The Ministry of the Mundane

One morning I chafed over having to go to the grocery store – again. I had just gone the day before, but that store didn’t have everything I needed, plus we were getting ready for company and needed a few extras. I groused inwardly about spending way too much of my life in stores and how I had other things I’d much rather be doing.

All of a sudden the thought came to mind, “She bringeth her food from afar.”

You might recognize that as part of the Proverbs 31 woman‘s description. In fact, a lot of what she did was everyday, seemingly mundane stuff: planting, cooking, sewing, weaving, buying, selling. In those days, with no Amazon, super Wal-Marts, or even grocery or clothing stores, most of what she made for herself, her family, and her home was done by hand, from scratch.

Thankfully I don’t have to weave my own cloth. I don’t even have to go too much “afar” to gather my food. We have four grocery stores within a ten-minute drive, and all but one of them lets customers order online and pick up their groceries curbside. So I really don’t have anything to complain about.

It helps me to realize, or remember, that gathering and preparing food is part of what I am supposed to do. Somebody has to do it. My husband doesn’t mind going to the store for me sometimes, but I don’t like to ask him since he already works more than 40 hours a week and then has yard work and house maintenance on top of that.

But realizing it’s part of my job helps me not to chafe: this is just as important as anything else that seems more valuable. It’s part of my ministry to my family.

I’ve wondered why so much of life is made of the mundane. A friend who was a missionary said that when she first went to the field, she had no idea she would be spending so much time in the kitchen. I remember Elisabeth Elliot writing about dealing with a recalcitrant stove or heater and wondering at how much time, especially in a third world country, is made up of such activities. I remember hearing a missionary lady once say that in her country, they still had milkmen pick up their empty milk bottles, and part of her testimony and reputation involved having clean milk bottles out on her porch at the appointed time.

As I have been pondering these things the last few days, I came up with a few possible reasons so many mundane tasks.

The rubber meets the road in those everyday duties. It’s easy to think about loving and serving our fellow man or woman while at home in a quiet, pleasant room with our Bibles. It’s another thing when our fleshly nature bumps up against each other in the real world.

A good work ethic is a testimony to others. Luther was purported to have said, “The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes.” This article disputes that. I understand the article’s view that it’s not something Luther would have said, but I don’t totally agree with their logic. Perhaps you’ve known someone who thought they served God better by witnessing to people than by doing their job. But we’re admonished to do our work “heartily, as unto the Lord.” We’ve all experienced the pangs of faulty workmanship, employees or even ministry partners who do a slipshod job, creating problems and frustration for fellow-workers, bosses, customers. Sure, we have Mary and Martha‘s example, and we know it’s possible to have wrong priorities, and we need to set aside the earthly for the heavenly sometimes. But when it’s time to work, it’s time to do it well and efficiently.

These tasks teach patience, endurance, perseverance, fortitude, service, thoughtfulness of others.

I can’t do even these things in the right way and spirit without God’s help and grace. I just stumbled across this quote in my files from Oswald Chambers (source unknown): “The things Jesus did were the most menial of tasks, and this is an indication that it takes all of God’s power in me to accomplish even the most common tasks in His way. Can I use a towel as He did?” God filled the workmen of the tabernacle with “the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship.” He goes on to say, “I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you” (Exodus 31:1-6, ESV).

Ministry to others can be shown through the mundane. Someone said of Francis and Edith Shaeffer, “As many people were brought to the Lord through Mrs. Schaeffer’s cinnamon buns as through Dr. Schaeffer’s sermons!” Practical help is just as needful as spiritual help.

When Amy Carmichael’s ministry began to change from evangelism to caring for children, she questioned whether God had really called her to be a “nursemaid” when there were so many other needs and ways she could be used. “It was then that she read the words from John 13, how the Lord of glory ‘took a towel and girded Himself.’…never again did she question whether her gifts were being wasted. She knew that the Master never wastes the servant’s time.” (Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur by Frank Houghton)

Mr. Houghton also writes that, “Occasionally someone suggested that character-training of boys and girls…or, still more, the erection of buildings to house them, was not evangelistic work, and therefore not worthy of support.” Amy wrote, “Well, one cannot save and then pitchfork souls into heaven…and as for buildings, souls (in India, at least) are more or less securely fastened into bodies. Bodies cannot be left to lie about in the open, and as you cannot get the souls out and deal with them separately, you have to take them both together.”

We don’t always necessarily have to be doing anything “spiritual” to show forth the fruit of the Holy Spirit. One of my favorite blogger friends writes about what’s going on in her home and family, but even in her homemaking tasks she reflects the spirit of a woman who walks closely with God. She’s not trying to show that: it just shines through her. In everything she shows “a sense of Him.”

Perhaps, too, the weight of physical, everyday tasks is a reminder that we live in a physical world with limitations and constant needs. That reminder increases our anticipation and longing for the day we’ll be released from these bodies and this world.

At any rate, my perspective changed that day. I had no thought of Labor Day when I first started compiling these thoughts, but perhaps it’s appropriate on this particular day to remind ourselves that “In all labor there is profit, But mere talk leads only to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23, NASB).

I still need to remind myself frequently that my physical tasks are as needful and important as any type of ministry task. I can do them as unto the Lord. Sure, there are ways I can improve: e.g, planning better can help reduce the number of trips to the store. And I still have plenty of time for things like reading and writing – much more time than the Proverbs 31 woman had. But I can serve, as she did, with strength, dignity, industriousness, kindness, and reverence. Even at the grocery store.

(Sharing with Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

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Laudable Linkage

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Here are a few thought-provoking posts discovered recently.

Heart Check: 4 Questions to Gauge the Stage of Your Heart.

My Larry Nassar Testimony Went Viral. But There’s More to the Gospel Than Forgiveness. Interview with Rachel Denhollander.

Most of Life Is Waiting. “I feared my circumstances more than I feared God. I had lost sight of the reality that both trials and triumphs are part of the good story God is writing through me.”

On Threats From a Hostile Culture.

Don’t Hold Loved Ones Back From God.

The Simple Beauty of Wisdom. The ladies at Do Not Depart have been studying through Proverbs in January and end with the last two chapters. I thought the comments about the “virtuous woman” in particular were very practical and encouraging.

What Do We Do With the King James Version?

Enneagram: The Road Back to You, Or to Somewhere Else?, HT to Challies.

How the Mom Internet Became a Spotless, Sponsored Void, HT to Challies. I don’t think it’s totally dead, and I think there is a place for both the “raw” and the “pretty” types of mom blogs, but this makes some insightful observations.

Physician to Parents: You’re Doing It Wrong. The title is a little off-putting, but he has some practical advice here.

Why You Can’t Measure the Value of Homemaking, HT to Challies.

