Monday, January 30, 2012

Keeping House Book Study Chapter Eight

(vintage kitchen by janet hill)

So much has been happening recently that I was not able to sit down at the computer for long enough to write about chapter 7.   In the interests of keeping on schedule, and because we already discussed food a little bit, I am going to move on to:  

Chapter Eight:  The Well Kept House!

This is the last chapter.    I am going to continue for one more week after this one, in order to wrap up the study, and you are welcome to join in with any loose ends or reflections or thoughts inspired by the study. 

IT is timely for me to think about the well kept house!   In the past week I have traveled from my mom's home in Wasilla, to my sons' apartment in Oregon, and now to my own log home in the Sierra Mountains.   

A few considerations from the chapter on the attributes of a well kept home:

1.  Importance: 

It is an important part of Christian living to have a well managed house.   Look at 1 Timothy 3 which describes the qualifications for a deacon.   Much of it is intrinsically tied in with the man's management of his own household and family as well as his own personal temperance and honesty.

2.  Hospitality.   

Hospitality meant a different thing in Biblical times than it seems to nowadays.  It meant welcoming the stranger or wayfarer, and was a sort of return to others of what God had given to Israel, or individually to us.

For this reason, hospitality nowadays doesn't have to mean so much spotless perfection or elegant dining, but simply sharing one's life with others.

3.  Dealing with the basics.  

How much better to focus on meeting basic needs with dignity and care, rather than shoot for some standard of elegance and perfection!  I know that when I visited my Mom's house I was struck by how she has set things up so that hospitality is almost second nature.   Everything is clean and simple and smells good and looks nice.  She doesn't tend to worry about having everything perfectly ordered.     We owe our own families this kind of care, too; and since care is a communal effort, all the members of the family should participate in keeping things up.  It shouldn't be the job of just one person (usually, statisfically, the mom).

4.  Routines.

Household routines are like church liturgies in that there is a daily, weekly, and seasonal routine and these things are not to be arbitrarily changed.   Oh, this is a huge topic!  In fact, routine is something I feel like I am lacking right at the moment, probably because of changing households three times in a week.   When I was with my mom, I felt like routines were very important in shaping the day and meeting with the various challenges of ill health and lots of things to get done.   Back at home, I'm floundering a bit more.   I think part of it is that routines tend to be naturally communal and cooperative.    When I am at home with my boys I feel like I am doing most of the pulling and tugging.    The temptation is to become discouraged.    I will let you know in a week or so where I am on this!

5.  Emergencies.   

What do you do when the routines break down?  I suppose I am somewhat there right now.    When things are in transition, or someone is sick, or newborn, or something else changes the status quo, then routines tend to develop glitches or fail to work.

Mrs Peterson makes a great point about safety.   A routine is not about maximum efficiency, so that the least disruption in the machinery means that it grinds over the individual needs of the members of the family.    Daily life has to have margin, safety -- so when a need comes up, it can be generously met. 

Another great point she makes is that maximum efficiency is often a way of devaluing work.  In other words, it is a kind of sloth.   When you are working like a machine, all the time, the work is essentially dehumanized and made into an end in itself rather than a means to an end.   Work becomes more important than the human worker, rather than the work being FOR the human.

I know that I personally have a temptation to work just to get it done.  Mrs Peterson mentions that work should be tucked into the corners and folds of life, be intrinsically bound into its fabric, not thought of as a huge separate block.   This is something I am glad to have a chance to think about this week particularly.

Nurturance and caregiving are notoriously inefficient. Insofar as housekeeping participates in and forms part of the infrastructure for nurturance and care, it makes good sense for housekeeping to be designed not for maximum efficiency but for appropriate redundancy. We need to plan to take enough time to do the work—perhaps not always as much time as might be ideal but enough time that on a normal day most of the things that need to be done can get done and on a hard day there are corners that can be cut.
This is my Thought for the Week!  It really goes against my natural grain, but it connects with my Word for 2012, Diligence.   Diligence is a kind of joyful care for the details.  .... a kind of nurturing care.  It is NOT machine-like efficiency.

In this context, I think of a book I read about a man who lived among the Amish for a year.   The Amish are notably hard workers, but he noticed that their work had little in common with factory-line efficiency.  As they farmed or built or whatever, little organic pauses were built into the rhythm of labor.   The work was human, not machine-like.

Household emergencies can be opportunities -- for giving and receiving help.    I noticed often when I had a newborn or our family was facing a medical crisis, the normal routines and productivity went by the board.   This is often frustrating, but the frustration is to an extent an immature response.   Crises and births and transitions are occasions for very unique and extraordinary graces.   To want "ordinary time" to continue all year around, with no feasts or fasts, would not be in any way a sign of sanctity; it's more like laziness.  Of course, I can say that and still feel my natural reluctance to have to change and grow and respond.

This chapter continues, but I think I have enough to think about for now.      Next week in my wrap-up post I will try to tie in whatever I can of those last few pages.   I hope you enjoyed this book study -- and will use next week to explore any trails that this study has brought up, or reflect on any new things you have learned.  


  1. Margaret Kim PetersonJanuary 30, 2012 at 4:32 PM

    I just happened to come across this series of reflections on "Keeping House." How touching and humbling it is to have my words reflected upon with such thoughtfulness and charity. Thank you for this blessing.

    Margaret Kim Peterson

    1. Thank you for commenting and for the wonderful book! It has given me (and others) a lot to think about!

  2. I'm sorry I fell down on this read-along, but I finished the book today, and her good and wise words were exactly what I needed to hear in the middle of this week. Thanks, again for hosting this read-along; I'm really glad I took part in it.


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!