For those of you who do not know, my dad’s side of the family is German Baptist Brethren, some in the Old Order and some in the New. What that means is that my father grew up in a way similar to the Amish. You’ve probably seen German Baptists around and thought that they were Amish. I’ve seen them at the Creation Museum, the Oregon Coast, Kelley’s Island in Lake Erie, Gettysburg, and even my local McDonald’s.
My Pappaw moved his family to Caroll County, Indiana, from Carroll County, Maryland, in my dad’s mid-childhood. Dad took me to visit his boyhood home when I was 10 or so. Although I remember a couple of tidbits of the trip, my brain has lost most of it. I don’t think that as a child I could appreciate the gift. It’s funny. As I’m tardy in writing this post (as usual), we have already visited George Washington’s Mount Vernon and in less than a week we will visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, paying hefty prices to do so! But I would give ANYTHING just to tour that rural property in Union Bridge, Maryland with my dad again now that I am an adult.
To have him walk beside me, showing me his play places and secret refuges.
To hear him telling stories of his happy times there…sad times, fun times, family times, chore times.
To point out to me where my Grandma Alice hung the laundry.
Or where he played with his dog.
Any stories he would tell.
The current occupants could not be sweeter. I must admit that it’s intimidating to walk up to someone’s door to ask access, although I know that I wasn’t the first. But that fear melted away as soon as I met them.
It turns out that they’re a homeschooling Christian family, just like we are. She amiably led me to the two objects of my quest: my dad’s handprints in the barn’s concrete threshold and the springhouse. The only things I remembered of my first pilgrimage here thirty-some years ago.
My Pappaw cut every one of these boards from logs and assembled them into this barn.
In 1955 my dad submerged his thoughtful 10-year-old hands into wet concrete and carved his name beside them.
My 10-year-old hands overlayed his on my past visit. And on this day, my children’s hands did the same. I cannot express the joy.
I’m told that my aunt used to read on the roof of this springhouse…
…and that this tree was here when my dad was.
We prayed with the family before leaving. I may have arrived a stranger, but I left a Sister and a friend. Would you please stop and pray a special prayer of blessing right now for this family who holds my treasured heritage with smiling hearts and open hands?
We also visited the Beaver Dam Brethren Church and Cemetery down the road. No Brethren worship there now, as they have left the area, but thankfully there was a husband-and-wife couple there mowing the lawn. It turns out that the wife grew up in Carroll County, Indiana, and they had seen my Uncle Jim at a funeral there the day before! (For a people group without the internet, they sure are “connected!” The Brethren I met on the Oregon Coast last summer, as well as on Kelly’s Island, OH, a few summers before that, had just seen my Uncle Jim, too!)
Anyway, this is the church of my forefathers, the Diehl family.
This is where they hitched their horses.
This is where they worshipped.
This is where they broke bread.
This is where they mourned.
This is where my dad dropped a pocketful of acorns on the wooden floor during Meeting and received a “reward” from his father when they returned home.
I wonder how many times he and my aunts and uncles toddled or clomped on these stairs…
…or how frequently my Grandma Alice or Granny Strine slid their hands along this railing?
The nearby stone building below is another Meeting House (Church) where my grandpa met with the Brethren. Someone must have bought it and then built their house adjoining it!
I found this tombstone of a Diehl who was born in the 1700s! My roots are deep here. My blood is in this soil. My heart feels it.
The location was as gloriously beautiful as the day’s weather. I could not have asked for a better time. I’m sure that my children didn’t “connect” any more than I did on my visit in the 1980s, but it does my heart good to know that they have been there and can do so again in the future.
How is it possible that I can be so amazingly satisfied and yet yearn so passionately for more?