The Beauty of Ordinary Homemaking
I’ve been focusing my reading on home making recently, a subject which intrigues and inspires me and puts me at odds with the feminists in my life.
Maybe I’m strange, but I love taking care of our home and the people who enter here.
There’s something satisfying about the daily routines of homemaking. The familiar smell of morning coffee, emptying the dishwasher to get ready for another day of cooking, opening windows to let in the fresh air and bird-songs, and listening to the morning silence as I pray over my day. Then, the work begins: the scuffle of feety pajamas on the wooden floor, sweet cheeks who want to be held and kissed while I cook eggs and toast first thing in the morning, teens who are looking for school books and quiet nooks and coffee to start the day. Being there for my kids as they plan and dream, succeed and fail, soar and stumble. All these are the familiar, daily rhythms that we take for granted and label ordinary. Yet they are the strings that tie us to time, place, people and relationships.
Like the slow, steady work of crocheting, each task works to secure one part to another, pulling in outsiders, sending down roots, binding hearts around a common center by meeting practical and emotional needs in this space we call home.
Homemaking is looked on as drudgery. “A clean house is the sign of a wasted life.” warned a sign that I saw some time back. I guess it was supposed to be funny, but I thought it was sad. The flip side is that a dirty, disordered house is the sign of a meaningful life? I don’t see it that way at all.
I believe that homemaking mimics much of the ministry of Christ, yet we’re told that domesticity is a prison, barring us from reaching our “real potential.” I see it differently, a tool to be used to impact the world around us for good– something we desperately need in every community and cul-de-sac.
Jesus did domestic tasks and didn’t disdain the menial as He was serving His Father.
He condescend to wash dirty feet, cook fish, turn water into wine, and serve a bread-and-fish feast to 5,000 people who had come to hear His teaching. And lets not forget that His provisions were not merely “functional”, they were abundant, with 12 baskets left over. He tended the sick, and cared for the least of these.
Before his death, He sat around a table giving final instructions. It wasn’t a lecture. The setting was a meal.
Your domesticity is just as much worship as preparing to teach Sunday school or sing in the choir. “Your daily grind is Holy Ground,” says Sarah MacKenzie.
In our homes, caring enough to plan and set a table, cook a meal, change the sheets and remember little details are all the outpouring of practical love to our family, our closest “neighbors.”
These are things that I can relate to. These are the things we long for.
In the Keeping Place, Jan Polluck Michael insists that “housework as worship and work, rightly relates us to God as well as to our fellow humans.”
She quotes Kathleen Norris’s Quotidian Mysteries which “explores the parallels between the routines of our domestic lives and the rhythms of our spiritual practice “both of which are forms of housekeeping.
“They depend on daily efforts and ordinary gestures; neither is once and done. Each requires a liturgy, or routine, as an anchoring weight against the host of disordered desires that greet us in the morning before we’ve put a foot to the floor: selfish ambition, acedia (not caring), megalomania, greed….We can’t abandon the housekeeping, either laundry or the liturgy, because it is one constraining element for human flourishing.” Keeping Place
Andy Crouch in Playing God says, “The lie that pulses at the heart of every act of idolatry and injustice is that we are unfairly constrained by our promises, duties and obligations–all of which are marks of our creatureliness, our dependence and contingency on others–rather than graciously freed by them.” pg. 235
Crouch reminds us that “the classic spiritual disciplines, along with disciplines as small as doing the dishes, humble us and open us to grace.” Playing God, pg 13
In the Life Giving Table, Sally Clarkson describes the intentional ways she and her husband used her home in general and her table specifically to mentor her own children and other women.
“We pass around the serving dishes, and we make sure that each person is fed. But this intimate act of sharing is actually an invitation to a much more significant one–the sharing of ourselves. In the same way that we give and receive portions of food to feed our bodies, we can also give and receive portions of our hearts to feed our spirits–hopes, fears, joys, failures, loves, desires, wonders, faith, victories. We share food to stay alive physically. We share hearts to stay alive emotionally and spiritually.”
I am by no means saying that keeping the home means that you do nothing outside the home. Not at all. But whatever we do vocationally, our homes are one of our best and under-utilized resources for sharing our life and faith with others.
If you’ve never been on the receiving end of a cozy home, a warm pot of tea set out just for you, a meal prepared with care to strengthen you, it might be hard for you to value this post at all. Look no further than the hospitality industry to try to understand. We pay big money to go to impeccably clean hotels with vacuum marks in the spotless rugs, beautifully adorned and decorated, with delicious food served on trays or in beautiful restaurants. We’ll pay to have that kind of service. Home is like that but comfortable, and year round, and better, because we love and live there.
Caring for home sends the message that people are worthy of your preparation, consideration, and work. It also gives you in-roads for mentoring, serving, and reaching out into the community. In a world where nobody’s home and people are lonely, open your cozy home to others.
I’m currently reading two more books on vocation and home that I’ll share soon. In the meantime, share your tips and best homemaking quotes with me in the comments, on FB or via Messenger. I love hearing what you are reading.
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