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“Still the Same Person”: Edith Schaeffer on Child-Rearing, Beauty-Seeking, Home-Keeping

Ponder-worthy wisdom from Edith Schaeffer’s The Hidden Art of Homemaking:

You cannot expect to have a close relationship with a teenager who, after all, is still the same person as the two-year-old you stuck crying into bed, the three-year-old you spanked and shoved aside, the four-year-old you wouldn’t listen to, the five-year-old you never shared beauty with, the six-year-old you found boring, or you ‘trained’ never to butt in, but never gave time to make a cosy and beautiful background out of which you could talk to him or her.

. . . [G]reat moments of trust and confidence do not spring out of concrete. They need a long time of being planted, fertilized, weeded, watered, warmed by sun and cared for lovingly before they become mature ‘plants’–plants of understanding communication and loving relationship. If you never have time to enhance moments together by making some preparaton for beauty as well as for meeting necessities you are apt to miss altogether the spontaneous response and opening up of the personality which this would bring.

There’s this too:

[C]ommunication takes time. It is also helped by atmosphere, and the atmosphere is helped by the ‘things’ which are arranged with love and with an expression of creativity in a visilbe form. One of the least time-consuming forms of artistic exrpession, as well as one of the most effective ways of making a table come alive, is to make an ‘arrangement’ as a centrepiece. There is a ‘togetherness’ at the table which comes into foucs when all eyes are drawn to the centre. There is a tendency to talk about the beauty seen there, or at least to be affected by it.

. . . The art of living together, of being a family, is being lost, just as the wealth of the earth is being lost by man’s carelessness in his ignoring the need for conservation of forests, lakes and seas. The ‘conservation’ of family life does not consist of sticking a rose in the middle of the table; it is a deeper thing than that. However . . . one has to start somewhere. And in this need to get back to ‘gracious living,’ to real communication among people living together, it seems to me one place to start could be the meal-time moments, and the careful preparation of the background for conversations at that time.

And one more:

A Christian, who realizes he has been made in the image of the Creator and is therefore meant to be creative on a finite level, should certainly have more understanding of his responsibility to treat God’s creation with sensitivity, and should develop his talents to do something to beautify his little spot on the world’s surface. Neighbours, friends and strangers walking by ought to find the Christians’ gardens, farms, estates, schools, hospitals, huts, missions and factories, surrounded by beauty of grass, moss, rocks, fern, bushes, trees, flowers and vegetables, planted and cared for with an expression of originality and artistic planning on some scale. A Christian individual or organization should not move into a property and turn it into a shambles. The opposite should be true. . .

Is it a waste of time to bring forth this sort of beauty, or to fulfil your artistic talents in this sort of way? Is it more important to use that time talking about the living God? It seems to me the beauty which causes strangers passing by to stop and enjoy a garden, provides a background and already ‘says something’ which gives an emphasis to what it is important to say. Of course one must speak of the historic and prophetci facts which people need to hear, the truth about God and the universe. But this makes much more sense in a setting which shows that action on the basis of truth really does fit in with the universe as it is, and was created.

A meditation on the imago dei responsibilities of creatures made like an artistic Creator, exploration of twelve facets of home-keeping, myriad suggestions for incorporating the fine and practical arts into the life of the home, and insightful commentary on the nature of family, beauty, communication, conservation, and more: this little book is as delightful as it is wise.

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