Wearing a Godly Heart

I think I could be fairly criticized for overemphasizing the outward person in this blog. Certainly, my aim is to help Christians not only be Christian courageously, but to have the heart to look Christian in a world that knows Him not.

My point is not to just play dress-up, or move back to a gentler era (that never existed) but to encourage – to put it in our hearts to listen to the Holy Spirit.

The outward person should reflect the inward heart. The Godly heart will shine through rags and prison uniforms and the ravages of illness in a way no costume can match.

Fortify thyself with prayer, not just on First Day at the Lord’s Service, but at all times, in all ways. Pray without ceasing. When thy heart and mind are busy, pray with thy hands in good work, whether it is in direct service to others or in the simple ways of living life. Thy hands can pray with work in the kitchen, the garden, the office, the sewing room. Whatever thee will put thy hands to, let it be to the glory of the Lord.

Then crown or cap, thy glory will be manifest in Him who has made thee.

Black Caps and Bonnets

My black caps arrived yesterday. They are beautifully made, but a bit smaller than my new white cap. I wanted them for home, rather than outings, so that is fine. They sit farther up my head, which means I need to put in a bun higher on the crown. I think they look rather Old World, like a Swiss costume cap. They are pleated down the back, and stiff, so they will shift less on my little head.

The bonnets, one for me and one for Child Patience, are again beautifully made. Hers is bright cobalt blue, and she loves it. She wore it from the time it arrived until supper, and wanted it again, although it was time for bed. Mine is black, Piker style, but sits tight over my ears and doesn’t come as far forward on my face as I like for a bonnet. Nonetheless, it is flattering in its way, fits well, and now I have an official outing bonnet for a trip I will be taking next week. It came without ties, so I will get ribbons on it today. It is close enough that it doesn’t block my peripheral vision, so I can drive in it, once the truck is back on the road. (With God’s blessings, next week!)

I now have to get Nicholas a new hat. His looks like it has seen combat with wild bears, but he wears it every day. I may buy an Amish straw hat for now, and get the black felt hat, expensive as it is, from Quebec. I should have a bit more cash in March, and will focus on his clothing needs then.

I was meditating this morning on what a blessing it is to be Plain, or at least practicing humility in dress. I don’t have anxieties about fashion, about trends, about colours and prints. I find what works for me and I stick with that. Even though I have capes and aprons and caps to pin on, and long hair to brush and put up, my total dressing time is less than fifteen minutes. How many fashionable women can say the same thing? I spend no time at all in salons or spas, and very little in clothing stores. I buy when something is completely worn out and can’t be mended any more.

Not that I’m proud of my humility – but I want to acknowledge that God has blessed me in this way, and blessed me with a husband who supports and understands my vocation to be Plain. The best blessing is that I am a visible witness to Christ, no matter where I go and who sees me. The world can see that there are some who are called to take their Christianity seriously, and who wear it consciously.

Giving In

“When in another’s monastery, do not keep your own ordo.” This is an old Russian proverb, meaning something like ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Don’t bring your rules into someone else’s place. They have their own rules; you abide by them.

This does assume that the monastery visited has good rules. Yours are just different, maybe equally good, but it is not proper etiquette to impose them on your hosts. Some of us have had that experience with house guests. They always stay up until 3 a.m.; we go to bed by 10 p.m., and having someone in the next room, listening to music, walking around, cooking a meal even, is disruptive and troubling.

We are now back fulltime in Anglican territory. It’s the old monastery, and we have to conform to its rules. Mostly, that’s not a problem. They are good rules. But there are a few points where I feel I don’t want to change back.

Take the way we keep track of time. I’m not sure why Christians insist on using the old names for the days of the week and the months. I don’t like invoking the Roman and Norse gods every day. I think the Church Universal needs to say First Day, Second Day, and so on, as the Quakers tried to teach them. Months are First Month, Second Month, and on; isn’t this more accurate anyway?

