So, yeah, I believe we all have a spirit or a kind of energy that is unique to us, and I guess it would be the same for Jesus. I would just call it the spirit of Jesus instead of making up a whole new person. If I hadn’t seen Jesus come for me in his Vacation Bible School body, I would say his spirit came, but I am pretty sure it was him. Anyway, my family is bent on keeping things the way they are, but not so much me.

Mom really believes in Jesus, God and what they call the Holy Ghost. She believes so much that I am pretty sure she would die for it all. Because of my Mother, I think we're all at least curious about what might be really going on. I think my Dad does it all because he wants to make Mom happy, but I’m not sure if that is true or not. Since I turned 14, all of these things are critical to me. I don’t know what happened to me, but now I have to figure it out. I have to believe if I have questions inside of me, then the answers will come, too. This is called going with my gut.

From what I can tell, Jesus is a real guy from history and since there is so much stuff out there that you can’t see with your physical eyes, there’s a mystery about how it is all put together. Each person should just figure it out for themselves. But under no circumstances should anyone think they can decide another person's life for them. This is why I want to start my own life away from here. I don't know what my siblings want, none of them talk to me about these things. This is, to me, the most important thing to do and I vow to figure it out in any and every way I can. The secret hope I hold in my heart is that all of us kids want that, too, but in our own way.

Aside from my quest, it is good to know the family ground rules: be home for dinner; be careful not to grab the white piece of chicken that belongs to Dad; go to church on Sunday; don't swear; don't fight; laugh at morbid stuff late at night in the kitchen with whoever will talk to you; hide the Pepsis so you can have one later in the week, but take your life into your own hands if you steal one you didn't hide. Oh, and never, ever cross Dad. This could be the family creed and on that I think the ten of us would agree.

Chapter 3

Dennis Lee

May 5, 1974

I dreamed that Dennis was living in a high tower. His wife and boys were there with him. His life was that of royalty. He was a king. Then a vicious storm came and beat wildly against his house. It swayed as though it would break in two. His family was frightened and confused but his son, Denny, turned into a beautiful angel and calmed the storm. As Denny flew into the heavens, my brother Dennis turned into an Indian chief and began dancing around a fire. There was the ghost of a white wolf dancing with him as the flames were raging higher and higher.

My oldest brother, Dennis, is a Libra like me. I guess we’re a lot alike although I don’t really see it. He’s a lot older than me and he’s already gone through college and is married with two sons, Denny and Andy. Andy was just born two months ago so he is brand new. His wife is Buelah and they live in Broadripple, which is a town about a 20-minute drive from Oaklandon. He’s a preacher in the church of the Nazarenes. Mom and Dad are really proud of Dennis and I am pretty sure he is super important. Mom told me that Dennis is on a great mission, and seeing how important God and Jesus are to her, I bet it is because he decided to be a preacher.

I don’t see me ever being a preacher. There are times when I want to talk with Dennis like a real brother, but he seems so much older than me with a lot of important church business to take care of. Although there was that time not long ago when Dennis and I went to hear a guy they called God’s Smuggler. His actual name is Andrew van der Bijl but people called him the smuggler name or Brother Andrew. He was speaking at the Shubert Theater in Indianapolis. Dennis came and picked me up and he and I went together. I really don’t remember any other time in my entire life that he and I did anything together except play catch.

Brother Andrew talked about how he smuggled Bibles into communist countries. It seemed pretty miraculous how he didn’t get caught, but I didn’t have a lot of interest in Bibles. I was mostly wondering why my brother took me there. The part I am pretty sure I will never forget is what happened afterward. He drove me down to a place near home that is called Devil’s Elbow. It is a really sharp turn and if you are driving too fast you are sure to wreck. He parked there and began to tell me something like it was super important. He said, “I need to tell you something about yourself. You are a leader. You may not know it yet and it might be a long time before you understand it, but you will one day.”

He’s right. I don’t understand it.

Dennis is always really nice to me and I love him very much. He is also the one who told me to put on a shirt when I turned 13. Up until that time, I was pretty much bare chested as much as I wanted to be. I didn’t really see myself as a girl anyway and no one really told me any different. Anyway, he told me and then I knew I was a girl and had to wear a shirt. Soon after that I started getting boobs so it was the end of my boy life. That was super hard on me.

