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Advice "column" and FAQs answered.

I call it "Ask Ibbie." If thee sends me a question, or even a series of questions, I will answer thee. The only "catch" is that I will then post it on this webpage for others to see. If thee wants to ask a question thee is willing to see exposed and answered publicly, please send e-mails to askibbie at quakerjane dot com.

Ask Ibbie
FAQs and Responses to Some Common False Assumptions

Ask Ibbie

  • What do I do if my husband doesn't want me to dress plain but I feel led to do so?
  • Where did you get your bonnet? How do you cover your hands in the cold?
  • How do you combine a modern lifestyle with traditional dress? Do you use all electric appliances and live otherwise like a "modern woman" or do you renounce some other Worldly things as well as the Modern Dress and Speech? Considering your husband is not a Quaker - does he (or all of you) celebrate any Holidays or The Sabbath?
  • How do you keep your legs warm in winter?
  • Some time ago discovered the prayercovering. I got a covering, but dare not tell my family and am scared that my friends will find out. I have the best of friends but they are so devout that I fear I may lose them should I start covering my head. Everytime I talk to them about this, they claim that hair is the covering. And do you find it hard getting work dress as you are or are you expected to change your dress?
  • When can a person honestly say they are Quaker?
  • How do I gracefully acknowledge concerns that co-workers state about my dress and mannerism?
  • I have been HUGELY drawn to plain dress, but as no one else in my life dresses plainly, no one in my denomination or family would understand. What can I do?
  • How has your Quaker path affected those closest to you?
  • I just was wondering how your husband, his family and your family responded to the changes the Lord was making in you and your life?
  • What is the longest you have waited to receive direction on a spiritual matter?
  • Are you ever shown things in your dreams?
  • Do you keep a journal?
  • What form of music have you found to be edifying in worship?
  • Have you interacted with orthodox Jewish or Muslim women?
  • Do you wear a wedding band?
  • Which do you consider most "plain": contact lenses or glasses?
  • What about activities that seemingly require non-plain dress?
  • Do you ever have trouble with security over your bonnet?
  • Do you find studying Christian but non-Quaker materials helpful?
  • Did you join a plain dressing Quaker church or community?

    Question: (I'm going to take the liberty here to synthesize something that I am frequently contacted about into an "Ask Ibbie" entry.) What do I do if my husband doesn't want me to dress plain but I feel led to do so?

    Answer: If Christ shows us we are to wear plain dress, we wear plain dress, and while Quakers have traditionally felt the Bible supports wearing plain dress, it is not universally observed among Quakers, but seen as an individual leading. The Bible is only one test of a leading, and if my husband were flat-out opposed to my wearing plain dress, I don't see how I would do it. Leadings are not supposed to cause strife in a marriage. It can cause difficulties in a marriage that are meant to be overcome, spouses won over to the Truth &etc., but not real strife.

    I would just be honest with thy husband about how thee feels, but to avoid trying to "teach" him anything other than what thee is experiencing. It can be tempting when we are experiencing or have experienced a religious awakening to unthinkingly fall into a "teaching" mode. Humble honesty about the experience, as opposed to talking about the results of the experience, are usually more "effective" in winning hearts and minds to the Truth. For instance, rather than talk about how wonderful dressing plain is, I talk about how wonderful the changes God has made in me are. I try to be careful not to say "more" than I should, but to let the Truth of Christ guide me to speak to the other person's condition. Sometimes the way he leads me to "speak" to the other person's spiritual condition is to listen and not talk. The teaching mode is particularly and spectacularly unhelpful, in my experience, with relatives of any degree. I am regularly reminded about Jesus' question about who is his mother and who are his brothers and sisters . . .