Plain dress makes some people nervous, especially Anglicans, who expect to blend into the world. But that strategy doesn’t seem to be working, does it? We got run over by that world, and we are forgetting rather quickly what it means to be Christians, to be different, to stand up and be counted for Christ. (And He will return to count His sheep – are some of us hiding in wolves’ clothing? Will He say to those who are disguised in worldly dress, “I know you not”?) When we were seminarians, we were told to wear our collars once we were ordained, to not be ashamed of that badge of office. Yet sometimes the world looks upon it as a sign of hypocrisy and privilege, because so many clerics used it as such. The collar doesn’t work for me anymore. It never did. I told my ordaining bishop I didn’t want to wear it, as it is men’s attire. He insisted that I wear it on certain occasions, and those certain occasions equalled just about all my waking hours, except when I was in the barn.

Nicholas rather accidentally removed most of his beard. (His vision and coordination are still poor.) He’s shaved it off, ready for it to grow back. He looks fine without it, and he says that it feels good to have a clean chin. Now, it is his decision to make, and he won’t be less Plain without the beard, as many Mennonite men eschew them. But the “Brethren” beard symbolizes the pacifist stance, the refusal to bear arms, and the turning away from the vanity of the world. Is he ready to give up that statement?

I am no less a Christian if my head is bare, or I am wearing jeans, but my own ordo says that I want to be counted for Christ, I want the world to know that a Christian has come amongst them, that I am no longer literally buying vanity and false beauty.

My Plain ways, my keeping the Plain calendar, my prayer cap and my aprons may embarrass some and convict others, but it is my podvig, sometimes hard to bear, but a joy in Christ.

The Details

Now that I’m wearing traditional cape dresses, there were a few details to work out. Some of it seems sort of medieval,in a way, but in a good way. I don’t have to wear linsey-woolsey or anything that requires a forge to repair.

Things have to be pinned together. Capes get pinned to aprons, aprons are closed by pins. The necklines on the dresses and capes close with a snap, which is not medieval and quite convenient. I have to buy some new pins, since the cheap dressmaker pins I have bend. Safety pins work well, though, and husband doesn’t complain about my prickliness.

The cape gets pinned in three places – left and right edges behind the apron waistband, and the point in back, to the apron waistband again. The apron pins left or right, depnding on who made the apron. Old Order type aprons do not tie in the back. It was probably considered a waste of fabric and a bit of frivolity to have a big bow hovering over the bum.

I’m used to longer hemlines, too. But most Old Order dresses come to mid-calf rather than ankle, which means I have to choose my socks and underskirt more carefully so as not to have gaps. Knee-length bloomers work well instead of a slip, especially if they are made of cotton. (I bought a pair in the oddest place – Loblaw’s Superstore! I think they were meant to be pajama bottoms, but they have a drawstring waist, a lace insert above the knee, and are just above the kneecap in length. And they look just like Victorian drawers.)

The new cap is not as close-fitting as the soft caps I used to wear. I can’t pin them to my head, because my hair and bun are not thick enough. I am holding the cap in place with two clippies on either side of the nape. Bobby pins just slid out. But the cap stays on better, and keeps my hair neater, since it doesn’t move around as much.

I am a natural fibre kind of girl, so I was a little dubious about the synthetic fabrics used in my dresses. Still, they launder well and hang on my small frame properly, so I am not complaining. The synthetics are silkier, and they fit closer, meaning I don’t have as much fabric bunched up around my waist when wearing an apron. Incredibly modest as a cape dress is, I look more petite and feminine in them.

The Cap Says it All

I finally took the Big Step in Plainhood, and bought a beautiful Mennonite cap. I love it, and I didn’t think I would.

I’ve been wearing caps that I sewed myself, which was fine, except they were soft caps, on a seventeenth century design, sort of the ubiquitous European everyone-wears-one-if-you’re-medieval type. It said “headcovering” but it didn’t say front line headcovering, carrying the banner Plain.

With the starched white cap, the cape and apron, the no-button dresses I now have, I am so Plain.

