Plain Living, Plainly

I am becoming a browser of simple/plain blogs and websites, looking to see what others are doing, what others are thinking. And there are a plethora of books out there on the subjects. Some are practical and inspiring, but so many of them are written by people who simplify their lives by buying either the opera or symphony season tickets, but not both this year. The economy, you know.

One book (title and author mercifully forgotten) was about the simple life, so-called, on the West Coast, and it involved noshing one’s way through the farmer’s market rather than loading up the buggy at the Safeway, and the joys of spending the day on the couch in pajamas, reading the huge weekend edition of the newspaper, instead of doing something costly and time-consuming like planting a real garden. (Because there’s the farmer’s market.) One of the author’s tips to simplificationism was to not fold your clothes, just drop them into random baskets in your closet. Oh.

And buy your own coffee, organic fair-trade, of course, and make that latte at home!

I have never had a latte, let alone made one.

 I think it might be a good idea to cut out the coffee altogether, if we can.

The stark reality of life on this planet is that those who are reading this blog are most likely to be living in a house of sorts, buying food most of the time, and are not suffering from any nutritional diseases. Their life expectancies are fairly high, comparitively. We have to struggle to find places and means to grow our own food, cut our own firewood, sew our own clothes. We are stuck in the capitalist economy, and we must fight to shake loose.

If the Amish were open to converts they would probably be swamped with applicants. I’d join tomorrow if it was possible, even if it meant living in someone else’s house and working twelve-hour days. I’d be willing to wait to buy our own farm, or to settle on someone else’s farm. It’s not just the simple life – it’s not that simple, as so many readers here know, to live off the land and make a wage for the things we can’t grow – it’s the Christian life that is the reason for doing things the Plain way. Christ comes first. Christ is the reason for what we do, and what we aspire to do. Obedience to Christ is the reason we keep doing it even when it looks like all may fail, because in faithfulness we cannot fail Christ.

Anxious to Serve

While caring for my husband, and starting here on the Lake as unofficial housekeeper to another priest is rewarding work, my little ordained soul is anxious to get back to ministry. Not that home-based work isn`t ministry…but I`m missing my old work, parish work and outreach. Except meetings.

Perhaps I need to be content with prayer work for a while. Perhaps I need to heed what St. Paul said in I Corinthians 3:10, and watch others build on the foundations I set with God`s help. And then on the chapter 4, at verse 11: `To this present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and bèaten and homeless…` Praise God, we are no longer this, but rewarded with mercy.

I long for the honour of service in the Lord, the honour of serving Him, not for praise, but for the joy of seeing His beloved face. I cannot begin to tell thee of the great joy in my heart when I contemplate our salvation in Him, in His grace in allowing us to know Him. He is the most beautiful of the beautiful, the joy of all joys, the best beloved of all loves. He is willing to take weak vessels such as ourselves and put them into service in His temple, His heavenly home. All He asks is that we keep ourselves pure and clean of blemish, as best we can, by prayer and confession. In this way we are lampstands for His saving light.

Thee is a reflection of His light when thee lives in Him. Let thy light shine now in Heaven, a glorious alleluia to His power and grace.

I have suffered recently from discouragement – I truly lost heart for a while. I believe I have been punished severely, more severely than necessary, not by the Lord, but by some of His earthly representatives. It is not enough that what I did, I did from necessity and in love. I let down the side, was a bad example, told the ugly truth, although it was about me and not another. I did not intend to shame, but the church was ashamed of me. I have offered confession, even public confession if so called to do, and I am willing to make penance, but four years of exile, so far, are not enough. This has broken my heart.

And yet, with Job, even from the grave I can make my song, Alleluia, alleluia. A broken and contrite heart is the sacrifice acceptable to God.

A Momentary Note…

I have to say, there’s nothing like the smell of oatmeal-walnut-raisin cookies baking to make a house very cozy. Thanks, Mother Kay, for a kitchen full of good things waiting to be made into yummy food. And thank you, God, for Mother Kay!

Short Note on Long Hair

Ladies have been asking me about managing the mane. I never thought my baby-fine hair was a blessing until I started hearing how other women struggled with thick, long hair. So there, Pantene!

There are a number of ways to pin up your hair. Amish women of Swiss-German background, blessed with beautiful thick hair,sometimes pull it into a high ponytail, then lay it out in the head in a wide, flat bun with a lot of those wonderful u-shaped Amish hairpins. Or the hair can be made into two buns, one forward on the crown, and another lower, so the weight of the hair isn’t pulling at the roots. The traditional back of the head bun may be too much for some people and cause discomfort, headaches, and if the tension is too tight, it can cause alopecia – hair loss – at the front. Braiding the hair first may distribute the weight better, and make it easier to lay the hair into a flat bun.

If none of this helps, then another solution is to braid the hair in a single plait and wear a veil so that it can hang down. If  a braid is impractical, then wearing the hair loose under a long veil, rather like a World War I nursing sister, or even a large kerchief tied at the nape of the neck, will cover the hair. Hold the veil in place at the sides and back with clips or bobby pins. At the times I can’t wear a prayer cap, I use one of my big white kerchiefs in this way. Occasionally someone thinks I’m a nun, but only if they aren’t very observant, and I don’t mind being mistaken for another sister – who would? Much better than being mistaken for another type of working woman while wearing lipstick, high heels, and a tight dress!