    Quakers spend a great deal of energy trying to be certain they are correctly discerning God's will as shown to us through Jesus. In great and small, his will is what we seek to do. When it is in our own will, we avoid it like the plague and leave it to wither and die on the vine. What I mean is that we "test" whatever we suspect may be from God or slow our response to someone when we feel God may be trying to speak to them through us and make sure we are in the Truth. One test is how it feels, andthough that particular test is easily problematic and misleading, it is perhaps the most vivid for many people, particularly at first. If a way forward seems to be opening and while there are obstacles they seem like challenges not brick walls, we usually find a way to trust that it is God's will. If a way forward seems blocked, no matter how attached we might be, we accept that God will open a way if it is the Way for us, and if not to leave it behind. When God wants something for us, it has been my experience that it feels like both a duty and a desire, no matter the challenges attached. Sometimes it is something that is what we are being called to, just not at that moment. God is giving us the sense of duty and the desire, but is not opening the way forward because it is not yet time. We are not yet ready. He is preparing us, but he does not yet actually want us to act. Certainly having a husband actively opposed to what thee sees as the way forward is not a good sign. Other tests include the Bible, whether something is supported by Biblical text, and the responses of thy Christian community. Quakers are leery of any leading that seems to be leading to division and strife. It isn't that God never calls us to a Truth that is difficult for others, but it is cause for a pause and a prayerful consideration.

    If someone wants to debate thy plain dress witness with thee or challenge thee on it, I do not believe thee should speak much at all. If thee is able, just listen. If, for example, thee were to cite specific Biblical passages, the interventionists will just cite other passages. It will become a debate. Let them speak their piece. See if thee can see them to the end of their piece to Peace. Christ will show thee how to love them even as they persecute thee. Trust in him, not thyself. If thee feels there is something thee needs to say, sit with it in some silence first, even in the midst of discussion. Do not be afraid to take what time thee needs to discern Christ's way for thee. This silence may always be interrupted by others, but waiting is the only way to know if what we are being led to say is from Christ or from our own will. Only Christ knows their condition and what can be said that will speak to their condition. Thee can only be an instrument if he opens the way for thee. He may not. Be prepared to be silent, respectful, loving and firmly in Christ's way, the way of peace.

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    Questions: On your Facebook page you have a bonnet that you call your primary bonnet - where did you get it? How do you cover your hands in the cold?

    Answer: I purchased my primary bonnet from Gohn Brothers. I bought the largest size, took it apart, and put it back together in a more Quakerly style. It has been several years, and sometimes milliners change, but at that time it was very well made and the components came apart into three self-contained units that were easily adjusted and put back together. If I ever have need of doing it again, I will document the effort so others may see. I have black gloves that I wear and if it is really cold some mittens to put on top that someone knitted for me. I also like to drive with gloves on, so I actually wear them year-round.

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    Questions: How do you combine a modern lifestyle with traditional dress? Do you use all electric appliances and live otherwise like a "modern woman" or do you renounce some other Worldly things as well as the Modern Dress and Speech? Considering your husband is not a Quaker - does he (or all of you) celebrate any Holidays or The Sabbath?

    Answer: As a Quaker, even a Conservative one, I am under no obligation to restrict my use of technology. I know of three "horse and buggy" Quaker families, though there may be a few more. It is a personal leading and not a requirement of being a member in good standing. As a child of God, I try to discern what is (what I call) "needful and necessary." For instance, we don't currently have cell phones. They would be a little useful occasionally, but not on a regular basis, so we do not have them. Also, we have only one car. Even when we both worked and both had serious commutes, we found ways to make one car work for us. There are other plain dressing groups that allow technology, including the Old Order River Brethren and the Old German Baptist Brethren. As to holidays and sabbath, the most conservative Quakers have not traditionally celebrated any holidays, considering those inventions of men and not God, and have worshipped on Fourth Days (the day the world knows as Wednesday) and First Days (the day the world knows as Sunday). My husband does not worship with me very often, but he does celebrate the day known as Christmas. I participate in the festivities as I feel free to (and don't do what I am not comfortable with), but do not consider myself to "celebrate" it. He also enjoys the holiday known as Halloween. Again, I do not "celebrate" it but I do not try to prevent him from enjoying it. These holidays are important to him as a family tradition, and I am not about to deny him the pleasure of sharing his traditions with Tabitha without very specific and clear guidance to do so from the Christ Within. Tabitha will follow her own heart on these matters when she is older. If I have not been clear, when we married, I was not a Christian, not plain, and was entirely religion-free, so he has had to make some serious adjustments, which I feel he has handled remarkably well. But I make sure to do by best to allow him to enjoy himself and these traditional holidays he grew up with.

