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?
Painting, Sketching, and Sculpturing
Interior Decoration
Gardens and Gardening
Flower Arrangements
Creative Recreation
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.)

The Hidden Art of Homemaking Book Club: Chapter 14; Environment

tea_table(Graphics courtesy of Julia Bettencourt)

We’re discussing The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer a chapter at a time at  The Hidden Art of Homemaking Book Club hosted by Cindy at Ordo Amoris.

The last chapter of the book is “Environment,” and I wasn’t sure what to expect from it at first. Edith had promoted involvement in nature and decried the “plasticness” of her era earlier in the book, so I assumed this chapter would be along those lines. But I suppose that would have been a bit redundant since she had already discussed those things, and I was delighted to find she was referring instead to the environment each of us creates through our personalities, outlook, etc., as well as how we keep and decorate our homes. Perhaps some would understand this better as an aura, though not in the New Age sense of the word.

I marked many long paragraphs in the book that would be too much to reproduce here, so let me see if I can pick out a few of the key thoughts.

We produce an environment other people have to live in. We should be conscious of the fact that this environment which we produce by our very ‘being’ can affect the people who live with us or work with us. The effect on them is something they cannot avoid. We should have thoughtfulness concerning our responsibility in this area. We should be artists in doing something about the environment we are creating – artists before God, of course. We have His help because we are artists in this sense, in the hands of the Holy Spirit; for if we are Christians, He is dwelling in us, and we can ask for His power to help us.

Here in this life, a Christian should be an environment which is helpful to the people with whom he lives. This is not just a matter of dress and tidiness but also of character and spiritual life. It is worth considering what sort of an “art form” we are. What sort of an environment do we drag in with us? How do we affect other people in their attitudes toward that which we are supposed to represent? (p. 212).

“We are either being what the Holy Spirit would have us be, or we are hindering His work in us and through us. As God created the world, He was creating an environment for man which, we are told, was ‘good.’…It was a good environment before sin entered to spoil it. But Christians, who are restored to relationship and fellowship with God, should ask that they might be an environment that is conducive to others wanting to come to God (p. 212).

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).

I was just thinking today, not for the first time, that I get frustrated at sentimental prose which seems to indicate that one can either have a clean house or spend quality time with kids, and of course the more godly person chooses time with kids. But does it have to be either/or? Sure, there are times we get too task-oriented and have to remind ourselves that people are more important than to-do lists. But I think one of the best ways to avoid this dichotomy to to integrate fun and family time into work. I appreciate that in the Little House on the Prairie series, and though I’m not a big proponent of Amish culture, I do like that both in the home and the community people pitch in together to work. In that way children learn the satisfaction of seeing a job well done, learning new skills as they grow up, and fellowshipping with others at the same time. My mother-in-law was a great example of this: until she started to decline, she always had a cheerful industriousness about her, and I appreciate that that rubbed off on her youngest son. I’m afraid I let my own negative attitude about work rub off on my children, but on the other hand I think they do have pleasant memories of working on projects with their dad in particular.

One of Edith’s examples in the book is that of roommates and how the slovenly habits of one affect first the mood and then the motivation of the other. As Edith said in some of the quotes above, our “environment” can either lift someone up or drag them down.

It goes without saying, too, that ‘The Environment’, which is you should be an environment which speaks of the wonder of the Creator who made you (p. 213).

I want to thank Cindy for hosting this book club. I gleaned much, much more out of the book by just reading a chapter a week, writing up thoughts about it, seeing what others had to say and pondering sometimes different perspectives or emphases, and then thinking about it all through the week before the next chapter, than I would have just plowing through on my own. I am thinking that this extended working through a non-fiction book is a much better way or retaining what I read.

This has been at least my second time through the book – I may have read it more times than that, but I can’t remember. I’ve enjoyed going back over it once again.

The Hidden Art of Homemaking Book Club

HomemakingI saw at Sherry‘s the other day that Cindy at Ordo Amoris is hosting a read-along book club for the next twelve weeks or so to read Edith Schaeffer’s book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking. I had read this book some time in my early married years, and it had a great impact on me. I had been wanting to revisit it, and this provided the perfect impetus: it will be inspiring and enjoyable to compare thoughts with others while we work through the book. The idea is to discuss a chapter a week and then link up at Cindy’s to compare notes.

Sadly, I could not find my copy of the book! But I did find it online here, and that will tide me over until I can find mine or obtain a new copy.