We have been suddenly called to go to Ontario again. I don’t know why. And it’s sometimes hard to trust God right then.  But there we are, packing up, ready for the next step. I have to do all the driving now, as well as packing the truck, getting all the supplies together, explaining to Nicholas what’s happening next.

Recent events have left me tired and just a little frustrated and short of temper. I need to spend some time in prayer to cope with all that! I have trouble seeing this as anything but a setback, but in my heart I know that the Lord is providing for us, and giving us a new ministry. In a way, I can’t wait to see what is unveiled.

This will give us time to get some things settled, an opportunity to meet with other Plain people, and the space to develop what is close to our hearts – coming back home and setting up a Christian intentional community, God willing.

God answers prayer, but not always in the ways we expect.

On prayer at the oddest times

As an Anglican, I am signed on to twice daily liturgical prayer, which I used to keep pretty faithfully. But without the parish setting around me, I sort of strayed from it. That hasn’t stopped me from praying, of course. I just pray somewhat differently, and  in different settings.

I don’t sleep well, and never have, a life-long insomniac. Now I know that if the Lord doesn’t grant me sleep, then it is time to pray. (Sometimes I pray for sleep, too.) There’s so much to pray for, our own challenges, as well as remembering the family, the church, those I know are wounded and hurting, those who are ill. I pray while I watch the news – there’s a television here and we watch it judiciously – because it isn’t enough to be a spectator. Watching someone else’s mishap or trouble is voyeaurism unless we can get involved, and we can always get involved in prayer.

Sometimes I will remember someone fromt he pastwho I haven’t heard from in years, and I’ll stop to pray for them. All the better if it is someone who left behind a history of pain – the prayer for the good welfare of an enemy on earth makes that person a friend in heaven.  Your prayer for them will lead to a forgiving heart, and if that person is open to the Holy Spirit, it may lead to reconciliation and forgiveness.

“Pray without ceasing,” wrote the Apostle; make your heart open to a continual attitude of prayer, reaching out to God in all your thoughts and in all you do, and you will hear His voice in that heart.

Training a Guide Dog

Nicholas has some mobility problems post-stroke. He has limited vision and frequent vertigo. He is afraid to go out on the street alone. He has a walking stick but because his depth perception difficulties make curbs dangerous, he wants to be accompanied outside. I have looked into training our sheepdog and she is doing well, mostly, except for squirrel distractions. I intend to register her with IAADP and when she has a little more training, put her into a harness and rigid handle.

Does anyone have advice on dealing with a guide dog? I am an experienced dog trainer (more than thirty years and at least a dozen dogs, some cats and a couple of sheep.)

The biggest challenge, really, is getting Nicholas to bond with the dog. He still misses his own little dog, gone to live with his daughter, and he thinks Ash is kind of stupid. (Which she isn’t; she is very bright and learns fast.) She is not an aggressive or alpha dog, is very friendly at home, very quiet – generally, the ideal dog for mobility work. She has learned many guide dog commands and is working well in traffic. She’s beginning to understand crosswalks and signals – which she had never seen until a month ago.

Soon I’ll have to get him out with her. It’s no good training her to be my guide dog! Any ideas on bonding? I tried to get him to feed her, but he has trouble getting her food to the right place by leaning over. Should he be handfeeding her treats? He seems to think she should do tricks like his old dog, but since she was a working dog, I never bothered to teach her cute tricks.

Do you have guide or service dog experience?

A new bonnet

I have been wanting a real bonnet for a while, the flattering face framing kind. The traditional Lancaster County bonnet with the scallops is lovely, but too ethnic-specific. And the Wenger style driving bonnet is like one I made myself, which is great in the summer but not snug enough for winter. I made my own winter bonnet, but it is starting to fade.

I don’t know how to get the great even gathers and the stiff back of the traditional bonnet, so I would like to buy one. But the source I was looking at doesn’t carry them anymore. And there is the issue of shipping to Canada. Some vendors just won’t do it.

So does anyone have a source for a more traditional, Quaker or Mennonite bonnet in black?

Who are heretics?

In my websurfing I come across quite a few headcovering and Christian simplicity sites. Many of you have found them, too. I am a little worried that some writers and some of their commentators are perpetrating some damaging and erroneous information. Most of these are extremists in view, so do not be deceived.

Heretics are those who sort of hold to Christian theology but somehow miss the boat. Usually, they emphasize one aspect of Christian belief over all others. They lose a sense of perspective, or ignore parts of the Bible that don’t support their point of view.

Even if you belong to a church that does not regularly use the creeds (Nicene, Apostles’ and Athanasian) these embody the basic tenets of the Christian faith. The basic tenets are the Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit); the virgin birth, the redemptive death of Jesus Christ and His physical resurrection, the historicity and accuracy of the scriptures (containing all that is necessary for redemption); that God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them; that Christ has gone to prepare a place for us and will come again to judge the earth, and that prayer is effective (i.e. that God is active in Creation still,and hears the prayers of His people.) This leaves a lot of room for differences in practice.

I am not making this up, and it is not unique to Anglicanism. It is a definition of orthodox faith that holds up under the scrutiny of the millenia.

So Roman Catholics, in ordinary, accepted practice are not heretics. Baptists are not heretics. Most people claiming to be Christians probably are.

The test of heresy can be made only by a church body, not by individuals. And church bodies are really reluctant to get into the debate except when their ordained people have wandered way too far. (Remember the Inquisitions? We don’t want that again.)

I believe that it will be before the Dread Judgment Seat that we will know how faithful we have been. It won’t be a matter for our fellow Christians to decide.