I love the Amish! I love everything about them, from their clothes, meticulous farms, buggies and horses, to their home cooking and unique way of life. Each time I travel to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I am in awe of the fresh air that fills my lungs, clean clothes hanging on the clothesline, children running barefoot through the yard, mothers, daughters and grandmothers quilting together, and fathers, grandfathers and sons working in the fields. I love their selflessness and their willingness to help each other on any given day. Most of all, I love how deeply they care for their elderly.
My curiosity with the Amish started several years ago when I stayed at the lovely Churchtown Inn, in the small village of Narvon, Pa. The Inn is located right across the street from one of the oldest churches in the area. While I was visiting, I spent a few hours a day, walking on the back roads around the Inn. I passed some lovely farms and waved at the children, as they ran through their yards having fun; as children love to do. While the children enjoyed their summer afternoon, two Amish ladies were sitting on their porch snapping beans. Being friendly, I waved and to my surprise, they waved back.
As I continued my walk, I was awe struck at the beauty of the land. Every where I looked, the colors, scents, order, and pride of ownership, was evident. My first walk, paved the way for me to really want to get to know those ” plain and simple” people. I wanted to know everything about them; their likes and dislikes, favorite foods, family life and quilting. But most all, I wanted and needed to understand their deep faith in God.
How it all started…….
My broken heart…….
The year was 1994. It was fourteen days before Christmas, when my husband had a massive heart attack. He died instantly. He was fifty-one and I was forty-six. Needless to say, I was in shock, devastated, and could not understand how this happened to the man I loved so dearly. I had to be strong for our four grown children.But inside, I was beyond hurt; so beyond, that I lost my faith.
Mother’s Day 1995…
On Mother’s Day, my four children and their families, gave me a very nice gift certificate to the Churchtown Inn. Their generosity gifted me with a three night stay. I was ready for a change of scenery. The months leading up to May, were overwhelming. I needed time to sort things out. I needed to try and find a way back to being me; or at least to find some peace. I made my reservation for the third week in June. It was a sunny, warm, summer day when I started on my journey, a journey that would change my life forever.
The Inn was beautiful; my cup of tea. The owners at that time, took me under their wings and became almost like a family to me; and that was only the first day. I remember sitting out in the back yard of the Inn, surrounded by the most beautiful flowers, I have even seen. Admiring the panorama view of green grass, rolling hills dotted with splashes of colors and farms, I felt more relaxed than I had in months.
For the next few days, I walked the nearby country roads filling my senses with a purity that only this area seems to have. Some folks waved from their buggies and some passed with their eyes glued to the road. I passed a farm with beautiful quilts hanging on a clothesline. As I stood by the road amazed at the colors and patterns of the quilts, an older woman motion for me to come and take a closer look. I was flattered. Up close, I could see the beautiful quilting stitches. It filled my heart with joy. She was very nice to me and thanked me for stopping by.
As I continued walking, I noticed children working in the garden. I could hear their laughter as they pulled weeds and picked vegetables. A little further down the road, I spied a farm nestled at the end of a fairly long lane. An Amish man was behind a horse drawn plow. I stood, watched and thought, ” What hard work!”
On my way back to the Inn, I stopped by a little bridge and just listened. It was quiet except for some birds singing their beautiful songs, almost in harmony. It was at that bridge that something start stirring in my heart…
It was Sunday morning when Stu suggested I bring my coffee out to the front of the Inn. He was waiting for me at a small white metal table. Stu held his finger up to his lips and said, ” Listen.” Soon I could hear the clopping of horses hooves hitting the macadam road. And there right in front of the Inn was a parade of buggies, heading to someone’s home for Sunday worship. It was a beautiful sight! Stu and I sat at that table for a long while. He became my teacher that Sunday morning and I became his student. He taught me that the Amish believe religion should be practiced everyday and not be adorning. They also believe that God called them into a simple life of faith and humility putting family and helping others at the top of their daily lives.
As I listened, the bells from the church across the street, started to ring and Stu invited to go with him. It was quaint but beautiful. The people were friendly. As I sat their, I thought about what Stu had taught me and prayed for God to help me find peace. A simple peace of starting over.
The next day, I took what I thought would be my last walk on a road behind the Inn. It was a beautiful morning. The road I chose had a small pond and of course a farm. As I walked by, I once again thought of Stu’s lessons. I thought about the folks living in the house with the green shades and the gray buggy sitting outside the barn, minus the horse. Then suddenly, my mind changed gears, and I could almost see the beautiful prayer caps that the woman and girls wore each and everyday. It was a simple thin white cap that was put on early in the morning and taken off before bed. A cap that invited prayer throughout the day. It was on that walk that I decided to stay a few more days at the Inn.
Stu invited me to ride along to the Amish farm I had walked by the day before. He did not have to ask me twice! He told me that Anna made the best shoe fly pies in the area. When we arrived, he introduced me to the family. They were very nice and polite. As Stu talked with Anna for a few minutes, I tried to a take in all the sights that I could. The children were doing their chores and looked up from time to time. Their home was very simple but very clean and orderly. My eyes kept going to the pray cap. I just could not understand why that was so important to me. Was God using the cap to help me find the peace I was looking for?
Could it be that simple?……..
That afternoon, I sat in the garden thinking about the last few days. In my mind, I could see the prayer cap, the simple life that the Amish lived, their love of family and their plain ways. I looked up to Heaven and asked God, ” Could it be that simple?” Right then and there, I prayed, first, asking God to forgive me , then asking for peace. A peace that would heal my heart. After I prayed that simple prayer, I thanked Him for leading me to the Churchtown Inn and the lessons I learned from the Amish.
My heartfelt thoughts…….
I believe that God works in mysterious ways. I believe that He nudged my children to give me a gift certificate to the Inn. I also believe that he worked through Stu to teach me a little about the Amish ,and that He guided my steps on those back roads. I was so filled with grief that I pushed Him aside. But as always, He gently brought me back in His time.
The Amish have a saying. ” For sure and for certain.” Well, I am for sure and for certain, that found my peace in a garden at the Churchtown Inn. A peace in knowing that God is always with me, no matter what happens in my life.
One more thought…..
Fifteen years ago, I married a wonderful man, whom I believe my first husband would have approved of one hundred percent. He is a kind and gentle man who shares my strong and simple fa