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    Question: I have a very pragmatic "Ask Ibbie" question. How do you keep your legs warm in winter? I love wearing skirts but keep resorting to jeans because winter is coming quickly here in Oregon. What arrangement have you found that works?

    Answer: When I'm not pregnant, I am very susceptible to the cold. I wear layers. One cold day at meeting, someone noticed the layering and we counted 26 separate items of clothing. I will wear three pairs of socks, tights, thermal leggings, bloomers, a chemise, two half slips, and a petticoat under my dress. Some of my dresses have been made particularly roomy for winter and my shoes are a little large so that I can wear the multiple socks. Also, I prefer shawls and find them less problematic than one might think for outdoor work like shoveling snow, so I wear sometimes as many as three shawls in all but the coldest of weather, at which times I use a coat.

    For my (currently) 18 month old daughter I have been using leg warmers that have proved quite useful. I am so taken with them that if I were outdoors more these days, I would probably use them myself.

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    Question: I am considering joining an Anabaptist church and some time ago discovered the prayercovering. I got a covering, but dare not tell my family and am scared that my friends will find out. I have the best of friends but they are so devout that I fear I may lose them should I start covering my head. Everytime I talk to them about this, they claim that hair is the covering. The few times I have ventured out with the covering, people tend to be quite aggressive possibly because they mistake me for a nun in a city full of religious segregation. Only a Muslim friend is supportive. I'm also 7 hours from an Anabaptist church. I want to know how you broke the news to your family and friends and how you cope with abuse in public? Also, I'm finding it hard to pray at the mo (maybe because I am not wearing a prayercovering), how do you tackle that? And do you find it hard getting work dress as you are or are you expected to change your dress?

    Answer: I'm going to answer this question working backward. Yes, it has been harder getting interviews since I have gone plain. But more importantly, I find it difficult to find work that I can actually apply for with a clear conscience and an open heart. I've had to leave jobs where the ethics and morals were not what one would want, as a Christian, to support. I've left jobs where the power structure was abusive, and I've left jobs where individuals were abusive to co-workers (underlings and equals). Even when I have not been asked to behave unethically or immorally, the knowledge that this was happening elsewhere in the company (usually in the sales department, sad to say) has made my position untenable. Also, even when the abuse was not being directed toward me, I could not in good conscience support an abusive system or a system that allows abuse.

    As I am clear that my wearing plain dress is a ministry, I have (so far) been able to meet abuse and intolerance with equanimity and understanding. I have some empathy for their situation, I believe. The Truth is that I scare them. Something about what I represent is scary to them. They attack as they feel attacked. I try to show through a Christian and loving response that things are not what they believe them to be. I do not know that I have ever gotten through to someone or been helpful to someone facing that difficulty. I do not wear plain dress if I am not capable of bearing this witness and have set aside plain dress from time to time. God has been compassionate and kind. Wearing plain dress outside of community is very difficult, very challenging, and I would not recommend it for anyone who does not find God strengthening them for this ministry. Only through his strength does any good come from my ministry, and when I am too weak, I must set it aside and return to service later when I am renewed.

    In my case, I "broke the news" gradually. I started wearing plain dress in the evenings and on weekends as I had a job that required I represent my company in public and I didn't feel I could break that contractual understanding. That worked out well, God is good, in allowing my family and friends to adjust to the new me I was becoming. Unfortunately, Christ sometimes calls us to set aside the comfort and ease of friends and family to follow his Truth and his Way:

    "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a manŐs enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 10:34-39 NASB)

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    (This wasn't an "ask Ibbie" but an answer to a question originally posted on the now-defunct Conservative Quaker Forum.)

    Question: When can a person honestly say they are Quaker? Is believing in the integrity (advices and queries way of living) the time to say one is Quaker or is there a procedure? Are there meetings that must be attended? Must a person be accepted by a committee first? Or is it a matter of the heart?

