Circles and Intersections – Part III

Circles.  In order to share this circle, I need to provide a bit of my family’s German history.  Specifically my maternal grandfather’s.  It all centers around a small village in the northern District of Lippe Germany:  Varenholtz.  When we visited Varenholtz in 1998, we found a landmark never mentioned in any of the oral (where

Circles
Schloss Varenholtz

most of our information came from) or written (which was not abundant) history of our family:  Schloss (Castle) Varenholz.

This castle was the seat of the knights de turns, (of Varenholtz, under Heinrich the Lion (1323). Built to its current size in 1596 by Simon VI, the son of a staunch Catholic Count, who ruled the region and fiercely resisted the Protestant movements in the area.  When the elder Count died, the care of Simon VI, his son, was left to count Phillip of Hessen.  Although the Count gave strict orders that his son be educated in the Catholic faith, Phillip did not adhere to this request and Simon was educated as a Lutheran, and later studied “at a reformed school in Strasbourg” where he became a follower of John Calvin (1503 – 1564).  It was in this way that the area was a mix of Lutheran and Calvinistic influence.  

Circles:  Regetmeir to Righmeier

My maternal great great  grand-father, Frederic Rightmeier,  immigrated to the United States in 1864 at the age of 14.  (I say immigrated, but in reality he and his brother were stowaways on a ship to New York.  It is said they jumped ship in New York harbor and swam ashore , but that is another story).  The reason for this desperate trip is that my ancestors were tenant farmers for the local land owner.  He was a descendant of Simon VI.

The usual arrangements were , they worked a portion of the land for a place to live, food and some small share of the crops they grew.  During the time of my ancestors there was a long-term drought and the land was simply not producing.  In addition, the political and religious climate was unsettled.  In other words the feudal system was breaking down, and the life they knew did not appear sustainable.  Word of the opportunities in America sparked by desperation, drove the young Frederic and his brother August  to make the voyage.

 Fast forward to 1984.  My husband was accepted into the Protestant Theology program at the University of Strasbourg, France.  I took a year-long pause in my career with the FAA and enrolled in the débutante French language program at the same university and earned a degree in French.  Do you see it?  A rather large albeit historically faint circle
1) My great great grandfather took a leap of desperate faith looking for a way forward.  He:
  • never learned to read or write.
  • never went to school.
  • lived seven years with a German family in Iowa during which he earned his freedom and became a naturalized US citizen.
  • spoke primarily German even after he came to the US.
  • become a land-owner by homesteading in northern Kansas a status he could never have achieved in his native Germany.  It was a hard life.  It was full of risks, heartache and even some disappointment but the land he worked was his.
  • was rich.  Little did he know he not only took a leap of faith for himself, but for those who would come after.
His son went to grammar school, his grand-son, my grandfather graduated high school. They were both farmers but owned land.
2)  Frederic’s great great granddaughter, (me) only knows the farm life through the many visits, some extended, to the farm.  I went to college, had a great career in aviation and in 1984 took my own leap of faith and returned to Europe to attend a university that only the German Count  that Frederic Rightmeier grew up working the land for, could hope to attend.  I am married to a man who earned a Doctorate from that same university.  The University of John Calvin, Goethe and later Louis Pasteur.
It only took 450 years!  An upward circle of momentum set in motion by my ancestor.
For me, this and the myriad of stories from other’s lives confirms that there is a personal God.  It reassures me He takes a personal interest, without usurping my personal right to make my own choices (or the choices of others I encounter) yet is somehow guiding my steps.  I want to cooperate with that God, for I know that in that cooperation my Stonebridge will be surer, grander and smoother than if I stumble along on my own.
Hove you encountered any faint or large circles in the background of your life? 

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