“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It’s a question most children hear at some point during their growing-up years. My plan wasn’t much, by some standards. I just wanted to be a wife, a stay-at-home mother, and by extension, a full-time homemaker.
Making a home isn’t just the “career” I happened to fall into, however. As a young woman, I was deeply influenced by Edith Schaeffer’s books, especially The Hidden Art of Homemaking. I dreamed of having my own houseful of children, but as the years passed and no husband appeared, an alternate dream was to have a huge old house that could be a sort of ministry boarding house (full of artsy people who would talk theology in my kitchen while I baked bread, of course). One element was common to both dreams: the belief that home is the core of culture, and that from its circle I would make my mark on the world.
It’s a curious thing that all those extra years of living at home as a single adult didn’t make me a master homemaker. I’m so very grateful for the training and practice I received, and it has been valuable. The checklist was all in place: I know how to cook, clean, do laundry, iron, garden, sew, preserve food. I can bake bread, organize a closet, paint a room, even do light upholstery and home repairs. But my house is far from being magazine-worthy, even though I work hard to make it comfortable and welcoming. What gives?
In a word, life. Life is messy, especially with little ones (I currently have three children ages four and under). Healthy, busy little people fill my house with more laundry and diapers and crumbs and dishes and plain old dirt than I could previously imagine; mainly because, as the oldest child, I don’t remember my mom’s house when she only had tinies.
But even without children in the picture, dishes get dirty because people have to eat. Beds must be made (or at least sheets washed occasionally) because people sleep in them and then get up again. Floors must be swept because feet return from their travels bearing bits of the day. Often the dishes from one meal are not completely done before it’s time to start preparing the next. The rhythms of life drive our homemaking. Sometimes I feel like I’m spinning in circles, chasing my tail.
Homemaking really is a circle, after all. It’s a pattern of needs to be filled and filling those needs. Food to sustain the makers of the messes. And it’s a job that is never done, as evidenced by its very name. Making a home is a life-long process. I’m learning to embrace that, to see the daily tasks as spokes in an ever-turning wheel. As mundane as some of the spokes are, the wheel will collapse without them.
This doesn’t mean that I have to do everything myself. In fact, I can’t. My children are learning to help with cleaning and picking up. My crockpot does the cooking, more often than not. My job, at its core, is to manage my home.
What does this look like? In my case, it means managing my resources by budgeting, shopping sales, and repurposing things. It means managing the housework by having a routine for cleaning. It means managing the meals by menu planning and wise grocery shopping.
There is another important component to be managed as well: the atmosphere of my home. As the homemaker, I have the privilege and responsibility of influencing the kind of home we live in. Is it cluttered or neat, welcoming or depressing, negative or joyful? My values are apparent when someone enters my home. And I’m not saying that a clean house equals a welcoming one! It’s about the heart more than the house. For me, it tends to be a cycle either way. If my heart is thankful and joyful, I’ll make greater efforts to steward what I’ve been given. If I’m discontented and grumbling, my house reflects my attitude.
I doubt I will ever have a picture-perfect house, and that’s fine. My goal is to be faithful with what I have and to create a home where grace is evident to all who enter the door. This is my vocation; this is how I reach the world for Christ.
Photography: JenniMarie Photography