This post was made possible by the gentle prodding of Shiori Kisangala, a JCFN staff member, asking if I would be willing to do a little “book introduction” post on the blog. Although I would not be able to do justice to the book in a book review or even a detailed introduction, this will be more like a musing of sorts on what I specifically thought was fascinating.
Today I’d like to introduce “The Hidden Art of Homemaking” by Edith Schaeffer. Published first in 1971, I initially was skeptical about whether the contents will be applicable to a 2022 lifestyle, but as I dived in I was surprisingly pleased to discover that when the foundations are built on the Bible which never changes, it is possible to live a life that is truly timeless, and there were many nuggets of wisdom that has been lost in this modern way of life.
Now, a little background into why I decided to read this book.
At the beginning of this year, when it seemed like anything and everything was possible, I had high hopes and dreams to change my home into something cozy, and to live a life of creativity. Alas, hopes and dreams seemed to wane in a couple of months without much action, and my lack of organization skills loomed its ugly head in the house. The dining room table never seemed to be clear of my clutter (where were those magical elves that seem to come in the middle of the night to clean up the mess in other people’s homes? Maybe they just don’t have our address.) However biblically I try to frame the situation by telling myself, “It’s basically following the mandate of Genesis 1:28 of ‘fill(with paper clutter) the earth(the table surface)’!” it didn’t seem to bring any comfort…although having an extremely patient husband does help. I would look at the state of my house, sigh deeply, mumble something about God forgetting to add in that “skill to turn a home cozy” bit when He was creating me in my mother’s womb, still undeterred from that dream I made oh so long ago. Now before I get taken into questioning by the hermeneutics police (yes, I see you), let me just clarify that I just didn’t want to be organized like the next Marie Kondo. I want to have my entire lifestyle be permeated with the scent of Christ. But what does homemaking look like as a Christ follower? This book gave me a place to start.
As the subtitle “Creative ideas for enriching everyday life” suggests, this book is broken down into chapters, with each chapter depicting a certain area of everyday life – from music, arts, interior, gardening, food etc. But the book starts off by clarifying the foundation of it all; who God is, and how, as image-bearers of God. we are to express those characteristics. From Genesis 1 we are told of the immense creativity of our God. As made in His image, we are put to the test when we are having to express that creativity. And this creativity is not limited to the musicians and artists, but those who cannot play an instrument, and who can only draw stick-men (okay, even those who can draw those stick-men like Picasso).
For example, for music, Edith (I’ll call her Edith instead of Schaeffer because her husband is also a famous writer) says you don’t have to play an instrument; you can sing. If you have a musical degree and you’re just waiting for the season in your life when you’ll finally be free from child-rearing to get back on stage, you can use those wonderful musical skills for your home and family. This is not just concerning music; if you love art, use your talents for your family first. If you love to cook but don’t have the opportunity to be a host for an extravagant party, start by cooking a meal that your family loves. It’s so easy in this day and age of social media, where we tend to think it’s not worth taking action if it’s not Instagrammable or tweetable. Although I hate posting on social media, I realized I had this exact mindset, and I learned from this book on the vital importance of doing things in hidden places (hence the title “Hidden Art”).
What made this book so delightful was the fact that you don’t have to be an artist to start. But at the same time, there are numerous suggestions on how to use your given talents if you are an artist. I was also comforted to read the breadth of the suggestions, ranging from big families to singles. Even if you live alone, Edith suggests decorating your table with flowers because you matter. Although this concept has been somewhat of a hype these days with “self-care”, I didn’t realize that this wasn’t something new. The advice to decorate the table with a centerpiece that showcased the season was very interesting; as Edith suggested collecting seashells from the beach in the summer, or even a bit of driftwood (although I guess you can only get driftwood these days on Amazon? I’m kidding…), making the whole endeavor possible without having to wait for the next IKEA drive. The hints and advice sprinkled across the pages make it plausible enough to start now, but at the same time includes some for the more seasoned homemaker.
The most encouraging line came early on in the book, where Edith mentions how for those who haven’t used their creative muscles in a while, it is like being in a cast; and when the cast is taken off it is initially stiff. But as you begin to move those muscles, they regain their original movement. This gave me great hope. And what if we all began to live a life full of the creative talent that our God has given us? What wonderfully vibrant homes we will begin to live in!
This is a call to take off our casts. Let’s dive in.