Keeping House — Preface

To follow the entire series, see my table of contents for this Keeping House book club series.

Willa has started an online book club for Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life, which has been on my to-read shelf for almost a year.

She has already posted a bit of the summary of the preface and topic of the book, so I’ll jump into quotes and my own rabbit trails.

Homemaking Is

Homemaking includes but is not entirely housework. It is making a home, so it includes the food prepared and served, the walls ornamented and halls decked, the atmosphere, which is the cleanliness, the smells, the decorations, and the homemaker’s attitude all taken together. Homemaking includes the listening and the laundry, the menus and the moods.

Homemaking is Hospitality

“Of course housework is about making a home, but a Christian home, properly understood, is never just for one’s own family. A Christian home overflows its boundaries; it is an outpost f the kingdom of God, where the hungry are fed and the naked are clothed and there is room enough for everyone.”

I have been focusing more and more on hospitality in my thinking and reading this last year and my husband and I have been attempting to make it more of a priority this year, and I think we’ve done it just enough to see how it is possible to make it a normal part of life and to see that it is an area ripe with possibility and blessing. There have been a few couples we’ve invited where it seems awkward to extend the invitation (whether it be age or social group or just our introvertedness), and every single time we’ve ended the evening commenting on how great it was to finally really get to know whoever it was. We have never regretted it or felt awkward after it was over. Maybe this is honeymoon year and the real challenges come when we think we have it. Probably. But conversations at church, even just a friendly nod and hello, are so much richer and meaningful when you’ve recently (or ever) eaten with that person.

My home exists for God’s glory; it is a place given to me to steward, to be in the very heart of, to serve God’s people. That begins with my family, but it can’t end there. My home needs to be a place where needs are met, relationships are formed and built, and love is seen in availability. I want to consciously arrange our lives and schedules around being able to be open. I am learning that this means that not scheduling activities still can often result in most evenings being spoken for, by the time the week is out. But having the calendar light on events and programs and more invested in individuals and families is worth it.

A not-insignificant benefit of extending hospitality is the jump-start it gives to the motivation to keep up on housecleaning. If people are entering my home multiple times a week, then I am more likely to do things like vacuum and dust. In fact, I think the practice of having people over often has done more for my housekeeping habits than any schedule or book or resolution. :)

Homemaking is Sanctification

“Housekeeping is about practicing sacred disciplines and creating sacred space, for the sake of Christ as we encounter him in our fellow household members and in neighbors, strangers, and guests.”

Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, these begin in the home first before they can extend outside the home. We might call it a menu plan and laundry, but if we are caring for God’s least of these — our own little ones entrusted to us — then it is an important and essential ministry.

If you haven’t, I recommend Rachel Jankovic’s articles on Desiring God’s blog about this topic:

  1. Motherhood as a Mission Field — “At the very heart of the gospel is sacrifice, and there is perhaps no occupation in the world so intrinsically sacrificial as motherhood. Motherhood is a wonderful opportunity to live the gospel.”
  2. Motherhood is a Calling, and where your children rank — “You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.”
  3. Motherhood is Application:

The days of a busy mother are made up of millions of transformations. Dirty children become clean, the hungry child fed, the tired child sleeping. Almost every task a mother performs in the course of a normal day could be considered a transformation. Disorder to order, dirty clothes to clean, unhappy children to peaceful, empty fridge to full. Every day we fight against disorder, filth, starvation, and lawlessness, and some days we might almost succeed. And then, while we sleep, everything unravels and we start again in the morning — transforming.

I look forward to fleshing out these ideas a bit more while working through this book.

“Was keeping house really a waste of time, at best a hobby to be indulged in by people who like that sort of thing and at worst an unpleasant set of necessary chores? Or were there broader cultural and theological factors that made housekeeping seem like all of these things when in fact it was, as I had found it, a discipline as interesting and worthwhile as many other kinds of work?”