Don’t Stop Coming.

Happy Saturday!

Book Review: Songs of a Housewife: Poems by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Some years I go I saw, somewhere, a poem that I really loved. I looked up the author and found she had written a whole book of them, so I got it, I think possibly from a used book seller on Amazon. But it’s hard to just pick up a book of poems and start reading through, so it sat undisturbed on my bookshelf for a very long time. Then one day I saw it and noticed the author’s name again, and thought it looked a little familiar. I looked it up, and …yes, the author of Songs of a Housewife: Poems by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, was also the author of a book I dearly loved, The Yearling. So that put the book higher on my to-be-read list! I finally put it on my desk, where I’d pick it up in between doing other things and read a couple to a handful at a time.

Rodger L. Tarr edited the book and explains in the introduction that the poems were originally in a newspaper column that Rawlings wrote in the NY Rochester Times-Union between 1926 and 1928. He includes a few pictures of the column, which sported the icon and typeset he used on the cover. It came about at a time when newspapers wanted to expand beyond just the news and provide entertainment as well. They were published mostly six days a week over two years until she moved to Florida, resulting in some 495 poems, about half of which are published in this book.

Tarr goes into a brief history of her writing career (her first story was published when she was eleven) and family life. She was writing feature articles for the newspaper when she proposed a weekly poetry column for women, particular housewives. Her editor was “skeptical at first” (p. 4), but finally let her try. The poems became a “cultural phenomenon” (p. 1). Sometimes readers asked her for a poem on a specific subject.

She explained her perspective in an interview:

I was brought up to believe in the modern myth that housekeeping is only drudgery, and the housewife is a downtrodden martyr. I thought that any seemingly contented housewives were only ‘making the best of it.’ When I first began housekeeping in my own home, I felt that I had entered the ranks of the mistreated.

After a time I began to realize, to my amazement, that I didn’t feel at all downtrodden, and that I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I began to look at other domestic ‘martyrs’ from a new angle, and I have learned many things.

I have found that there is romance in housework: and charm in it; and whimsy and humor without end. I have found that the housewife works hard, of course–but likes it. Most people who amount to anything do work hard, at whatever their job happens to be. The housewife’s job is home-making, and she is, in fact, ‘making the best of it’; making the best of it by bringing patience and loving care to her work; sympathy and understanding to her family; making the best of it by seeing all the fun in the day’s incidents and human relationships.

The housewife realizes that home-making is an investment in happiness. It pays everyone enormous dividends. There are huge compensations for the actual labor involved…

There are unhappy housewives, of course. But there are unhappy stenographers and editresses and concert singers. The housewife whose songs I sing as I go about my work, is the one who likes her job (pp. 6-7).

She was writing at a time when feminism was coming to the fore, and she “was fully committed to a woman’s right to share equally in the workplace…Yet she also took the firm position that women who choose to stay home are also professionals” (p. 7).

Tarr divides the poems into six categories and at the bottom of each shares the date when it was originally published. They cover the gamut from cooking, family happenings, housework, friends and relatives, “philosophical nuggets,” and nature. Sometimes they express kind of a smiling frustration: usually they’re cheery.

The poem that started it all for me was “The Symphony of Supper-time”

I like the sound of silver
When the table’s being set,
In the early Winter twilight,
With the lamps unlighted yet.

I like to hear the kitchen door
Swing slowly out, and then,
When Mary passes, laden, through,
Swing slowly back again.

I like to hear the kettle sing;
The hissing of the roast;
The children coming in from play,
A hungry, noisy host.

I like to hear the murmurings
When my dessert appears.
The symphony of supper-time
Is music to my ears! (p. 35).

With so many poems so many days in a row, not all of them are winners. But I marked several that I particularly liked. Here are a few:

A Prayer for Housewives

Let me have endless patience, first of all,
And not grow weary when the quick doors slam,
Or when small fingers stain the new-washed wall.
Let me ignore the mud tracked o’er the jamb!

Let me be tireless, for the hours are long.
Let me be merry, when I want to weep.
And if my days may not move like a song,
Grant me, at night, the healing touch of sleep.

May I remember small, important things–
An empty cookie jar is such a crime!
Is it too much to pray at times for wings?
How else, some days, to have the meals on time!

And if there’s any fun to come my way,
Or any laughter due me, Lord, decree it!
And where there’s beauty in the every-day,
Oh, let me not be blinded! Let me see it! (p. 102).

“Mistress and House” begins:

A gracious mistress for this gracious place,
She moves in harmony with flowers and birds;
Her voice is gentle, filled with gentle words
And there is sunlight on her quiet face.

It ends with “She crowns its beauty with her womanhood” (p. 111).

In “Treasure,” she says she’ll let her son, Tom, off from chores for a bit because he’s deep into reading Treasure Island, and closes with

He treads the ground unseeing, starry-eyed;
Plays, eats and sleeps and studies in a trance.
His mind consorts with pirates and with ships,
In high adventure. He has found romance.

Not mine the voice to call him from the realm,
Where sailors’ parrots cry and silver gleams!
He has found treasure past life’s power to steal.
He’s keeping company, these days, with dreams (p. 155).

In “Aunt Ida’s Letters,” after discussing her “ramblings” and picturing what she looks like as she writes, she says:

And through her talk of life, and things,
The beauty of her spirit sings.
And when her letter-writing’s done,
There will be somehow less of sun (p. 156).

After describing “A Peaceful House,” she closes with:

I knock. And in the mistress’ eyes
The source of this sweet peace is seen.
Her love has made her calm and wise–
Her love has made this house serene (p. 191).

After discussing various aspects of dealing with “Old Clothes,” she concludes, “Old friends forgive old clothes, because/Friendship is never out of style! (p. 198).

After describing a host’s gracious “Hospitality,” she concludes:

But did you know these things material
Welcomed me less than those that have no form?
It was your kindness that was beautiful,
It was your spirit’s grace that kept me warm.

You called me friend. You made me one of you.
I was no more a stranger and apart.
You give to hospitality a clue–
Finer than open hands, the open heart (p. 226).

I could empathize with the last stanza of “Fooling Myself”:

I fool myself elaborately,
Some other line of work pursuing.
I seize each task so eagerly–
Except the one I should be doing!

Tarr says that to Rawlings, “Nature is a representation of God’s favor, although God as a concept seldom enters directly into her poems. Instead, she relies upon faith, which she sees as a transcendental force that runs through nature. There is a large element of Thoreau in Rawlings….Nature is divine, or at least a reflection of divinity” (p. 11). I would disagree with that view of nature, believing instead that God created it and it points us to Him (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-23). But I didn’t really see that philosophy reflected in the poems about nature included here. Most of them just show a pleasure in and enjoyment of nature.

