Becoming Almost Amish: Nature

Today we continue my Becoming Almost Amish series, where we look at 10 Amish principles to live by and I share how I have applied or plan to apply them in my own life to work towards a more simple, sustainable lifestyle. Each of these principles and strategies were inspired by Nancy Sleeth’s book Almost Amish.

Amish Principles to Live By—guidelines for a simpler, slower, more sustainable life:

  1. Homes are simple, uncluttered, and clean; the outside reflects the inside.
  2. Technology serves as a tool and does not rule as a master.
  3. Saving more and spending less brings financial peace.

Amish Principle #4: Time spent in God’s creation reveals the face of God.

“One way we show our love for God is by loving what he loves. If God loves his creation, so should we.”

“A Garden cultivates gratitude, reminding us that every ounce of food that passes our lips ultimately comes from God. And as any experienced gardener will attest, a garden keeps us humble—constantly aware that the enemy, entropy, is very much alive.”

Back in college I spent a summer volunteering in Ireland with three teammates. One night while wandering the Irish countryside on our way back to our hostel, we stumbled across Mussenden Temple and Downhill Estate, which sits atop a cliff overlooking the sea. My three teammates were in total awe, and had quite the spiritual experience in that moment. Meanwhile I was thinking “I guess this is cool, but not nearly as cool as that worship concert we went to a few weeks ago with hundreds of old people all singing hymns together” (which, I should mention, my teammates thought was the lamest thing ever). We realized at that point in time that this was the perfect example of our different “spiritual pathways.” I never thought I would connect to God through nature, and then I moved to North Idaho. I still don’t feel the connection as deeply as others (like my husband, whose favorite place to be is out on the water or up in the mountains), but I can now appreciate the closeness that comes only when you’re in nature, unplugged.

Here are a few of Nancy’s suggestions for embracing God through nature:

Grow a garden

This one I can actually get excited about! Ever since I started my health journey, I’ve been interested in growing my own food. It’s taken me a couple of years of trial and error, but I am proud to report that my garden did really well this year! It is so exciting to see things growing, transforming from the tiny seed into a full fruit-producing plant. I’ve learned a lot about the earth and things like companion planting, which plants need which nutrients to thrive, and lots of science things that I never thought I would be interested in. My work with the Inland Northwest Food Network has definitely helped me in this area as I learn about seasonal eating, eating “root to leaf” and preservation techniques after harvest. These are all things that our ancestors did out of necessity, but unfortunately the wisdom and techniques haven’t been passed down like they used to. Every once in awhile I stop to think about how God designed all of these systems, and it blows my mind!

Pack a picnic

We had a goal of eating dinner at the beach once a week this summer, but I think we only did it a couple of times. It’s such an easy way of getting out into nature, and who doesn’t love a little al fresco dining?!

Pick up trash

Ok, I complain a lot about the excessive amount of trash on the side of the highway. Especially during the summer-it looks like people are actually emptying their garbage cans onto the side of the road. But not until I was reading this book did I ever stop and think about doing something  about it. Our church hosted a trash pick-up this summer which was a big success. I wasn’t able to participate since bending over and pregnancy don’t really go well together, but this is definitely an area I want to be more intentional in, especially when it comes to teaching our kids about such things.

Plant a tree

This is also something that I had never thought about until I read this book, but I can definitely see the value in it. We love the tree in our front yard—which someone planted a LONG time ago. What sort of things could I be doing now, that future generations will benefit from?

Work outdoors

I remember when we lived in our apartment we were always bored (and inside) because it wasn’t convenient to access the green space, and  we didn’t have to do any of the upkeep ourselves. Moving into our house brought lots of opportunity to get outside—whether mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, or just enjoying our tire swing! Growing up we had outside chores to do like sweeping the sidewalks, painting the fence, and pulling weeds. I still have vivid memories of those Saturday afternoons, and I hope our kids grow up enjoying the same activities. 

Play outdoors

We’re pretty lucky to live in a place that makes playing outdoors easy. We’re blocks from the lake and there are lots of great activities within walking distance, so it’s not hard to get my daily dose of Vitamin D! I’m thankful that we have a big backyard and a tire swing in the front so that our kids will be able to have plenty of time to play outside. I’m also getting better about participating in native outdoorsy things—like actually swimming in the lake, going hiking and camping. I’m thankful that my husband enjoys these things and he patiently encourages me to come along so I can experience something new. I know our kids will have many adventures with him!

My current life motto is: How you treat creation reflects how you feel about the creator. When I first heard that I of course thought of “Creation” as the earth, and I didn’t think much about it. Then I realized that my body is part of creation, and it took on a whole new significance. And now I’m reminded again that creation is all of nature, and so I can’t help but be in awe of ALL the wonderful things God has created.

The thing I am realizing is that right when I think I’ve got this whole living simple thing under control, I’m thrown a topic that makes me realize I have a long ways to go! I think simplicity and sustainability will be a lifelong battle, but recognition is the first step, right?

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