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Simplicity and wellness drive Ember Journal co-founder

“Take care of your body as if you were going to live forever, take care of your soul as if you were going to die tomorrow.” – St. Augustine of Hippo

Simplicity.

Saints have been drawn to it. And it’s something Samantha Worthing seeks spiritually, as well as in how she nourishes her body, feeds her family and cares for God’s creation.

Worthing said she finds joy and peace in the simple, healthful way she lives with her family, which includes her husband, Joseph, and children Maximilian, 4, and Nora, 1 – all members of St. Peter Parish in Omaha.

Their home near downtown has a yard “packed full of gardens and flowers and our seven chickens,” Worthing said. It’s part of their way to take care of themselves, live sustainably and appreciate the beauty of God’s creation.

It’s a very Catholic way of life.

“Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches. “We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good.”

Worthing shares her beliefs in faith-filled simplicity and stewardship through a quarterly magazine she co-founded in 2021, called The Ember Journal, and an online community, called The Ember Collective, a group that has about 5,000 members and continues to grow.

Both initiatives are aimed at women, like-minded in their faith and goals. Worthing and another Ember co-founder, Katie Gearns of St. Paul, Minnesota, are both Catholics and nutrition therapy practitioners, who met during their 10-month training by the Nutritional Therapy Association. A third co-founder, Elissa Voss of San Diego, is also Catholic and a professional photographer, like Worthing.

The Ember Collective’s Instagram account, https://www.instagram.com/theember.co/, has been a primary source of engagement for the group and offers free content. There’s also a website, https://www.theember.co/, where people can sign up for a subscription or buy back issues.

Women are encouraged in “simple & intentional wellness with eternity in mind,” according to the Instagram site.

They are invited to live holistically and “revel in the deep beauty of the seasons.”

As a photographer, Worthing said, she’s always been attracted to beauty. With the magazine, she said, she aims for information rooted in truth.

In nutrition, she looks to the diets of ancestors, “an ancient wisdom” that helps bodies find balance.

People ate differently 100 years ago, Worthing said, relying heavily on animal-based foods, which many demonize now.

Simplicity in food is not so much about diet restrictions, but seeking nutrient-dense foods, according to Worthing. That food would include eggs, dairy, organ meats, fresh fruits and root vegetables. 

HEALTH STRUGGLES

Her dive into nutrition began with her own health struggles and her search for answers.

“That questioning kind of led me down the rabbit hole of the foundations of our health,” she said. “When you’re having all these random symptoms, oftentimes there are a lot of ways that your body is asking for targeted nutritional support. That’s what I found.”

Worthing and her husband, Joseph, are seated outside their Omaha home with their son, Maximilian, and then-newborn daughter, Nora. COURTESY PHOTO

With her first child, Maximilian, she and her husband seemed to conceive easily, and the pregnancy went smoothly.

Then things changed.

“After having him and nursing him for a few years, my body just tanked,” Worthing said. “I think that’s because nutritionally I was kind of running on fumes. … So that was a wake-up call for me that my body was asking me to do better. Once I made changes, I felt so much better and eventually was able to conceive my daughter.”

But Worthing felt called to do more.

She said she felt compelled to “share all of this knowledge and wisdom that I had found with women in a similar spot,” she said.

Though many publications have become digital, Worthing, Gearns and Voss intentionally chose a print format for their magazine.

“We felt called to create something that was tactile and beautiful,” Worthing said, “kind of just a retreat in print to help women to remember to care for their bodies and their souls and their homes, to cultivate that sense of well-being.”

The Ember Journal’s name was the fruit of prayer, she said, recalling a Church tradition called Ember Days, which largely fell out of practice after Vatican II.

Ember Days observe the changing seasons with prayer, penance, fasting and giving thanks and praise for the bounty of the seasons.

“We thought it was a fitting name because of … the beauty of the seasons, living seasonally,” Worthing said, “and not just within the seasons of the earth, but also the seasons of our lives.”

‘BEAUTIFUL, HOLISTIC VIEW’

St. Hildegard of Bingen, a doctor of the Church who lived a thousand years ago, has become a patron saint for The Ember Journal and The Ember Collective. The saint wrote about the importance of food and health and caring for the body and was an herbalist who knew how various herbs could support health.

St. Hildegard had a “beautiful, holistic view,” Worthing said, “and that’s something that we felt drawn to.”

“She’s one of my favorites. She writes a lot about the beauty of the Lord’s creation and how tending to it is so important, not just out of respect for the Lord, but also because of the beauty of his creation and how that impacts our health, too, being in nature.”

“Faith is obviously more important than anything else in our lives,” Worthing said. “But with that also comes having respect for the bodies that the Lord gave us and caring for them because they are such a gift.”

Knowing how to nourish one’s body can be tricky, though. Diet information can be confusing and overwhelming.

“You can find anything on the internet to support any point of view you might have or might be questioning,” Worthing said. “We just believe that a lot of the answers are simple ones in terms of health.

“And that’s what we see in the lives of the saints, how much joy and beauty and grace there is in simplicity. We believe that it’s also applicable in the ways that we choose to nourish our bodies and our families and the food that we choose to buy and to care for creation.”

Faith is “really at the center of it all,” Worthing said. “So many people make health a god. They’re kind of white-knuckling their health … and like to be in control of all of it. And in turn, they end up making health and wellness a god, which is not at all what we’re trying to do, because everything should be rooted in the Lord’s will.”