A few of her poems would not be politically correct today. In one ode to her cook stove, she calls it her “black slave, humble and low” (p. 123). Some are a little gossipy. In one, she asserts that, just like in poker, “A full house beats a pair” at home, meaning that a home full of noisy children was better than “quiet, childless homes” with their “sedate and stupid choices” (p. 117), odd since she had no children of her own, but made up one for the persona of her columns.Maybe she regretted not having children – or maybe she was just catering to the way she thought her audience would feel. But it seems more than a little insensitive.

Most of her poems, however, bring a smile or a moment of thought or sweet reflection. I can imagine eagerly looking up her column in a newspaper each day. The quiet, kind, serene “mistress of the house” she portrays in many of the poems make me want to be more more like that kind of homemaker. These may not be the highest form of poetry, but for the most part they convey truth, beauty, perspective, understanding, and fun, a worthy goal of any artistic expression.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Wise Woman, Literary Musing MondayCarole‘s Books You Loved)

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The Value of Housework

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Housework is probably not on many people’s lists of favorite things to do. I tend to get frustrated over having to put aside the more interesting or even spiritual pursuits in order to dust or do laundry. But I do value housework. I don’t get excited about the need to dust, but once I get started, I enjoy the clean surfaces. I like the results of picking up, sweeping, doing laundry, washing dishes, even if I am not fond of the process. But even the process can be lightened up with listening to an audiobook, podcast, or music, or conversation while working with someone.

I’m embarrassed to confess this, but, believe it or not, when my husband and I were first married, I often wouldn’t do dishes until we ran out of clean silverware. We didn’t have a dishwasher, and I was a part-time student with two part-time jobs and the adjustments of being newly married. Plus both my jobs involved cleaning – a person’s home and five banks (my husband and I did the banks together – nice job for students because it could be done any time the bank was closed), so by the time I got to my own home, well, who wanted to clean then? But that meant that washing dishes, plus everything else I didn’t get to, took up a big chunk of time on Saturdays. I eventually learned it’s easier (and more sanitary and less disgusting) to clean in smaller doses as I went along, especially once I had children and no longer had big chunks of time to do anything.

I’ve been in homes where housework wasn’t valued – where I would have been afraid to eat or use the bathroom, where bugs crawled all over everything. I’ve been in hotels where there was pink stuff growing in the corners of the shower and the bedding looked questionable. I’ve been in restaurants with a waitress that acted like she could care less about serving and food that was under or over-cooked or unidentifiable. I’ve even gotten food poisoning from restaurant food. It makes such a difference when people care.

I just finished reading and reviewing True Woman 201: Interior Design by Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss yesterday, and one of the chapters I most appreciated dealt with work. Before discussing “keeping the home,” they couched the discussion in the greater spiritual principles that work is good, that we work because we’re made in God’s image and He works, that Jesus did humble physical labor longer than He worked as an itinerant evangelist and teacher. In the course of that chapter the authors quoted a couple of feminists of the past concerning housework:

“Women’s work within the home gives her no autonomy; it is not directly useful to society, it does not open out on the future, it produces nothing” (Simone de Beauvoir).

“Women who adjust as housewives, who grow up wanting to be just a housewife, are in as much danger as the millions who walked to their own death in the concentration camps … they are suffering a slow death of mind and spirit” (Betty Friedan).

Wow – pretty strong stuff. It made me wonder – did they live in a pigsty, then? Or did they hire housekeepers but devalue them as “lesser” specimens of womanhood? Or did they value housework if someone was paid for it but not if women did it in their own homes? Reminds me of the G. K. Chesterton quote, “[Feminism] is mixed up with a muddled idea that women are free when they serve their employers but slaves when they help their husbands.”

I decided to list all the advantages I could think of for housework:

1. Sanitation. I have been in homes where there were roaches crawling over caked-on food on counters and appliances and toilet seats and sinks were black. Bleah.

2. Sense of peacefulness. When things are chaotic in the house, it’s hard to relax. But when everything is in order with my surroundings, my mind and heart feel more orderly.

3. Not being embarrassed if someone comes by unexpectedly, or not having to do a major overhaul before having people over. There may be shoes off by the couch or a newspaper or glass on the end table, but there’s an overall sense of order and cleanliness.

4. Saves time. Staying on top of things is much easier than having to do major clean-ups.

5. Being able to find things rather than having them get lost in the shuffle or buried.

6. Save money. Things last longer when they’re taken care of, plus you avoid purchasing things that you forgot you had.

7. Releases you to be creative in other areas. For some of us its hard to be creative in a mess.

8. Multitasking – with some chores you can listen to music or a podcast or an audiobook while your hands are busy with something else.

9. Almost instant gratification. You can see the dish pile diminishing and the dust disappearing.

10. Sense of accomplishment. I’ve been thinking over this post for a few days, and just this morning while listening to Robinson Crusoe heard this passage, in which he brings supplies into a cave. “At first this was a confused heap of goods, which, as they lay in no order, so they took up all my place; I had no room to turn myself.” Then he tells how he arranged things, made furniture, fixed a place to hang his gun, etc., then “so that, had my cave been to be seen, it looked like a general magazine of all necessary things; and had everything so ready at my hand, that it was a great pleasure to me to see all my goods in such order.”

Of course one can go too far and make everyone feel like they can never relax for fear of getting something dirty or out of place. You want a place where everyone is comfortable, not a museum. I knew of one women who did all sorts of things around the house that she thought a good wife was supposed to do only to find that those things didn’t really matter to her husband: he’d rather be greeted by an attentive, peaceful wife than neglected by one who was in a constant frenzy over the house. It’s good to confer together over these things. Some people don’t mind a little dust as long as clutter is picked up. We all have things that “bug” us or make the room feel unclean, but then have other things we can live with, at least for a while.

And we don’t have to go all Disney princess, singing “Whistle While You Work” while bluebirds tie bows in our hair.

And there are seasons and moments of life when housework takes a back seat (when a young child is in the house, when there is a “teachable moment” with a child or an opportunity to sit and play with him for a moment, when a husband wants you to do something or go somewhere with him and leave the dishes for now, when a friend needs a listening ear, when you’re tired, etc.).

And it is ok to pay someone to clean your house: it’s not a sin if you don’t do it all yourself. Even the Proverbs 31 lady had help. I’ve known elderly or working women to hire household help  for various tasks or people to hire help for special occasions. By the way, if you’re a mom, it’s perfectly ok and even a good thing to have your children do household tasks. It’s good for them to learn to pitch in, to learn the value of work, to value keeping things clean and orderly, to train in that way for their own homes and jobs. We always had the attitude that kids doing work wasn’t just “helping Mom,” but rather instilling in them that we all pull together as a family to get things done (more on children and chores here).