    Answer: It is my experience that God calls individuals to the Quaker faith and witness whether a meeting will have them or not, whether a meeting is available or not . . . It is not the physical community but Christ and his living Church that is authoritative in an individual's life.

    Meetings make mistakes in accepting members. Clearness Committees make mistakes in clearing individuals for membership. Geographical availability of meetings would seem to [erroneously] preclude some from being Friends. God does not. Never ever. God's ability to call individuals to Quakerism, to "make" people Friends is beyond anything a meeting should dare claim as its sole purview much less sole power.

    It is my experience that a "solitary Quaker" is an oxymoron because we always have Christ with us . . . directly, immediately, powerfully. And when we are weak, and he seems distant, we know this is a transitory experiential weakness or some sort of personal impediment [ego, satan, worldly concerns], and not Reality. One can be a Quaker and a Christian without ever attending a meeting. Christ makes the meeting, not the community, not the individuals, not the building, not the day.

    George Fox, William Penn, Richard Claridge . . . many [many] weighty and Christ-fortified Friends were Quakers without being members of a meeting. The mark of a Quaker [Christian] is not a name on a membership list but a Changed Life. Changed by Christ, by direct relationship with Christ.

    And many members of meetings do not much deserve the appellation Friend, much less Quaker. They Quake at nothing. They do not even believe there is a Truth, much less a Way. This is True, if not kind.

    Truth is beyond such limitations as meetings; Love is above some narrow definitions of memberships; the Way of Christ is more Truthful and Loving than any of this is capable of communicating.

    How One Joined the Society of the People Called Quakers.
    He (a stranger) pressed Richard Claridge to inform him what methods he must take to be admitted into the Society of the People called Quakers. R. C. answered: That the Quakers had no external forms or rites of admission, but as persons came to be joyned or united to Christ in Spirit by the sanctifying and purging operations of the Spirit of God in their hearts, so they came to be the one and the same holy Society or Communion in the Lord. That Christ was to be sought for and found within, &c. and so dismissed him. (from The Life and Posthumous Works of Richard Claridge, London, 1726, p.312)

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    Question: How do I gracefully acknowledge concerns that co-workers state about my dress and mannerism? I am trying so hard to be patient and kind and I truly don't want to feel forced to dress "normal" to make people around me more comfortable. Yet, as you mention, I don't want to cause a stir. It is hard for people to accept change, that I know.

    Answer: How to gracefully acknowledge concerns co-workers state about dress and mannerisms . . . that is a very narrow path to walk.

    First, the most important thing a person can do is to obey God's will for them. If he wishes thee to wear religiously observant dress, the whys and wherefores cannot be placed above his wishes. He will provide answers, opportunities, loving openings as they are required, if thee can be open to the nudgings of the Spirit in thy heart and the love of Christ that is within thee, that thee can carry into any interpersonal relationship challenges that faces thee.

    Practically speaking, it is not possible to be perfect in these matters. If thee undertakes this witness, thee will find that Christ's strength, Christ's love, Christ's wisdom will be available to thee and will speak for thee when thee could not ever have found the strength, love or wisdom on thy own. Thy brain will only get thee so far in thy relationships, with Christ, with people. Christ is in thy heart. Thy heart will tell thee how to respond to each person who thee must face with thy witness. If it is a true witness from God, it will become an opening not only for thee but for others. Thee must be aware that not all openings from God are pleasant. Not everyone will be comfortable. Christ does not seek to make people comfortable if they are outside of the Truth and the Way. He seeks to challenge them, and thee may indeed find thyself an instrument of his action in this world, both in pleasant and unpleasant ways.

    When it is time, when God's time for thee to "go plain" arrives, thee will not have a choice. Thee will not feel free to disobey any longer. Thee will feel willing to suffer the consequences, whatever they might be. Thee will long to suffer the consequences, rather than suffer the grinding down, the burden God places upon those he has called to witness for him who are not doing so.

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    Question: I am not a Quaker but, in fact, a minister in another protestant, peace-loving faith tradition, which I will not name for it could distract us from the point of my question.

