Making all things beautiful; starting with your home

5 Feb

I’ve probably referenced Edith Schaefer more than once here on the blog. You’re probably familiar with her admonitions to try your hand at homemade furniture using old leather saddles or to craft candles from your own bees wax taken from the hive you’ve been caring for, and other such outlandish ideas. Georgie and I were talking about her this past week, saying that she really is from another time! But, along with all her ideas that I may never use, comes the heart of what she wants to convey about the Christian life in relation to the family and homemaking. She has so much wisdom that needs to be shared and in spite of the fact that some of her examples might seem far removed from our context, the essential points behind her arguments are well worth listening to.

This past month or so, I’ve been trying (key word is trying) to get ready for our small new friend who is set to arrive in the next few months. We’ve been cleaning, throwing out, giving away, and hoping that by April we’ll have some sort of a room ready along with a few outfits to wear. I had a panic the other day and told Serge that if we didn’t get our act together, the baby would be coming home naked, with nowhere to sleep, wrapped up in one of Emma’s pink blankets. In all my panicking, I’ve also seen how anxious I become about wanting things to look nice and being dissatisfied when they don’t turn out the way I anticipate. I tend to look at a room or a project and feel that, unless I have all the money and resources available right this moment, whatever it is that needs fixing or beautifying is not worth doing. I say to myself, “I’ll just do that when I have money”. That day might not come- in fact I hope it doesn’t because if it were up to me, I’d probably spend more than was wise on buying things that I don’t need and trying to accomplish the task of making my home “beautiful”, not necessarily to serve others or bless anyone else. But even if I don’t have “all the money” I need to make things look a particular way, is it necessarily wrong to want to beautify my home and make it an attractive and comfortable place to live? I don’t think so. In fact, over the past few years I’ve read a bit on Christian domesticity and beautifying the home and I think that to neglect one’s home and not pay any attention at all to the way that our creativity, resourcefulness, and care can be a testimony to others of the amazingly creative and generous God that we serve, would be to keep people from seeing aspects of His character that are so wonderful and importantly insightful into who He is.

Take a read of this excerpt from Femina that clarifies some of what I’ve been thinking:

As we seek to establish a robust Christian culture in our homes, we cannot forget the impact beauty has on our souls and on those around us. Barrenness is not what we are shooting for, and yet many Christian homes are barren: colorless, bleak, gloomy, and stale. Is this what we want to export? Is this a sample of reformed living? I have been in Christian homes where the blinds were drawn tight, where the only items in view were simply utilitarian and mostly ugly, where the sunshine was shut out, and the thermostat was turned down so low that not only was it dreary, it was cold too. All I could think of was, “Get me out of here!“ And yet this is the environment many Christian children are growing up in. To see some of our homes, to see our tables when we sit down to eat, you would think our religion was one of tightwads, ascetics, scrooges, and grumps. There is a serious disconnect somewhere. Surely we can do better than this and get beyond decorating our homes like they were oversized cubicles.

We do not serve an austere God, but a God who delights to give us extravagance, an overflow of beauty, the abundant life (John 10:10). We cannot ignore the beauty around us or think that it is irrelevant. God is teaching us all the time. It is plain heresy to think that beauty is earthly and somehow less spiritual than dowdy, dumpy, and dreary. Beauty matters to God. His creation is full of it! Consider the passage in Matthew 6 where Jesus says that the lowly lilies of the field surpass even King Solomon who “in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these“ (vs. 28). If God bestows such beauty on His creation, surely He calls us to imitate Him in our lowly homes where we are to take dominion. We are to adorn our homes to the glory of God. A dull, drab, colorless, lifeless home does not glorify God.

I don’t think that the issue is whether or not we have enough money to make our homes look like a spread in Home and Garden. The issue is whether or not, we see our homes as a place where we can reflect God’s goodness to us through our own creativity and desire to beautify.

This is where Edith’s wisdom proves to be very helpful. In her book “The Hidden Art of Homemaking”, she writes about starting with what we have in this moment and not waiting till we come upon our dream home or situation.

I would put under the heading of ‘Interior Decoration’ anything we do with the place where we are living for any length of time at all. Here, wherever it is, is your spot. This place should be expressing something of yourself. It should be communicating something of you to your visitors, but it should also satisfy something within you. You should feel ‘at home’ here, because you have made it home with something of yourself.

It seems to me that, whether it is recognized or not, there is a terrific frustration which increases in intensity and harmfulness as time goes on, when people are always daydreaming of the kind of place in which they would like to live, yet never making the place where they do live into anything artistically satisfying to them…

If you stop putting off ‘homemaking’ until your hope of marriage (or a different home or more money!) develops into a reality, and start to develop an interesting home right now, it seems to me two things will happen: first, you will develop into the person you could be, as you surround yourself with things that express your own taste and ideas; and second, as you relax and become interested in areas of creativity, you will develop into a more interesting person to be with, and other people will very likely find that they will enjoy being with you more!

Surely each person who lives in an ‘interior’ of any sort should realize that ‘Interior Decoration’ is the first opportunity to bring fort ‘Hidden Art’, in some small measure. And for the Christian who is consciously in communication with the Creator, surely his home should reflect something of the artistry, the beauty and order of the One whom he is representing, and in whose image he has been made!

(Taken from the chapter ‘Interior Decoration’ in The Hidden Art of Homemaking)

So, shall you begin (or continue) today in finding ways to make your home a place that reflects that beauty and order? This will look different for everyone, as each person has been given different tastes, talents, and means. But nonetheless, I think that it’s an area that is easily neglected for various reasons and needs to be rightly understood. If we take the time to look at the spaces we’ve been given and think of ways we can work to make them more beautiful and creative, I think we will be making our homes a place of comfort for our families and visitors who in turn enjoy the outworking of that creativity and beauty, and in doing so we will be glorifying God.

Maybe I will post some ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots of the work I’m trying to do in the nursery? And in posts to come, I’ll reflect more on some of the ideas I’ve been working through when it comes to Christians and our relationship to the home.

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