But the point is that housework is valuable and does provide meaningful service, for ourselves, for our families, for guests.

Of course,  the feminists quoted probably didn’t have any problem with a woman swishing a broom occasionally: what they particularly disliked was the idea of a woman being a full-time homemaker. I’m glad for many of the choices available to women today, but one of them is being a fill-time homemaker (I realize that not everyone who wants to be at home can be). I prefer the term homemaker to housewife, because I am not married to my house: I am creating a home. In a sense every woman is a homemaker, because every woman has a home, whether she’s single or married, has children or does not, works outside the home or does not. And as someone who has been a homemaker for 36 years, full-time for 32, I can tell you it isn’t a mind-numbing, useless existence. It can be as creative as you make it.

Some years ago I wrote Encouragement for Homemakers, and want to pull a couple of quotes from there:

Homemaking—being a full-time wife and mother—is not a destructive drought of usefulness but an overflowing oasis of opportunity; it is not a dreary cell to contain one’s talents and skills but a brilliant catalyst to channel creativity and energies into meaningful work; it is not a rope for binding one’s productivity in the marketplace, but reins for guiding one’s posterity in the home; it is not oppressive restraint of intellectual prowess for the community, but a release of wise instruction to your own household; it is not the bitter assignment of inferiority to your person, but the bright assurance of the ingenuity of God’s plan for the complementarity of the sexes, especially as worked out in God’s plan for marriage; it is neither limitation of gifts available nor stinginess in distributing the benefits of those gifts, but rather the multiplication of a mother’s legacy to the generations to come and the generous bestowal of all God meant a mother to give to those He entrusted to her care.”
~Dorothy Patterson

I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty and joy to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble.
~Helen Keller

What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow.
~ Martin Luther

And I’ll add this one just discovered in the True Woman book:

“The reason we give priority to managing household responsibilities is not that vacuuming, dusting, or cooking are intrinsically valuable or satisfying tasks. It’s that we want to create a peaceful, orderly, welcoming environment conducive to nurturing and growing disciples for the kingdom of God” (p. 154).

So take heart as you go through your home bringing order out of chaos: your work is both valuable and meaningful. And perhaps be inspired by this:

The Blue Bowl

All day long I did the little things,
The little things that do not show;
I brought the kindling for the fire,
I set the candles in a row,
I filled a bowl with marigolds—
The shallow bowl you love the best—
And made the house a pleasant place
Where weariness may take its rest.

The hours sped on, my eager feet
Could not keep pace with my desire.
So much to do! So little time!
I could not let my body tire.
Yet when the coming of the night
Blotted the garden from my sight,
And on the narrow graveled walks
Between the guarding flower stalks
I heard your step, I was not through
With services I meant for you.

You came into the quiet room
That glowed enchanted with the bloom
Of yellow flame. I saw your face;
Illumined by the firelit space,
Slowly grow still and comforted—
“It’s good to be at home,” you said.

~ Blanch Bane Kuder

See also:

Encouragement for Homemakers, which, incidentally, contains my favorite ever comment from my husband.
Happy Housewife Day!
I confess: I don’t really like to cook.
A Real Home.
Wanting things to be “perfect.”
A Homemaking Meme.
Another homemaking meme.
A prayer for home.
Two views of housework.
Meditations for daily tasks.
Thy list be done.
The Value of Homemakers.

(Sharing With Inspire Me Monday)

Laudable Linkage

Here are some posts I found worth reading and sharing over the last couple of weeks:

The Dead End of Sexual Sin along with some advice from John Owen about overcoming sin of any kind.

Providential Dullness: An Easter Meditation. We give the disciples a hard time for missing that Jesus said He would rise again, but Luke 18:34 says, “this saying was hid from them.” Why would that be? Some good answers in this piece.

The Ones in the Front Row.“I cannot control the reception my children’s God-given callings receive out there in the wide world. But I can raise them to be appreciators of beauty, loveliness, and skill. Then, maybe they will be the ones in the front row, clapping their hearts out, whistling, standing and cheering at all the beauty the world holds for them.”

Thanks For Raising the Man of My Dreams! I hate mother-in-law jokes and did long before I became a m-i-l. I did have  relatively good relationship with mine. Here are some good thoughts to enhance that relationship.

10 Ways to Create a Home of Warmth and Grace.

How to Get Published.

For those who like Christian fiction, especially free Christian fiction, there’s a Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt going on this weekend with a possibility of winning 17-34 books from 30+ authors. Some of the individual authors are hosting their own giveaways as well.

Happy Saturday!

Finished Projects!

Some of you who have been here for a while may remember some years ago my showing this fabric that I had gotten for curtains and asking advice about them.

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I am ashamed to say how many years that has been, but it was before we moved to this house {blush}. Thankfully the family room here had the same number of windows similarly sized.

My biggest holdup in any kind of project is deciding what to do. My inspiration for using toile and check came from seeing the combination at a friend’s house years ago. I knew I wanted a valance that used both but had trouble deciding how to do it: toile on top, check on top, which pattern to use, trim or not, etc. After thinking about it every which way I possibly could, I finally decided on what I was inclined to do in the first place.

First I’ll show you the valances that were here when we moved in:

BEFORE: Old Valance

BEFORE: Old Valance

BEFORE: Old valance

BEFORE: Old valance

I apologize for the lighting in all of these. It was an overcast day, and even with all the lights on I couldn’t get the lighting right, then my phone camera kept wanting to focus on the window. These valances were all right – in fact, up close they had a lot of nice detail. But it was lost there on the window, and the beige valance on beige walls was pretty blah.

So this is what I came up with for the new valances:

AFTER: New valance

AFTER: New valance

AFTER: New valance

AFTER: New valance

IMG_0008(1)Eventually I want to make curtain panels as well. But I need to make a date with my husband to hang the rods for that. 🙂 This was a good stropping place for now.

I used this McCall pattern. I gave some thought to just adding a strip of the toile to the bottom of the check fabric rather than making the double valance that was called for, and in some ways I wish I had: even though these were attached, it was like making four valances rather than two. I did lengthen them a couple of inches from what the pattern specified.

When my dear husband was helping me hang them, he asked if I had ever thought about making them professionally. I thought to myself, “Oh, my dear, if you only knew….” I make way too many mistakes to sew professionally. I tend to do the dumbest things when I sew. For instance: the pattern called for a 1/2 inch seem. So instead of placing the fabric to the left of the 5/8″ guide mark on my machine, I placed it to the right, and then thought that seemed like an awfully wide seam allowance that was just going to be cut off. Then I realized my mistake, thankfully before I had gotten too far. There is a pretty major mistake with the lining on one, but since it was the lining and not in front and not obvious, I left it. But I did know what to watch for when I made the second one.

