Jill Nutter/Jillian Kent

Secrets of the Heart, The Ravensmoore Chronicles, Book One is Jillian Kent’s debut novel that released in May 2011. Jill is fascinated with human behavior and how our minds work, and understands the mind, body, and spirit connection. She is a full-time counselor for nursing students and possesses a masters degree in social work. Jill is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors and is passionate about mental health and wellness and stomping out the stigma of mental illness which is evident in her novels. You can reach her at jill@jilliankent.com and explore her website at www.jilliankent.com, and the website for the national alliance on mental illness is http://www.nami.org/

The Well Writer

Amish Wellness Lessons
by Serena B. Miller

Serena Miller“Do you know any Amish people?” my agent asked, during a phone call discussing my nonexistent career back in 2009.

“Two Amish men are building a barn in back of my house right now, does that count?”

“It sure does! I’ve been thinking . . . your name is Miller. You live in Ohio. If you can write an Amish book, I have an editor who might buy it.”

At that point, I had been writing, submitting, pitching, and entering writing contests for over ten years. If she’d suggested I write a story about teenage vampire turtles from Mars, I would have done it.

But,the reality was, apart from a few pleasantries, I had never talked with an Amish person. The only thing I knew was that they dressed funny, didn’t drive cars, and had no electricity.

Fortunately, one of those Amish carpenters—new to the area―invited us to his home to meet his wife. She and I talked in depth, and I was surprised at how much we had in common.

God opened doors, and I was blessed with more Amish friends. I stayed in their homes, ate with them, and did chores with them. I often wished I had known these people earlier in my life. I would have done many things differently.

For one thing, physical wellness is part of their lifestyle. Planted among my blueberry bushes now are several elderberry bushes an Amish friend gave me. She explained that elderberries are wonderful for coughs and colds. Another friend tucked a jar of B&W (burns and wounds) ointment into my purse—an Amish product they swear by.

Every Amish woman I met had a store of wisdom about keeping a family healthy. One showed me her baking center, which included a fifty-pound sack of wheat berries, a battery-operated grinder, and a dough kneader. She said the whole family had better digestion once she stopped using white flour.

A seventy-three-year-old mother of twelve grown children told me that their family had been blessed with uncommonly good health—part of which she attributed to her husband’s self-training in reflexology (massaging certain pressure points in the feet) and massaged their children’s feet when they were not feeling well.

Whether or not reflexology works, I don’t know, but a father ministering to his children in such a loving and tender fashion had to have contributed greatly to their feelings of well-being.

I noticed that they maintain a steady pace while working. The carpenters who built our barn would stop about every two hours for a few minutes to eat a small snack, drink some water, and then go back to work. They never seemed to hurry, but at the end of each day, they had achieved an enormous amount of work.

They are not against using traditional medicine: however, when a terminal illness is diagnosed, many will choose to die naturally rather than submit to heroic medical measures. Their attitude is that if their goal in life is to get to heaven, why bankrupt their family by clinging to this earth a few more weeks? This might seem harsh to an outsider, but it appears to give them a measure of peace.

Peace is a big deal. I’m sure there are exceptions, but the homes of the Amish I’ve visited have a serenity that I don’t sense in most non-Amish homes. Several factors:
1) No decorative clutter―plain and simple is the standard
2) No background noise pollution like the hum of refrigeration, computers, or other electric devices
3) No television
4) No electronic toys
5) No ringing telephones
6) No children fighting to draw Mom or Dad’s attention away from the computer or TV

They enjoy the security of being part of a larger community. No Amish home is an island. When I visit my Amish friends, more often than not other family members arrive bearing dishes of food. We often eat, talk, and laugh late into the night. Friendship, conversation, and hospitality is an art form to the Amish.

At one time I felt sorry for the women because they had to wear the same type of outfit day after day. Now I envy them: no makeup, no obsession with hairstyles, one pattern that can be made into a dress in an evening, and a limited choice of colors and materials. Instead of being restrictive, the “uniform” saves both time and money.

An Uncommon Grace Although their education ends at eighth grade, they are grounded well enough in the basics that they can make it through life and possess life skills, learned by working beside skilled relatives, to make a living.

This desire to work hard is highly valued and is trained into their children from about the age of two. A mother will hand a two-year-old toddler a small grocery sack to carry into the house and will praise him for being a “good worker.”

When the Amish first began to purchase farms in our impoverished pocket of Appalachia, I wondered how they would make a living. Upholstery shops, bakeries, tin roof supplies, woodstove dealerships, produce stands, carpentry, furniture building, and myriad home business cropped up almost overnight. I was amazed. These people could make a living anywhere—and they frequently managed it while staying home with their families.

From what I’ve seen, they don’t ever truly retire except in extreme old age or illness. One hearty, elderly farmer I know, after selling his farm to a son-in-law for “retirement” income, taught himself leather craft and now has a flourishing business. The grandmother is deeply involved in canning and gardening with her grown daughters. These grandparents live in a daadi haus (“grandfather house”) attached to the main farmhouse and are part of their children and grandchildren’s daily lives.

With the exception of God, family and extended family are everything to the Amish. Children are secure knowing they will be taken care of—even if something happens to their parents. An Amish child going into foster care is, as far as I know, unknown.

They are not evangelistic. They rarely talk about their faith with outsiders unless directly asked. One Amish businessman told me that a life lived with integrity and faith is more effective in furthering the cause of Christ than many words.

In spite of not being evangelistic, Old Order Amish is one of the fastest growing religions in the world. Their numbers are doubling approximately every twenty years, mainly because they tend to have large families and they retain 85 to 90 percent of their youth. Their church services aren’t exciting. They don’t use instruments or even sing in harmony, which they consider prideful. Their hymnal was written approximately 500 years ago. Their ministers are untrained. And yet—with no church buildings or comfortable pews―they have amazing retention.

So what is my takeaway?

Deep gratitude that I could experience this fascinating culture; a proven example that a Christian life honestly lived has a more powerful impact on the souls around us than the latest evangelistic gimmick; a determination to continue writing until I am too old or infirm to see the keyboard; and most of all, a stronger determination to create an oasis of peace within my own home and family.