Serendipity is another word for God-wink.
Sometimes I need to turn my thinker off. Reaching for a light bedtime read, I found Sue Bender’s 1991 book in my Kindle library. I don’t know when I got it, but I’m grateful. God is good – all the time.
Reclining on plumped pillows, I began reading – and didn’t stop until I finished the book.
I don’t remember when time felt abundant. Do you?
“I felt like Alice in Wonderland. It wasn’t their clothes being different, or that the men didn’t shave. It was that they didn’t rush. They moved through their days unhurried. For me, that was amazing. Because I was always rushing and always felt I didn’t have enough time. But I don’t even think they had a clock. They were always in the moment, which was deeply satisfying.” – Sue Bender
Do you believe simplicity lives in a mythical forest with unicorns? Is your life too complicated to enjoy? To embrace?
The next day was unusual. The temperature dropped almost 50 degrees after setting a record high the day before. What was most unusual is what I chose to do with my day indoors. (I’m now a weather wimp.)
The Genesis of Change
I decided to clean house. It was withering on the vine.
Dusty. Dull. Lifeless.
You can hydrate your body with a glass of water or saline IV. One is normal, the other packs a much bigger punch. I prefer the glass of water.
Furniture products are similar. You can dry dust, damp dust, or oil. When I oil I generally use Old English lemon oil. Good stuff, but it’s more like Gatorade than an IV.
“We need balance. I had been drowning in choices. I always made these lists of things to do. I was endlessly thinking, “What should I do?” and going back and forth and so on. By the end of the day, there’d be so many things, taking up the whole page, and of course I didn’t do half of them. The Amish made one big choice, which was to lead a godly life and to be stewards of the land and to be a good community. I was brought up to be special, but I ended up falling in love with the people who valued being ordinary.” – Sue Bender
Orange revitalizing oil is a heavy duty product I seldom use, which is why the bottle’s lasted for ten years. (Don’t judge.) My mesquite-wood dining room chairs aren’t quite fine furniture because the wood has some crazy grain and a few splintery areas. I’ve discovered that it improves with regular oiling. Hydration repairs the splinters and builds a richer patina.
They aren’t oiled regularly enough.
With orange oil and a clean white cloth I rubbed every inch of all four chairs. The slats, stretchers, flats and curves. The wood gleamed with vitality. It’s possible they sighed with relief and delight.
What is remarkable is how much I enjoyed the work. Patiently. Contentedly. Happily.
For decades I’ve been the gal who’d rather clean the barn than the house. Instead of prioritizing one over the other, I will try to find them equally satisfying. Like all goals, I need to identify smaller steps, successfully check them off, and establish a new habit.
Plain. Polished. Alive.
The day before reading Plain and Simple I wouldn’t have connected these three words. I felt them in my spirit, but couldn’t express them simply. That’s what Sue Bender did for me. She gave voice to what I knew, but didn’t know simply enough.
Bender didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. But that’s not the point. She reminded me of what I already knew.
I purpose to simplify simplicity.
No one will ever master God or horses, and I can’t imagine anyone in western cultures mastering the art of simplicity. Sue journeyed to the Amish to find it, but lost the connection not long after returning to her real life.
She returned to the Amish again.
I’m in love with Jesus Christ, my husband, and the pursuit of simplicity. All three feed my soul. In it’s own way, so did this book.
Changes become habit more reliably when introduced slowly and reinforced. Plain and Simple didn’t introduce change, but it reinforces changes I started making years ago.
Yet, the process of change can stall. It plateaus.
My plateau broke out of static-mode a few weeks ago when I realized I don’t want to build another business. I don’t want to compete. I want to rejoice, love, discover new joys of community, and be a better steward of God’s blessings. The timing of this read isn’t coincidental. I’m doing something I’ve never done before —
Own Your Life
I’m living in my life, not above it or over it. I’m the owner, the author, and player. Not the producer, director, or critic. Work is play and play is work. At least that’s my intent. Now it must become my habit.
“Each day was the same. Twelve of us gathered in the living room, knelt, and said a short, five-minute prayer. Then we worked—canning the peas, mowing the lawn, feeding the animals, quilting, doing the laundry—a long list. Except there was no separation between work and play. It was all ordinary, all sacred. Each thing was done with care. And without any labor-saving devices, time felt abundant. The day ended the same way it began, with the prayer.” – Sue Bender
When Plain and Simple made the best-seller list, I was thrilled. I went to our food market, and I told the woman this amazing news, and all she said was, “What number are you?” That was such a lesson for me. So many of us live in a world where nothing is ever enough. And if I didn’t find little ways to make slight changes in that, I’d always be dissatisfied.
I wasn’t Amish, grounding corn. And I wasn’t the most driven person, either. And I realized that I had to make peace with my paradox. We’re never one way or the other. I had to make peace with my paradox so my life could feel whole with the pieces I do have.
Meet Sue Bender, the full interview and source of quotes from the book.
Today (the day this is published) Sue Bender’s ceramic art is on exhibit at The Village Gallery in Berkeley, CA. The theme of the exhibit is Reframing Aging the brain-child of photographer Nancy Rubin.
Backstory – Nancy Rubin
Nancy and I connected when I reached out for permission to use Sue’s photo in this review. Another generous, capable, and caring women “of a certain age”, Nancy has her own story.
When Nancy Rubin taught the pioneering Social Living class at Berkeley High School from the late ’70s to the ’90s, she became something of a public figure and was often asked to comment on the challenges faced by teenagers. People would say: if there was one thing that could be changed to help the kids who are getting in trouble, what would it be? Rubin was quick to point out that there was no “magic wand.” However she did have a suggestion: “Put a loving father in every home.”
Quoted from Berkleyside. (Click for marvelous images of fathers and the full story.)
Nancy Rubin is a contributing photographer for Berkeleyside and her work is used in publications of the University of California, Visit Berkeley, and Ashby Village. She has donated her time and photos to help organizations such as Berkeley Animal Care Services, the YMCA, Center for Early Intervention on Deafness, California Alumni Association, and Ashby Village.