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I won’t bore you with all the flaws, but there are plenty. Thankfully they came out looking relatively well for all that.

At one point I wished I had the buffalo check that’s so popular these days, but since I already had this on hand, I felt like I should use it instead. But then, I told myself, if the buffalo check is trendy now, it might not be a few years from now, and the regular toile and check combo is fairly classic. Yet when I got these done I thought they looked more country-ish, which I am trying to get away from, rather than classic. But I am telling myself that’s just my imagination and they do look classic. 🙂

I also wanted to make a couple of pillows, mainly to tie the room together but also because I have a couple of old ones that are about ready to be retired. I got the idea for this one from here as well as instructions for making an envelope pillow.

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I really liked doing an envelope cover rather than stuffing  a pillow! I went back and forth with whether or not I liked this as much as I thought I would, but it does accomplish its purpose in tying the room together, I think.

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I also made the front and back for another one, based on this one seen on Pinterest (I found the other one originally on Pinterest as well). I was originally going to add lace like that one has, but decided I liked this design:

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I’m trying to decide whether I want to put cording around the edges or not. I’m going to see what Hobby Lobby has and then decide from there. But it shouldn’t take to long to finish up either way.

I love the trim, which I learned is called gimp, and thought it would be the easiest part to deal with, but I found it’s a little hard to keep in place – it kept wanting to pull over while I was sewing. And I did learn not to stretch it while sewing! I did that in a couple of places on one pillow, which made the fabric look a little puckered, but thankfully it evened out with pressing.

There’s one more I’d like to do, as well as the longer curtain panels, but this is a good stopping place for a week or so. My oldest son is coming in this weekend, and a very special grandson is having his first birthday next week, so I need to turn my attention to other pursuits just now. 🙂 With trying to get these done I haven’t been to visit you all like I normally would, and I hope to catch up soon.

A-Z Homemaking Meme

Back in the early days of blogging, someone would frequently start what they called a meme of interesting questions, tag their friends, and pass it around. It was a fun way to interact and get to know each other, but for whatever reason, they kind of fell by the wayside over time. But someone has started (or resurrected?) a new one that Susanne tagged me for, and I’m happy to participate.

Aprons – Y/N If Y what does your favorite look like?

I rarely wear aprons. I just don’t think to get it out. Around the house I often wear denim dresses, which show remarkably little staining. Recently I’ve gotten a couple of lighter-colored summer dresses, and I have started wearing an apron with them if I am cooking something messy (like spaghetti). The one I have been using is leftover from the days when Jim’s mom ate regular food at the table but was not always coordinated feeding herself – we used an apron rather than a bib for her, thinking she might feel a little humiliated about a bib. It’s just a plain denim one.

Baking – Favorite thing to bake?

Cookies! I am not so good at cakes and haven’t tried yeast breads since early marriage, though quick breads turn out ok.

Clothesline – Y/N

Nope. I like the smell of clothes hung to dry outside, and we used to have a clothesline, but after developing allergies and battling not only pollen but bird poop and inadvertently bringing in bugs with the clean clothes, I decided it wasn’t worth it.

Donuts – Have you ever made them?

Only the quickie cheating kind where you take canned biscuits and poke a hole in the middle and then fry them and frost or sprinkle, and haven’t done that in ages.

Everyday – One homemaking thing you do everyday?

There are always dishes to wash even if we’ve eaten out.

Freezer – Do you have a separate deep freeze?

Just got one this year and LOVE it and don’t know how I lived without one.

Garbage Disposal – Y/N

Yes. This is our first house to have one.

Handbook – What is your favorite homemaking resource?

These days, the Internet. It’s so easy to look up what to substitute for something you’re out of or how to get out a certain stain or whatever. I used to keep files of tips taken from magazines, but nowadays it would take longer to find what I need there than just looking it up online. I had various homemaking books in early marriage but can’t remember what they were.

Ironing – Love it or hate it?

Neither extreme but closer to hate than love. 🙂

Junk drawer- Y/N – Where is it?

I was thinking I had more than one, but most of them actually do have a purpose and are designated for certain things even if other things are in there. The one main one is in the kitchen.

Kitchen – Color and decorating scheme?

This kitchen doesn’t have any wall space, so I don’t have any decorations on the wall there. Here is a picture I took of it before we moved in (it is not quite camera-ready right now. 🙂

The counter tops and part of the back-splash are grey. What decorations I do have in there have pink and blue accents, as do my dishes. This is my favorite little corner, though the little pitcher has flowers in it now.

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I also like to have little things on the kitchen windowsill and change then out according to the season.

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I like pretty decorations just for their prettiness, but I especially like the ones with meaning. The little Boyd’s Bear figurine is a grandmother and grandson with a cookie they’ve just made, given to me on Mother’s Day (my first one as a grandmother). The clear rectangle Jesse gave me last Christmas. It has a laser-etched group of hummingbirds inside, and I love when the light shines the colors into the sink. The little stick-on birdfeeder and hummingbird feeder on the outside are new additions.

Love – What is your favorite part of homemaking?

Completion. 🙂 I can’t say I enjoy most homemaking tasks in themselves, but once I get started I’m fine, especially if I put on some music or an audiobook. I do love setting things to rights and bringing the chaos back into order and I love the feeling when the kitchen is cleaned up or the bathrooms have just been done, etc. If we’re talking about more than just cleaning, decorating is my favorite part of making a house into a home.

Mop – Y/N

I use a Swiffer Wet Jet. Love not having to deal with a bucket of water.

Nylons – Wash by hand or in washing machine?

I never wear nylons any more, even with dresses. Most people here don’t. If I were going somewhere really super-formal, maybe I would then, and I’d wash them by hand.

Oven – Do you use the window to check on things or do you open the door?

Most often the door, though I know heat is lost that way. Occasionally the window.

Pizza – What do you put on yours?

Most often sausage and peperoni. I love a meaty pizza, and a couple of local restaurants have pizzas with four or five kinds of meat on them, which I love.

Quiet – What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment?

Read, spend some time on the computer or my phone apps, nap.

Recipe Card Box – Y/N

No. I have cookbooks and notebooks. I do have an old file box I need to clean out.

Style of house

The house itself is a ranch. Other than that there’s not much I can think of to describe the style of the house itself. If the question means decorating, I’ve often described it as being between country and Victorian. I’d like to get further away from the “country” look, and I don’t like the fussiness of Victorian, so I don’t know exactly how I’d describe my decorating style now. I used to get a magazine called Romantic Homes whose style I really liked, and I’ve incorporated some of what I saw there over the years.