    I am a Christian and attempt to follow Jesus Christ's messages of love, forgiveness, and peace. Recently, I have been HUGELY drawn to plain dress, but as no one else in my life dresses plainly, no one in my denomination or family would understand. Ridicule shouldn't have to be part of this committment, should it? I have always appreciated more simple living than many, but feel this is the next step in deep, Godly living. I want somehow to remind myself that I am a handmaiden, a servant of the Lord.

    I have begun wearing conservative jumpers with t-shirts and blouses underneath (very modest) with black stockings and black leather shoes. My long coat is a plain black wool. I carry a plain black leather handbag. I purchased a lovely prayer covering from Plainly Dressed that sits on a shelf in my closet. Everytime I walk in, I see it, and long to put it on and never take it off. Yet, so far, I have only had the courage to wear it in the house when no one else is here. I have a silent spiritual retreat coming up and will wear it continually during that time.

    I have so many questions. Mainly I feel, at this time, I need the spiritual support from a sister who has been through something similar. I need help with the final step of answering this call upon my life; committing to plain living and plain dressing as I feel it most honors me and God.

    How can I decide what's right to wear? Do I have to stick to sombre solids? Does plain dressing mean I can never put on another pair of jeans to do my dirtiest outdoor work - or ride a horse? My hair is not yet long enough to put up, though I have been growing it now for that purpose for about six months. Do I need to forego the only make-up I currently wear, a tinted lip balm? I don't want to give up my plain, gold wedding ring. Would you think ill of me for continuing with it? How do I explain all of this to my friends, family, and congregants? How can I find plain-dressing friends to talk with about these things? Can I view this as a natural process instead of a one-time committment? What if I am someplace where the prayer covering would feel so odd that I would feel more appropriate without it. Right now I feel like a closet plain-dresser.

    All of this is so confusing, yet I am calm because I know God is in charge and, though I don't understand this yet, I know it will be revealed to me eventually.

    Any advice you could share would be so very much apreciated.

    A budding plain-dressing Christian woman

    Answer: It is good to hear from thee, sister. Perhaps thee will find it a comfort for me to confirm that thee is not alone. Not the least bit alone. I have heard from plain-called Lutherans, Episcopalians, Seventh-Day Adventists, Atheists, Catholic lay women, Eastern Orthodox and United Methodists. Thee is the first "ordained" minister feeling called to plain dress that I have heard from . . . and even the Quaker women who feel called invariably live in a community where they are the only plain Quaker, just as I am. I've heard from women in England, France, Germany, Russia, Poland, and men from England, Scotland and Australia.

    God is calling many women to this observance, as well as quite a few men. I do not know his reasons. It is too widespread and happening to too many women who know of no one else in the universe who feels as they do to be anything else but God's hand at work in the world.

    God's foolishness is greater than our wisdom. I say that not to tell thee that ridicule is required. It is that thee may find that the pain of not doing what God is asking thee to do may become too much to endure, and that thee will find thee prefers ridicule to trying to silence the call. That was my experience. I don't experience ridicule so much as discomfort from those who knew me before I went plain. Strangers are invariably charmed by plain dress, deserved or undeserved I won't venture to judge.

    The ways I learned what was right for me to wear were listening to three sources: my dreams, my heart, and my experience. I had intense dreams about a particular bonnet style before I went plain. It was an early part of my "going plain" that has never altered. My heart has leapt for joy at the sight of the "right" cap or apron or shoes. Silly as it sounds, that "sign" has also never led me astray. Other pieces have been more difficult for me. God seems to be not particular about the exact dress I wear, so I have tried a few different styles and colors and have learned by experience what "works" and what seems "okay" with me, my lifestyle and God. Some things God seems to have an opinion on. Others seem to be my choice. I don't know how else to explain it.

    I am a Quaker. I believe God will show us, through the loving agency of his Son Jesus Christ, the Seed Within, the Inward Guide, many names for this experience of God speaking from inside, but through this voice he calls to us, shows us that today we are to turn left when we had thought to turn right. It isn't conscience, though that is bound up in it. There can be nothing morally or ethically wrong with turning left over turning right *except* that God has called for us to turn that way and we realize it. So, wear jeans if thee gets no "No" from thy Inward Guide, and don't worry what other plain people might think. I know a plain Quaker who pulls the jeans on to tend her goats without a thought. She tucks her skirt up out of the way somehow with some string she has sewn into the hem. I haven't seen it, only read it, but it sounds very practical. She is one of the most profoundly spiritual women I know, and feels no judgment for this.