Religion seems like it is his life. There is this way that he gets super serious about it. I guess you have to be like that in order to be a preacher. His preaching has good stories in it and he has a way of making me laugh every time even if I have heard the stories before. Dennis is a better preacher than the ones I hear at the Fortville Nazarene church. I hear most other preachers talking about Jesus and then they read from the Bible and there's a lot of really scary stuff that makes me feel bad. Sometimes they get red in the face and spit all the way to the second-row pews. That’s why the real serious ones hold onto a hanky so they can wipe the sweat and spit as they go. I’ve watched them get so worked up that I thought surely they were going to explode.

I’ve heard these preachers say that Jesus is the one that makes us not bad, but I don't think that is right. I'm not smart like the preachers and I don't study the Bible all the time like they do, so I may not know the real truth. I am just going by what I feel is right. Jesus was a man with a real big idea but I think it is pretty simple, too. I think my brother Dennis is like that. His stories help people. I think he may be more like Jesus than he knows. Honestly, I think this Bible thing really screws up people's heads. It's just a book. It is a book about some stuff that is pretty cool, but it is still just a book. I think we should just pay more attention to each other.

I like the Jesus parts. He seems real to me and good. He tells bad people what he thinks of them to their faces, and then he helps out people who are having a hard time with life. He says he and the guy who is God are so close that he calls him “Dad” and then he says they are the same person. I think that is super cool and super personal. Then one of the biggest things he says is that I'm the same as Him and I can do that, too. I think the Bible should end right there. The parts about God killing some people and treating some other people special is lame, and I’m pretty sure that is not the God Jesus called “Dad.”

There is a lot more to Dennis than being a preacher. When he was in high school, he was a great ballplayer. He was a pitcher and I guess he was so good that a farm league wanted to let him train with them. Mom said he gave up ball to go and be a preacher. This seemed like the best thing in the world to Mom. I was always a little let down by his choice, but it was his life and I'm sure he had a good reason for it. I've played catch with him and I know for a fact that he is still a good ballplayer. He had me set up to catch for him one day at the corner of the house by Mom’s and Dad's bedroom window. He wound up and threw me the most outrageous curve ball I have ever seen. It was like magic, I swear. That ball hit me because only a World Series catcher could have snagged that one, and he set me up and made me keep catching his balls. I think this was the most special moment I have ever had with my brother. Maybe he is where I get my ballplaying from, I dunno, but I know I'm a better ballplayer now because of him and I am not afraid of curve balls.

Dennis is the leader of our family because he is the first-born son, and I think he does a good job of it. When he comes home to visit, it is always a big deal. I think Mom and Dad get most excited when Dennis comes home. My dream about him scares me a little because I’m not sure I know what it means. It's not like he's really a king and they really live in a tower. Denny is a great kid. I could see that part being true.

Buelah is Dennis' wife and she is beautiful. She never has one single hair out of place and she walks with perfect posture. Her tablecloth and napkins always match and so do her cups, plates, saucers and bowls. She is a perfect hostess even with two little boys. I've never seen anything like her, even as a preacher’s wife, and they are usually like that ... very proper. Buelah takes the cake. She could start a preachers wives’ school of etiquette - for real. They both have a good humor about them and never seem to ever fight. I think they will always be together.

Mother loves babies and looks at them the complete opposite way she looks when she’s getting messages from the other world. Her eyes light up, her eyebrows lift and she smiles so wide that her ears lift up on both sides. She always makes this little sound that sounds like she's blowing air through her teeth and the babies love it. I have tried it on a couple of babies and it works. Ppssht, or something like that. I love it when this happens. If you smile with your whole face you're a shoe-in with most babies. I guess when you have ten kids you figure out stuff like that. When Dennis holds up Denny and Andy for Mom to talk to them, it is super happy. It’s easy to tell that my brother loves his boys. They mean everything to him. My brother Dennis is the best parent a kid could ever imagine having and Buelah, too. I’m pretty sure they are close to being perfect people.

Chapter 4

Judith Ann

June 30, 1974

In my dream I saw Judy in a meadow, she was standing there as the sun was coming up. She was wearing a pretty white dress that seemed very comfortable. Her skin was white and smooth. If I didn’t know it was my sister, I would have thought she was an angel. It was a new and beautiful day. All around her were a field of flowers and each one was dancing near her. At first I thought it was the wind but then I realized all the flowers were alive. They were beautiful and playful and there was a mist swirling around her as though the morning dew was kissing her. It was as if she were the Mother of the earth itself. Judy wore a strand of flowers around her head like a halo and there was nothing as beautiful and as loving as she. She danced with the flowers while they all sang and laughed.

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