As a young woman, I wrestled with the idea of wanting my home and even my dress to be attractive. Would we be more effective Christians if we spent less time on mundane, earthly things that will pass away and lived like John the Baptist? Edith’s book helped me greatly in that regard. In the first chapter, “The First Artist,” she goes into great detail observing God’s creativity and artistry in creation. When He created the world, He called it good. And even though it has been marred by sin, still “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1). God could have made the world just functional, but He also made it beautiful, not only for our enjoyment, but also that we might see something of Him in His handiwork.

She also discusses the ways in which we’re created in His image, and a part of that image which will reflect Him is in the area of creativity and artistry. We’re limited by the fact that we’re finite and inherently sinful, whereas He is not, but still, we can reflect Him in these areas. In later chapters she’ll acknowledge that we have other priorities and limits on our time and finances, but she’ll discuss simple ways of incorporating art and beauty into the everyday, such as this incident when a tramp came to the door, and instead of handing a sandwich out through a barely-opened screen, she made up a nice tray complete with flowers. She’s not talking about investing big bucks buying high-end art, though there is nothing wrong with that if one can afford it: rather, she’s discussing having an eye and developing a taste for bringing beauty and artistry into even the mundane, to bring enjoyment to others and to reflect His beauty.

We’re also supposed to introduce ourselves with this first post. My name is Barbara. I became a Christian as a teenager. I’ve been married for 33 years and have three boys, one of whom is married, and only the youngest is still at home. No grandchildren yet! I’ve been privileged to be a stay-at-home mom ever since my first pregnancy. Maybe because I did not come from a Christian home, or maybe because God just wired me that way, I’ve had a heart for creating a truly Christian home since before I was married (I even listed homemaking as one of the themes of my life.) I think every woman is a homemaker, because every woman lives in a home, and her home will reflect her personality to some degree, whether she’s single, married, with children or without, and even at this stage in life when the nest is almost empty. My husband has often said that if he lived alone, there probably would be nothing on the walls, and he doesn’t always understand exactly why I have certain things there, but he likes the hominess of it. One of my most treasured comments on my blog was from him on this topic.

Besides homemaking, I enjoy reading, some crafts (mainly stitching and paper crafts), and writing.

Those discussing the first chapter are linking up here this week. I hope you can join in! Even if you can’t read the books right now, I’d love to hear your thoughts on creativity and artistry in homemaking.

Laudable Linkage

It’s been a while since I shared with you some of the interesting things I’ve seen around the Internet lately. I keep thinking I need to do this more often so as to have a shorter list. I enjoy these kinds of posts on others’ sites, though of course I don’t click on every link. I don’t expect anyone to do that here, either, but I just wanted to share some good things you may not have seen.

Nancy Wilson’s post on taking offense was convicting. We often focus on not giving offense, and we need to do that, but sometimes we take offense too easily. I Corinthians 13:5 says love “is not easily provoked.” There are Biblical ways of dealing with a legitimate offense, but I know I can all too easily take offense where none was meant.

David Hosaflook at MissioMishMash shared some great thoughts in Let the Singles Singly Serve concerning awkward things we sometimes say to single people. I asked and received his permission to share this in our ladies’ ministry newsletter booklet, and my oldest son, who normally only reads the funny section, saw this and thanked me for it. One quote:

Married folks, don’t look at the singles like the undergrads of the church, just hoping that they will “graduate” to marriage. Don’t treat them as if there’s something “incomplete” about them. If they continually get that impression at church, how will they ever learn that we are complete in Christ? How will they ever not appear “desperate” to would-be suitors who are not “in” to the desperate type?

Challies has had a series going on Sexual Detox. All of the posts are good, but if you can only read one, read A Theology of Sex.

I think the rest of these I am just going to list instead of saying, “So-and-so had a great post…” Obviously I think they are all great or else I wouldn’t be listing them. 🙂

The Heart of Her Husband Safely Trusts in Her, HT to Melissa.

Studying Love.

Looking For That Secret Recipe for perfect parenting.

Help! Mommydom leaves me no time for God.

I don’t remember where I first found a link to the ElderCare site, but I’ve been encouraged and helped by much there since I discovered it. Two articles especially helpful were Caregivers Listen Up about how to listen to people with dementia and Straight talk about sibling help.

Jesus is NOT nicer than the Father.

Procrastination in housework.

The ten commandments of entertaining.

On the craft front:

A really cute way to embellish hand towels.

Armrest pincushion.

Floral brooch tutorial.

Lace jewelry frames.

Stencil masking technique.

Hope you have a good Saturday!