    Many plain women wear bright solids. Others wear prints of all kinds. Someone reported seeing a teenage German Baptist Brethren girl in a dress made of fabric covered with Coca Cola bottles. The Hutterites are of Russian origin and wear a brilliant mix of paisleys, plaids, polka dots and florals that are uniquely Slavic in feel. Since thee does not live in a community that is setting the standard for thee, thee will have to try to listen to what God is calling thee to. My experience is that thee will know if thee has gone astray. The lip gloss can stay as long as thee gets no "stop" as we Quakers call it. The wedding ring can stay on forever if God wants thee to continue that witness. The Amish, Mennonites, Brethren and other plain denominations with strict communal standards would say otherwise. They would point to their Bibles about the wearing of gold and cutting hair and beards and find their answer there. I find my answer in my heart. God's clarity has been a joy to discover and a release from the rules and judgments of this world, all rules that are not of His design for Me in this life. I easily believe others are called to different witnesses. God is far too great to be encompassed by everyone wearing sombre colors. And yet, it is also a witness that some are led to restrict themselves to sombre, solid colors . . . I don't reject communal plain dress as a witness to a piece of God's Truth, it just isn't what I am called to . . .

    Definitely view this as a natural process. In Quaker language we call it living up to the "measure" of the Truth God has given thee. Once thee lives up to the "measure of the Truth" he has given thee, then more will be given. Thee is loved for trying to live up to thy measure, not for following some rules and hoping they are good enough to get thee into heaven!

    Plain dress is a witness. It is a calling. It is both a burden and a joyful gift. God has blessed me abundantly for what faithfulness I have been capable of, and these blessings were nothing I could have ever guessed existed for me in this world. I wanted to be seen as smart, capable, wise, "with it." God had other plans. I am invariably viewed as kind, patient, loving and spiritually open, and I find myself becoming these things more and more each day, happily abandoning worldly wisdom for the private peace of knowing I am doing God's will for me on this earth this day as best I am able.

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    Question: How has your Quaker path affected those closest to you?

    Answer: Number one, it made them uncomfortable. These sorts of changes are really only hard on people who have known us before we are led to make a drastic and powerful statement. Ultimately the positive changes in me and my life brought most of them around to some level of comfort. Love can often win out over fear.

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    My name is Christine and I have been working my way to becoming plain for a while now. I have felt led to it by the lord as you yourself, however not in the Friends circle. I just was wondering how your husband, his family and your family responded to the changes the Lord was making in you and your life. Like you my husband is not plain however he is a christian and the gap between our beliefs is getting wider. we have one daughter who is 8 and deciding how to raise her is becoming difficult. Do you know any one who is in a similar situation or have any advice?

    Answer: Almost every woman who contacts me is in a similar situation. It is a solitary calling for most.

    My husband was not comfortable with it at first. He is not a confessing Christian at all, so all of this was rather scary for him.

    My experience is that the most important thing is to honor and respect one's husband's wishes. If he is categorically opposed to something, yield. It is important for one's partner to know that even amidst these changes he will be honored and respected, his opinions will matter, and his feelings will count. My husband was "won" over by the changes in me. I went from judgmental, argumentative, and fearful to trusting, open, loving and supportive. He did not oppose my plain dress, but it worried him, and those fears were allayed by the growth of love and joy in my heart as God finally had room to grow there.

    I do not know if this is helpful to thee. I would love to hear from thee more about thy predicament, if thee wishes, and I will provide what solace and companionship I can.

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    Question: What is the longest you have waited to receive direction on a spiritual matter? The shortest?