Tablecloth and napkins – Y/N

Pretty much only on holidays, maybe on special occasions if I think of it. For regular everyday meals we use paper napkins.

Under the kitchen sink – Organized or toxic wasteland?

It is fairly organized just now since we recently had a leak under there and had to clean everything out in order for it to be worked on.

Vacuum – How many times per week?

I am ashamed to say not even once a week (blush!) We have more hardwood floors than carpet, and most of the carpet doesn’t show anything, though I should vacuum more just for the sake of dust.

Wash – How many loads per week?

About 8, not including my mother-in-law’s stuff.

X’s – Do you make a daily to-do list and check it off as you do things?

Not daily but usually weekly unless it is a super-busy day, and I love to cross things off. As Susanne said, if I end up doing something I didn’t have on the list, I do sometimes write it down after the fact just for the pleasure of crossing it off.

Yard – Y/N – Who does what?

My husband and youngest son do all of the yard work. I water the flowers (unless my husband beats me to it) and cut or pinch off the dead blooms.

Zzz’s – What is the last homemaking task you do for the day before you go to bed?

Usually gather up any evening snack dishes and take them to the sink. If the dishwasher was nearly full at dinner, sometimes I’ll go ahead and put the evening cups and such in and start it before going to bed.

That was fun! Thanks for tagging me, Susanne! I’ll tag Dianna, Monica, Becka, and Ann. Please don’t feel obligated – I won’t be offended if you don’t like to do this type of thing. Not knowing if people would be interested is the one thing that keeps me from tagging more people, but if anyone reading would like to do this, let me know and I’ll come read your answers.

The Value of Homemakers

cooking2I didn’t know, until I saw a link at Bobbi’s, that an article was going viral called I Look Down on Young Women With Husband and Kids and I’m Not Sorry by someone writing under the name of Amy Glass.

“Amy” starts out provocatively by saying, “Every time I hear someone say that feminism is about validating every choice a woman makes I have to fight back vomit. Do people really think that a stay at home mom is really on equal footing with a woman who works and takes care of herself?”

She goes on to say that “If women can do anything, why are we still content with applauding them for doing nothing?” that when a woman “stays inside the box and does the house and kids thing” it “is the path of least resistance,” that “women secretly like to talk about how hard managing a household is so they don’t have to explain their lack of real accomplishments,” that “Men don’t care to ‘manage a household.’ They aren’t conditioned to think stupid things like that are ‘important’” that “Doing laundry will never be as important as being a doctor or an engineer or building a business.”

I’ve been thinking about this article for several days and trying to decide how to respond to it.

I could respond to the irony that in a society whose watchword is tolerance someone would manifest such intolerance, not to mention arrogance, towards another person’s differing life choices.

I could share the value of service to others. If you’ve ever lamented walking into a hotel room that has mold in the shower stall or stained sheets, or sat down at a restaurant with dirty silverware on the table or a waitress who couldn’t care less about getting your order to you correctly and in a timely manner, you’ve shown that you value good service. No matter what a company’s reputation or net worth is, if “the little” things aren’t taken care of, customers turn away. In that sense, the maid, the cook, the person at the front desk, etc., are all as important as the CEO. If we value such service in business, why should we despise it at home? G. K. Chesterton is quoted as saying, “Feminism is mixed up with a muddled idea that women are free when they serve their employers but slaves when they help their husbands.”

Even the Lord Jesus demonstrated the value of “lowly” service when He took on the role of a servant and washed His disciples’ feet.

I could point out just how much work a homemaker does. The division of labor varies from household to household, but most homemakers’ tasks include all or most of the following: planning meals, cooking, washing dishes, cleaning the rest of the kitchen (refrigerator, microwave, stovetop, etc.), sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, cleaning toilets and showers, mirrors, dusting, shopping for groceries, clothes, and household items, making appointments and reminding family members of them, washing, drying, and sometimes ironing clothes, taking some to and from the dry cleaners, organizing and maintaining household goods, and decorating. Investopia in January of 2012 estimated the worth of a homemaker’s services at above $96,000 per year. And, if one has children, all of the above increases and includes wiping noses and bottoms, teaching and training children and all that that involves, chauffeuring them to all the places they need to go, keeping on top of schedules and needs, etc.

If someone wants to hire a maid or cook, or eat out all the time so they don’t have to cook or wash dishes, that’s their prerogative, and that’s fine. But if someone wants to do these things in her own home for her own family, she should not be thought of as stupid, lazy, or in any way less of a human being.

I could answer Ms. Glass by sharing my own experience. As I was growing up, my mom was at home for long stretches and then worked outside the home for a while at intervals. When she worked, we had various babysitting situations, from someone coming to our home, to our being cared for in someone else’s home, to daycare (the worst, in my opinion, though my more gregarious sisters didn’t mind it as much). There was just nothing like mom at home.

When my husband and I were first married, I worked outside the home, and when I worked full time, we both worked on making dinner and washing dishes and other household chores. I don’t remember accomplishing much else in those days except work, dinner, kitchen clean-up, and laundry.

When I had my own children, I wanted more than anything else to stay at home with them. Not only did I want to be the one to teach and train them, but I didn’t want to miss out on their first smiles, first words, first steps, and time spent with them every day. When they went to school, I wanted to be the one to pick them up and hear all about their day and help them with their homework.

The Bible doesn’t say all women should get married or that no married woman should work outside the home, nor does it delineate who should take out the garbage, but it does say that older women should teach younger women “to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:4-5) and that it is good for young women to “marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully” (I Timothy 5:13-14). Our own household has fallen into more or less traditional roles. My husband doesn’t mind pitching in with household duties if need be, but he works 50-60 hours a week, so I don’t expect him to. I try to make home as peaceful a place as possible for him to come home to, something I couldn’t do if I was out working, too.

Some years ago I contracted transverse myelitis and couldn’t do much of anything on my own for the first few weeks. If I had ever had any doubts about my value as a homemaker before, they were put to rest then, as I saw the pressure my husband was under to try to work plus do everything that needed to be done at home.

Personally I have loved my life as a homemaker, and I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I’ve even been able to engage in a certain number of creative outlets and volunteer efforts, something I could not have done if I had been working full time.

I would say to Ms. Glass that homemakers and doctors each invest themselves in the lives of other people. It doesn’t matter what level that investment takes or how many people’s lives are involved. If the next generation is valuable, then the people who teach and train those children are valuable.

