|Quilts Fly In an Amish Barnyard|
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
March found me on vacation in Amish and Mennonite country. As a quilter, I appreciated an international show then went on to explore the local Amish communities.
Although tour buses pull into the commercial areas of major Amish communities, these areas have been designed to be collective points to market local arts, crafts, and foods as well as to be a market center for the locals. By design, this allows the public access to the product, but not the people, who can withdraw and enjoy their privacy.
In admiring the exquisitely tended farms, I noted the relatively large size of buildings as compared to most in the Midwest and couldn’t help but wonder how such success could be achieved free of the commercial world. After some exploration and reading, I found the present Amish community used some of the same practices as those of my own farming family just a generation ago, although my own family was fiscally conservative as a result of learning to live in a depression rather than by religious conviction.
So how do the Amish succeed in owning those big farms? Like my ancestors, they use the pay-as-you-go policy – that is, they don’t use credit and go into debt. If that means driving an older buggy (or old farm equipment in our case), so be it.
Another practice used, and one I always hated, was the “use-it-up, wear-it-out, make-do or do-without” one. It probably helps the Amish to eliminate peer pressure for young people; for them simplicity is the norm, but it wasn’t much fun as a kid when you knew that the time of “wear-it-out” was long past and “do-without” was here. People do tend to stare when you get to obsessive about things, although I believe as an adult it would be a good time to review that one.
Finally, saving-up-to-buy paralleled the first two practices and what drove the make-do” habit. The Amish seem to have managed a disciplined life style in their community and that is a major contributor to their success. As young adults, I would admit we were so relieved to be able to buy a few things we became attached to the jobs of the world. Farming might have sustained one of the children, but never all. Nevertheless, saving became one of our values.
A current recession has framed a new way of thinking that brings us back to a simple way of life and many are realizing the wisdom of those sometimes painful practices of fiscal restraint. Thousands of tourists are drawn to Amish country every year, and they see happy people. I hope that others are as inspired as I was to slip away from the desires of our consumer culture and consider living on less.
There are many scriptures that tell us the Lord will provide. I think it is time to trust that promise and stop believing that credit companies do a better job. Happiness is, after all, loving what you have already been given.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Weather is the main topic in March. We’re all sick of winter, longing for the bright days of spring. Violent storms shake the area, sometimes giving us the blessing of much needed rain. When I was a child we had “country wisdom” about weather. In school it was “in like a lamb, out like a lion,” and we would draw and color lambs and lions for days. The farmers applied mariner wisdom to farming tasks, “red skies in morning, sailors take warning; red skies at night, sailors delight.” And of course Farmers’ Almanac always had us planting on the waning moon, March 15.
March is the month we naturally attempt to predict our “yield.” In the rural community we use weather signs to work and grow our crops. In the city we use the same signs to know if our gardens will grow or our trees will struggle.
Humans seem to have a nature desire to know what will happen in the future. As we study our Lenten lessons and follow Christ’s last days, the scriptural foreshadowing tells us that a great change is about to take place. Even though the prophets of the Old Testament predicted a Messiah, it is the scriptural story of the New Testament that provides the facts.
Looking back on the story of sacrifice, we know there is no escape for Jesus. As the story is revealed, we have human sadness for him. It is answering the question of “why” this had to happen that we come face to face with our faith. We symbolically put away our hallelujah banner and wait for the conclusion of Christ’s journey.
When farmers practice prediction, it is based on centuries of experience that has created trust, but they never fail to celebrate the miracle of birth and rebirth. Likewise, we know and trust the story of Jesus and we never fail to celebrate the miracle of resurrection.
The sunset I photographed this week is just a seasonal weather event, but it reminds me of the earthly presence of Christ, who lived, walked, and preached among us. We need not predict, for the story is told. He died for us and through his death we have a promise of eternal life. It is a glorious sunset.