    Answer: The longest I have waited for clarity is 2 years. I must mention that part of that time I knew what I was called to do, but struggled to find the strength to do it. Sometimes I am able at the moment of clarity to submit and do as I am directed. Other times, I am fearful and doubting and although I recognize the call, find I must struggle with myself to accomplish my appointed task. I know that this struggle is always a period of spiritual growth, but that knowledge does not make it any easier. I also know that God does not call me to things I cannot accomplish, but that knowledge does not make it any easier. I am weak, and willful, and fearful, and blessed to experience that God loves me anyway. Loves me enough to ask me to do what must be done, and patient with me while I gather the courage to do it.

    The shortest time would be instantaneous. There are some days when God says, turn left here, not right, and I do and things proceed in a miraculous way that proves the correctness of my discernment and the graciousness of God. Discernment is a precarious dance of trust: I must trust God, and I must trust myself. Failures in either of these makes submitting to a call impossible.

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    Question: Are you ever shown things in your dreams?

    Answer: Yes. It is my experience that God does speak to us through our dreams. In fact, the name for this website (QuakerJane.com) and the tagline (Limiting your palette in an addle-pated world) came to me in a dream a year or so before I actually created it.

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    Question: Do you keep a journal?

    Original Answer: I do. I keep a dream journal and a daily journal. I find them helpful in processing my current spiritual experiences, though I don't know that I ever go back and read them again. [Update 2010: I have not kept either journal since I had a baby . . . ]

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    Question: What form of music, if any, have you found to be edifying in worship?

    Answer: Shortly after my convincement, I felt a song burst forth from my heart. I find myself singing it on a regular basis, doing the dishes, driving the car. That feels worshipful in the sense of expressing gratitude to God for his great goodness, but not worshipful in the sense that sitting in silence is worshipful. Otherwise, the sort of music I listen to is usually classical or other forms of music that do not have words that keep me company while I am cooking or cleaning or sewing, but I do not consider it worshipful even though it may be joyful.

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    Question: Have you interacted with orthodox Jewish or Muslim women? If so, what has been their response?

    Answer: I have interacted with Muslim women. Muslim women who are American converts will give me a sisterly smile and a little nod of recognition. Muslim women who are not from America tend to not know what to make of my attire. I have one Muslim friend who grew up in Iraq and she always teases me about how much hair shows from under my cap, brushing it with her fingertips, smiling, and saying it is a "mistake."

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    Question: Do you wear a wedding band, and if not, do people ever assume that you and your husband are not together?

    Answer: I do not wear a wedding band. Since I have been plain, no one ever says anything. Before I went plain, if I happened to not be wearing a wedding band, someone always mentioned it, which I found annoying because my husband has never even owned a wedding band, and no one *ever* mentioned it. But if for some reason I went out without one, someone always said something. But now that I am plain, my marital status just does not come up. Certainly no one has asked me out on a date or "hit" on me, and I think people just assume I am married and have or will have many many children. My husband has dreadlocks . . . I think people assume we are not together because he is not plain, rather than the absence or presence of any wedding band.

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    Some less serious questions:

    Question: Which do you consider most "plain": contact lenses or glasses?

    Answer: I consider glasses more plain because they do not require the upkeep and maintenance of contact lenses (lens solution, for instance). Broadly speaking, I think that contact lenses are preferred for worldly beauty and appearance reasons and not health or practical reasons.

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    Question: What about activities that seemingly require non-plain dress? (I.e. scuba diving, rock climbing and the like.)

    Answer: People usually assume that when I adopted plain dress, my activity in the world decreased and was circumscribed. However, God is good, and what it did for me was to open me up to more, rather than closing me off. Before I learned to trust God (and myself) I was full of fear and could not enjoy a hike, would not go swimming. Now I have a modest swimsuit and enjoy swimming. I enjoy hiking. I am more free, not less. I suspect that anyone who is truly called to scuba diving, rock climbing and sailboat racing is not going to be called to plain dress. I am not called to these things, so I am not being held back by my submitting to God in this manner. I have been freed by submitting, because God's wisdom is greater than my own and he knew the good that would result for me from wearing plain dress. I could never have predicted it. I *have* had to give up my pridefulness, and that is hard enough! I do know one plain-dressing woman who rides a motorcycle. I haven't witnessed it, so I don't know how she makes that work . . .