I could also share with Ms. Glass voices other than my own:

Homekeeping is a fine art. It grasps with one hand beauty, with the other utility; it has its harmonies like music and its order like the stars in their courses. Miriam Lukken in Mrs. Dunwoody’s Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping

We have our own small square of life on this planet, and it’s our choice to do with it what we will. We can bring order and beauty to that place we have been given. We can touch the people who come within our sphere of influence with love and care and comfort. ~ Claire Cloninger

The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest. ~ Thomas Moore

Homemaking—being a full-time wife and mother—is not a destructive drought of usefulness but an overflowing oasis of opportunity; it is not a dreary cell to contain one’s talents and skills but a brilliant catalyst to channel creativity and energies into meaningful work; it is not a rope for binding one’s productivity in the marketplace, but reins for guiding one’s posterity in the home; it is not oppressive restraint of intellectual prowess for the community, but a release of wise instruction to your own household; it is not the bitter assignment of inferiority to your person, but the bright assurance of the ingenuity of God’s plan for the complementarity of the sexes, especially as worked out in God’s plan for marriage; it is neither limitation of gifts available nor stinginess in distributing the benefits of those gifts, but rather the multiplication of a mother’s legacy to the generations to come and the generous bestowal of all God meant a mother to give to those He entrusted to her care.” ~ Dorothy Patterson

No ordinary work done by a man is either as hard or as responsible as the work of a woman who is bringing up a family of small children; for upon her time and strength demands are made not only every hour of the day but often every hour of the night. She may have to get up night after night to take care of a sick child, and yet must by day continue to do all her household duties well; and if the family means are scant she must usually enjoy even her rare holidays taking her whole brood of children with her. The birth pangs make all men the debtors of all women. Above all our sympathy and regard are due to the struggling wives among those whom Abraham Lincoln called the plain people, and whom he so loved and trusted; for the lives of these women are often led on the lonely heights of quiet, self-sacrificing heroism. ~ Teddy Roosevelt, 1905

But housekeeping is fun……It is one job where you enjoy the results right along as you work. You may work all day washing and ironing, but at night you have the delicious feeling of sunny clean sheets and airy pillows to lie on. If you clean, you sit down at nightfall with the house shining and faintly smelling of wax, all yours to enjoy right then and there. And if you cook—that creation you lift from the oven goes right to the table. ~ Gladys Taber, Stillmeadow Seasons

The preparation of good food is merely another expression of art, one of the joys of civilized living. ~ Dione Lucas

Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love. ~ Craig Claiborne

Great thoughts go best with common duties. Whatever therefore may be your office regard it as a fragment in an immeasurable ministry of love. ~ Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott, b. 1825

The human being who lives only for himself finally reaps nothing but unhappiness. Selfishness corrodes. Unselfishness ennobles, satisfies. Don’t put off the joy derivable from doing helpful, kindly things for others. ~ B.C. Forbes

The best things in life are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Order and beauty are contagious. So are disorder and ugliness. I want my house to reflect the peace and order of heaven. T. Sparrow

The job of keeping a home is an honorable one. There is a difference between a housekeeper and a homekeeper. A hired housekeeper will keep the home clean and do the duties as expected of her employer, but a homekeeper does the duties in her home from her heart. She does it out of love for her family. She looks upon her duties as the most important job in all the world. It takes a lot of patience, skill, commitment and love to be a keeper of your home. Be faithful; in due time, your familoy will rise up and call you blessed. I am honored to be the keeper of my home. ~ Mrs. Martha Greene, from Treasury of Vintage Homekeeping Skills

In these notes, I have endeavored to impart knowledge necessary for keeping a neat, well-ordered home. But beyond that, I wish for you to understand the larger issues of homekeeping — creating an environment in which all family members grow and thrive, a place where each member may evolve to the full extent our Creator intended. ~ Mrs. Dunwoody’s Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping

The sheer Quantity of time I’ve spent on these endeavors is astronomical. People making doesn’t happen overnight or just in the evenings and on weekends. To those who say it’s only quality that counts, I suggest trying the quality time approach with the garden. As anyone who’s ever had one knows, a garden requires a lot of work. What counts is being there, through thick and thin. Nobody, and I mean nobody can pay someone to do what only a mother will do for free. ; You can’t buy that kind of nurturing, protection, and interaction on a 24 hour, 7 day a week basis. ~ Debra Evans, Heart and Home

Seen from the outside, housework can look like a Sisyphean task that gives you no sense of reward or completion. Yet housekeeping actually offers more opportunities for savoring achievement than almost any other work I can think of. Each of its regular routines brings satisfaction when completed. These routines echo the rhythm of life, and the housekeeping rhythm is the rhythm of the body. You get satisfaction not only from the sense of order, cleanliness, freshness, peace and plenty restored, but from the knowledge that you yourself and those you care about are going to enjoy these benefits. ~Cheryl Mendelson, Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House 

I would hope that some of these thoughts would be enough to convince Ms. Glass of the value of homemakers and the right for women to exercise their freedom of choice in such an occupation. But there will always be Amy Glasses in the world, some who have said much worse. Whether or not some women denigrate the role and worth of homemakers, I hope that these words encourage you who are reading who have chosen that path.

See also:

Wanting things to be “perfect.”

I confess: I don’t really like to cook.

A Real Home.

A Homemaking Meme.

Another homemaking meme.

A prayer for home.

Two views of housework.

Meditations for daily tasks.

Thy list be done.

The Blue Bowl.

Wanting Things To Be Perfect

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You know how it is when company’s coming. Though you always want to keep your house to a certain level of cleanliness, and you do esteem your family members above everyone else, there is just something about having company that sets off a housecleaning frenzy.

I learned long ago that I can’t usually get everything done that I’d like to do before company comes, so I’ve learned how to prioritize and hit the most important things first. If I have enough warning, sometimes I can get some of those long overdue household projects done as well.

But no matter how much I do, it seems there is always something I miss. One time a friend of my son and daughter-in-law’s was in town visiting them, and I invited them all over for dinner one night. I was rejoicing in getting just about everything done that I wanted to before they came. Dinner was not quite ready when they got here (because I decided I needed to vacuum my room before I started dinner, even though it was unlikely she would go in there. It had been needing it anyway and it was a relief of mind to get it done). They offered to help and set the table, but dinner was just a matter of waiting on things to cook through. While they waited, our guest played some different hymns. It rejoiced my heart to hear the piano at home again: no one had played in months since we let Jesse drop out of lessons. We enjoyed a nice time of fellowship later with dinner.

The next day, I was picking up some things in the living room when I noticed some scattered debris on the piano next to the keys. “What in the world…?” I thought. I had just dusted it the day before. As I drew closer to inspect it, I saw it was needles from the Christmas tree. From last December. On my piano in May. We had had the cover over the piano keys closed for so long, I didn’t even think to open it to dust under there. And there it was for our guest to discover!

