Even 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?
Painting, Sketching, and Sculpturing
Gardens and Gardening
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.)
I have really enjoyed yours and Amy’s posts on this book. I think I wouldn’t have picked it up on my own but you two have highlighted some great quotes and thoughts which have offered *me* a lot of food for thought. I’m sticking this one on my Amazon list.
(By the way, I go back and forth on whether or not I should use resources to beautify our home. It is important to note that God made things beautiful. And there is balance in all things. I tend towards extremes and can stand reminders to spend money wisely but feel free to do so for the sake of creating beauty.)
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Wow, I need to read something by ES as I think I’d enjoy it. I struggle too with enjoying beauty and yet not wanting to be too wrapped up in it — in my case, that’s made easier (although not pleasant) by the fact that my husband is on the autism spectrum and has many dictates about our home. The quote you listed is lovely: I, too, have often come back to the fact that God made us so uniquely. If he’s put a desire for something in our heart, it must be there for a reason.
I read this book years ago and am probably due to read it again. The key for me is the term hidden art – not doing it to impress anyone – eg an attractive home; I thinkl what you said about balance is important & you said it very well.
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