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    If you go through an airport, do you ever have trouble with security over your bonnet?

    Answer: I am very careful in preparing for airplane travel. I do my hair with plastic clips instead of the long metal pins I normally use. I remove my bonnet, but not my cap, when I go through the line. I have never set off the alarm, so have had no problems. It is sort of a nightmare of mine that they will ask me to remove my cap in public. I had a bigger problem at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The first photo and driver's license in plain dress I had no problems, but the second time the woman took a hard line and I was gathering my belongings to leave the office when she relented and said that if it was really for religious reasons then she would take the photo.

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    Question: In your personal spiritual reading time (outside of Scripture), how much non-Quaker materials do you read? Do you find studying Christian but non-Quaker materials helpful, or only to a certain point?

    Answer: I very rarely read Christian but non-Quaker materials. As part of my training in spiritual direction, none of the materials we had to read were Quaker, though Christian. I found them interesting, mostly in contrasting how I experienced Christianity and what they described. Some of the writers seemed inspired. Some of the writers I found physicially painful to read. Others were like choking down cold oatmeal. My condition is just too entirely spoken to by Quakers (Christian), whether they are writing in 1690, 1790, 1890 or 1990.

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    Question: Did you join a plain dressing Quaker church or community? I live in the city and no one dresses plain in a traditional sense.

    Answer: I am currently an inactive member of a liberal Quaker meeting. Not only does no one else in my meeting wear plain dress, but (as far as I know) no one else in the entire Yearly Meeting does.

    I get my "fix" (sense of being one among many) by attending the Wider Gathering of Conservative Friends that is held every summer. It is nice to be among plain people and know they are also Quakers. (The majority do not wear plain dress, but a number who attend do and it is nice to know when I see a plain person over that weekend, I am seeing a fellow Quaker.) I can report that at the gathering in 2005, shades of blue (from light blue to gray-blue to navy) were very much in evidence among the plain dressers, male and female.

    Answers to FAQs and Responses to Some Common False Assumptions

    Assumption: Since you wear Plain dress, you must have been raised that way.

    I was raised United Methodist with no exposure to plain people. Click here to read about my convincement.

    Question: Do you dress like that all of the time?

    Yes, now. When I first "went plain" I began by wearing it only evenings and weekends. Now I wear it all of the time.

    Question: Don't people stare?

    Oh my yes. Some quite rudely. I am learning the delights of a large bonnet, and when the stare is too intrusive, I "give them the bonnet" by turning my head and blocking them from my view. I can easily advocate for the bonnet as a privacy protection device.

    Assumption: Since you wear Plain dress, you must be a great cook, a prodigious baker, be a stay-at-home wife, sew your own clothes, knit, crochet and quilt.

    It is only coincidental that I love to bake and love to quilt, all pre-plain accomplishments. My cooking is adequate, but only with a recipe; I can sew but don't because I can't bear to waste the fabric with my inadequate concoctions; I cannot knit or crochet. I have been a stay-at-home wife at times in our marriage, and I consider the housework an important part of my responsibilities, but I currently work outside the home part-time as a secretary. When I first went plain, I was working as a computer programmer. When people would ask what I did and I would tell them, the shock on their face distressed me so I found myself easing their confusion by adding that I loved to quilt. This always, and I mean always, relieved their distressed look and seemed to make the world right for them again somehow.

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    quakers society of friends spirituality plain dress simplicity limiting your palette quaker meeting peace witness George Fox quakerism
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    daily george fox quote

    Epistle 189

    "The Preciousness and Weight of Truth"

    (To Friends in New-England and Virginia)

    MY Dear Friends, Robert Hodson, William Robinson (1), Marmaduke Stevenson (1), Peter Pearson, William Brend, William Ledra (1), and the rest of Friends in New-England and Virginia, Be faithful to the Lord in the Truth of the Lord God, and in his Power and Wisdom be valiant for it upon the Earth, and spread it abroad, and confound Deceit: And dwell in the Power of God, and stand in it, which comprehends the whole World: that through it ye ...
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