That reminded me of another time in early married years when we wanted to have the youth group over after church one Sunday night. We had furiously cleaned the day before until everything was gleaming. As the young people came in and then started singing, my eyes strayed behind them to the bookcase, on top of which was the can of dusting spray, on top of which was the dustrag, which happened to be an old pair of my husband’s underwear with the distinctive waistband showing. I was mortified, but I couldn’t do anything about it: if I went toward it to remove it, all eyes would see and notice it then. So I just left it and hoped no one saw it. If they did, they were too polite to say so. I couldn’t do anything but laugh about it afterward, since there was no way to correct it.

I’ve had what sometimes seems like more than my share of laughable, imperfect cooking experiences from disastrous cakes to green gravy to volcanic teriyaki.

I was reading a book on hospitality once where the author wrote about having a bit of time to relax, so she sat on the sofa and read the newspaper. Then someone came to the door, and when she answered it she saw it was an acquaintance who had dropped by unexpectedly. The author was embarrassed that things weren’t “picked up,” but invited her guest in anyway. When the guest saw the scattered newspapers, she smiled and said something like, “Now we can be friends.” When people are “perfect,” we can’t quite relate to them and they can even seem unapproachable. But when we see they have the same struggles we do, then they are more genuine to us and we can interact with them more comfortably.

Years ago when I first joined the Transverse Myelitis Internet Club, I wanted to be a good testimony there. It’s frowned upon to use such a forum as a “bully pulpit,” and I didn’t want to do that, anyway. But I did want to honestly relate how God helped me and I wanted to be a light for Him there while gaining information and support. Because of that, I tried to keep my posts upbeat and hopeful. Some months later another Christian lady joined, and I was blessed by how honest she was about her struggles. She wasn’t morose or complaining, but she shared her everyday struggles as well as her faith. I e-mailed her privately about how refreshing her posts were, and she wrote back that it wouldn’t pay to hide her struggles. By sharing that she struggled with the same things everyone else did, she was more genuine and had more of an open door with them.

In the chapter “Women of Like Passions” from her book Keep a Quiet Heart, Elisabeth Elliot wrote of a woman at a conference who had asked to speak to her, but was hesitant to “bother” her and was a little afraid of her. Elisabeth agreed to speak with her and tried to reassure her, and later the leader of the conference told Elisabeth that the woman had told her, “Oh, it wasn’t bad after all! I walked in–I was shaking. I looked into her eyes, and I knew that she, too, had suffered. Then she gave me this beautiful smile. When I saw that huge space between her front teeth, I said to myself, ‘it’s OK–she’s not perfect!’”

Then in the same chapter she wrote of a time when her daughter, Valerie, was speaking, lost her place in her notes, and after a long, awkward time span of not being able to find it again, did the best she could ad-libbing the rest. She was nearly in tears as she finished, but afterward one person told her it was the best class so far and another thanked her for what she had said that helped her. Later she told her mother, “I couldn’t understand why this had happened. I had prepared faithfully, done the best I could. But then I remembered a prayer I’d prayed that week (Walt told me it was a ridiculous prayer!)–asking the Lord to make those women know that I’m just an ordinary woman like the rest of them and I need His help. I guess this was His answer, don’t you think?”

We need to let go of perfectionism. Who are we trying to fool, anyway? We so want for things to be “just right” when we have company or have an event. And that’s a worthy desire. It shows care for the guests and care for one’s home and surroundings. I’ve been in places where there was no such care, and they were uncomfortable places to be! We shouldn’t be slovenly or careless, but we don’t need to beat ourselves up when things aren’t “perfect” even when we’ve done our best. It helps to just laugh at ourselves (with others, if they’re aware), learn from the situation (next time I will lift the piano key cover and dust under there, and put cleaning supplies away!), and, for serious offenses, go to Jesus for cleansing and restoration. Even though He is perfect, He is approachable because He bore our sin and its punishment so that we could be forgiven. We can never be perfect on our own, but by His grace we can be washed white as snow, pure and spotless.

For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.  For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour (help, aid) them that are tempted. Hebrews 2:16-18.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:15-16.

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Revised from the archives.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com.

Related posts:

A Perfect Christmas.
Perfect Peace.
Imperfect Families.

Book Review: The Hidden Art of Homemaking

HomemakingEven though I’ve been discussing The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer a chapter at a time at  The Hidden Art of Homemaking Book Club, I wanted to write an overall review to have one post to refer back to when discussing the book. Too, I thought perhaps some who weren’t interested in reading the weekly chapter summaries might enjoy perusing one smaller review.

The basic theme of the book could be summarized in this quote from it:

“If you have been afraid that your love of beautiful flowers and the flickering flame of the candle is somehow less spiritual than living in starkness and ugliness, remember that He who created you to be creative gave you the things with which to make beauty and the sensitivity to appreciate and respond to His creation” (p. 109).

As a teen I struggled with whether the desire to look “pretty” and dress nicely was a fleshly one, and as a young woman I had the same struggles in regard to wanting an attractive home. Was it a waste of the resources God gave me to use them in such a way, or would it be in better keeping with Christian character to buy bargain basement items, no matter whether they suited me? Were decorative items wasteful and selfish or an enhancement?

It helped me greatly to realize that God could have made the world simply functional, but he made it beautiful as well. Another help was realizing that the Proverbs 31 woman dressed in “coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple,” the finest in her day.

I read Edith’s book as some point during this time, and I remember feeling so relieved that my natural inclinations were okay. She discusses the principles above, and the principle of balance: we have to keep our artistic desires within the context of our finances, our season of life, our responsibilities to our families and our calling in life at any given point. It’s possible to go overboard. Yet within those contexts, God gives us great freedom of self-expression which in turn can be used to glorify Himself and draw others to Him.

She discusses in turn (these are all linked to my discussions of each chapter):

The First Artist (God’s creativity)
What Is Hidden Art?
Music
Painting, Sketching, and Sculpturing
Interior Decoration
Gardens and Gardening
Flower Arrangements
Food
Writing
Drama
Creative Recreation
Clothing
Integration (of different races, ages, cultures, etc.)
Environment (the type we create in our homes or with our personalities)

She does concede that in some cases we may only be able to cultivate an appreciation for some of these areas rather than a talent in them, and she acknowledges that probably no one can incorporate all of them at once, but she makes a strong case for each one and brings out a variety of ways to employ them in our homes.

The book isn’t flawless: some of its examples and illustrations are a bit dated (it was originally published in 1971), sometimes Edith can get just a touch preachy, sometimes she goes on and on with examples when we’ve gotten the point already. But overall it is great encouragement and inspiration to employ creativity. I enjoyed perusing the book again.

I am sure that there is no place in the world where your message would not be enhanced by your making the place (whether tiny or large, a hut or a palace) orderly, artistic and beautiful with some form of creativity, some form of ‘art’ (p. 213).

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)