Why I Wrote Uncomplicated

Feb 7, 2024 | Life

“I know all about your town. I read those Amish books,” a sweet older woman said as she sat beside me at a speaking event. “Your last name is Yoder. Are you Amish?”

I hate disappointing people, but didn’t she notice my high-heeled boots and sparkly jewelry? “I’m not Amish,” I said, “but I am Mennonite!”

She smiled at this consolation prize I offered. I explained to her—as I do anyone who asks me about being Amish due to my last name and hometown—that I have electricity, drive a car, and go to a church like other “English” people. (“English” is a term used to identify non-Amish people in our local area). I told her I grew up in our town and that my husband and I had raised our kids on his family farm a few miles away.

Several other women sitting nearby said they love visiting our Amish and Mennonite community of Shipshewana, Indiana, a popular Midwest tourist destination. We’re known for our old-fashioned, simple ways, small-town charm, and well-cared-for farms. We’ve remained somewhat insulated and undeterred from the complicated goings-on of the outside world. People visit from all over. We seem to have that something people look for among the Amish or the homestead lifestyle or the farmhouse decor that reminds them of a less complicated life.

Back to Basics

The “Are you Amish” conversation converged with other conversations with similar themes. At speaking events, women were perplexed and hungry for grounded, authentic wisdom that seemed to dissipate with the rise of social media and unhinged content bombarding them and their families.

Basic skills seemed to vanish with each passing year at the intermediate school where I worked as a school counselor. Common sense, both by kids and parents, was notably absent. Extreme behaviors and thought processes were more prevalent in its place. “We need to get back to the basics of humanity!” was a thought that often crossed my mind.

In the counseling office, I often found the best analogy for helping someone understand perseverance and problem solving in difficult situations was an example of being a dairy farmer’s wife. I shared the lesson I learned that no matter what happens in life when you milk cows–being sick, holidays, natural disasters, unplanned disruptions, or even tragedy–cows must be milked twice daily, every day. You somehow figure out how to solve the problem before you and “do the next thing,” as Elisabeth Elliott used to say.

What We’ve Forgotten

The culture seemed to already be on a chaotic trajectory when the pandemic hit. I joked with suburban friends visiting the weekend of the first lockdown that they were safe in Shipshewana among the Amish. “Things out there don’t reach us here,” I said. But a few days later, our schools and businesses shut down like everywhere else.

It was as if the Great Pause forced all of us to back away from our human-made problems and look to God; to nature, and to forgotten natural processes created for our good.

When all else failed in March 2020, God didn’t. The daily sunrise reminded me God was in control. Nature, animals, and natural rhythms weren’t alarmed by the pandemic. Spring planting happened on the farm just as it did sixty years ago. My Amish neighbor’s horses and buggies that clip-clopped past my home reminded me old processes still worked. The food I preserved the summer before that lined my basement shelves reminded me of women and men generations before who prepared wisely for their families and made it through droughts, the Great Depression, world wars, and civil unrest.

Nothing was new, really. We just needed to remember how to live.

Living Rich Lives

As one of our Airbnb guests left in 2021, they said, “You’re rich.” It surprised me. We didn’t have a hefty bank account on a teacher’s salary after raising four kids with one still in college. We’ve scrimped and thrifted our entire marriage before it was Tik Tok trendy. We hand-milked a goat for ten years to save on the grocery bill for three high school athletes. It’s just what we did.

“Your lifestyle and culture here is so peaceful and basic,” our guest remarked. “I wish I could take it with me.”

I realized he verbalized the needed virtues and processes that were swimming in my head. I didn’t know how they all fit together. He connected them for me.

We have something here in my local community that people seek–timeless values and processes that are embedded in our lives. They are as tangible as the ground you touch and the rising sun. In Amish country, these things are not curated or complicated. It’s just who we are and what we do.

When Herald Press approached me about a 2nd book idea after Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind, I proposed this idea of “Cows Must Be Milked”, forgotten skills and lessons from the past for a simpler life today. It evolved into ten virtues, mindsets, and practices that our grandmothers honed, are lived out among the Amish, and pursued in the homestead lifestyle. But these “secrets” aren’t out of reach. They are daily practices and thought processes that have been basic to humanity since the Garden of Eden and are desperately in our chaotic lives.

Full Circle

For years, I’ve studied the history of homemaking processes and women from the past. It grounds me. I taught Family and Consumer Science and History to high school students, never knowing how all these things would converge one day in my role as therapist, educator, writer, farmwife, and mom. Uncomplicated is the culmination of all of this.

Will you join me in reconnecting with the values, skills, and wisdom you and others need so you can model a grounded, vibrant lifestyle that breathes life into others? Join me for an uncomplicated journey; you can wear dress boots or chore boots. Both get the job done.

Uncomplicated: Simple Secrets for a Compelling Life releases March 19. If you’re local, buy the book locally! (Seasons in the Mercantile, Light of Grace Bookstore, Glow, the Blue Gate, and Fables in Goshen.)

Uncomplicated

Simple Secrets For A Compelling Life

Do you feel trapped in a chaotic, relentless, demanding lifestyle? No matter where you live or what season of life you’re in, you can find inspiration from the simpler life. 

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