Some of the more critical of you,especially if you can’t imagine giving up jeans, may think I’ve lost my marbles. Some may make snide comments about misplaced historicity and Amish wannabes. Neither is the case.

Since seminary I looked for the right way to dress as a Christian woman that said, “I’m so definitely Christian, you can’t make a mistake.” Well, a nun’s habit wouldn’t do, for obvious reasons. that says that you have taken a very particular vow, which I haven’t taken. But the cap and cape dress say, no vows, just being Christian.

It’s a mistake to think all Plain people must be Amish or Mennonite, or Old Order, or even Anabaptist. There were Conservative Quakers longbefore the Amish came to North America; Plain Catholics have been around for about a hundred years. Veil wearing sisters have been in other denominations for generations now. Plain is Plain, no matter what the church affiliation.

Thoughts, Brief Reflections, Job Search

I have written a new resume/curriculum vitae for my job search, and it comes across as a bit hollow. I remember my years of ministry, lay and ordained, as active and without a spare moment. But how does one distill that down into a two page resume? I didn’t go to workshops, seminars or conferences except under duress. My student and parish years were too full of hands-on work to allow me to sit on seminary or diocesan committees. I wrote good papers, made good grades, and when in the parish, worked eighty hour weeks on the ground. How do you get across the hours of study, carefully-crafted sermons, pastoral conversations over tea in someone’s kitchen, or the deep questions and answers that come up when working with young people, people in grief, people in need?
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Wordpress gives us statistics on how many people visited our blog, what posts they read, and what methods they used to get there. Some of the search terms are funny or puzzling. The funniest one today was “Are Anglican Christians witches?” The short answer is “No.”
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I have about six good books somewhere in my head, waiting to be written. But I never seem to get more than a start on them. I used to write professionally and now I can’t seem to get more than about seven hundred words together! You’d think I had all kinds of time to write, but it takes more than unoccupied hours. It takes undistracted hours, and it takes research facilities I don’t have now. Nonetheless, I am angry with myself for not doing this. Would it be possible to find a parish where writing a book would be a more than a wish? In years past, the old fellas regularly churned out volumes of obtuse theology, sermons, moral tales and occasionally a ripping good novel. But they had curates, wives and housekeepers. No one came to the study door and asked,”When’s dinner?” Or worse, “Do you know where the plunger is?” Those of you who manage to write books or the equivalent, how do you get your family and household and parish organized so they don’t constantly break in on your writing time?

“New” Dresses

I really shouldn’t put up this post until I’ve got some photos, but I don’t have a photographer right now.

I ordered some dresses through eBay. They were pre-owned, and I was a little wary of buying things without trying them on. But it is just as well that I didn’t. I love the new dresses!

They are Amish/Mennonite made. One is black, with a separate black cape and apron. One is lavender, with attached cape and a back zip. I also ordered a separate white cape and apron, and a cap. They are, as expected, beautifully made. They all fit exquisitely well, much better than the clothes I have.

I have a tendency to buy clothes that are too big, because I feel more comfortable and a bit more secure in hiding my – um – classically proportioned – body. This may not be practical, after all, because I realize from time to time that I look like I’m wearing some other person’s clothing. It’s a bit odd, isn’t it, that Plain clothes, made right, fitted well, make me look more feminine? They are modest enough, although Mother Kay suggested that some new, fitted undergarments might be appropriate.

Maybe it was the years in loose jackets, black skirts and cassocks, but I had fallen into a habit! Literally! I looked like an Orthodox nun, with layers of clothes and everything loose and drapey. All I needed was the kamalafke (the tall hat that looks like a truncated cone, with a little veil in the back.)

The prayer cap is a starched midwestern style Mennonite cap, with sweet little pleats up the back. It’s very formal looking, and it fits well. You can’t see the outline of my bun, like with the soft, seventeenth century country caps I usually wear.

Nicholas is very pleased with the experiment. He thinks I look younger and more feminine. That must be a good and Godly thing! Good-bye Oma!