As the name of my blog indicates, I spend a lot of time thinking about home. Of course, my Heavenly Home is the one that is eternal, so that’s where I need to lay up my treasures, and that’s the one I’m striving for. But in the meantime, I have been given this tiny piece of the here-and-now—this home on the edge of town, this family, this neighborhood—in which to serve Him. And, though this is in the earthly realm, I want the things that happen here to be investments in the Heavenly realm.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Hidden Art of Homemaking {Chapter 14: Environment}

Environment is crucial for the homemaker. There are many things about our environment that we cannot change, but there is so much that we can affect! In fact, those things that we can affect can make a world of difference to those around us. 

I agree that our influence on the physical environment of the home is important. I think that an orderly, tidy home is peaceful and inspires creative thinking more than one that is in disarray. Maybe it's just me, but I can think better without the distraction of clutter and messes. I don't mean the messiness of current projects. I don't mean a pristine environment in which one is hesitant to do anything to mess it up! I do mean general order and space to think. 

Reading this chapter has caused me to boost my efforts in my physical environment this week. I hate to admit this, but I had gotten lazy in the habit of making my bed every day. My bedroom is upstairs and is rarely seen by anyone outside the family. We have been purging and reorganizing different areas of the house this summer, and so I have let other things go. But as I read Mrs. Schaeffer's words about producing an environment that other people have to live in, I decided to give greater attention to the basics before jumping into a project for the day. A tidy bedroom with a freshly made bed is a "basic" and really doesn't take much time overall. It's the little things. 

Even more important than the physical environment, however, is the "tone" of the home, and I believe that that is one of the homemaker's chief responsibilities.  

I have written about this before. Perhaps you'd allow me to share something that I wrote about "setting the tone" a while back in my series 31 Days to Make a House a Home...

The woman (wife and/or mother) has the power to set the tone in the home.

I have never liked the phrase, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Not because I doubt the truth of the statement, but because it is usually said in a flip manner by someone who thinks that that is funny. The image is that of a family cowering because Mama is displeased. Funny? Not really.

I believe that a woman has tremendous power to influence the attitudes of those in her home.

I am not denying the headship of the man; I believe wholeheartedly that the husband/father is the authority in the home. He is responsible to lead, to teach, to protect, and to love.

But...if I am frazzled, or angry, or blue...
if I am ungrateful, or discontent, or grumpy...
then I can see the effect that those attitudes have on my husband and children.  

And that is sobering.  

But...if I am encouraging, and hopeful, and worshipful...
if I am faithful, and patient, and meek...
then I can also see the effects of those attitudes ripple through my home. 

Yes, I believe that a mama sets the tone for her household.

A while back, I blogged about a book that we were reading, and how a particular passage impacted me: 

We have been reading The Yearling, written by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in 1938. In this coming of age story, the Baxter family—Penny, Ora, and twelve-year-old Jody—live a hard life in the Florida scrub region at the turn of the century.

It is November, and the first frost has come to the scrub. The Baxters are in the “front room”, enjoying the first hearth-fire of the year, Penny smoking his pipe, Ora sewing, Jody lying on the floor in front of the fire, daydreaming.

Ma Baxter said, "Now throw a stick on the fire. I cain't quite see to foller my seams.
She had cut down a pair of Penny’s winter breeches for Jody.
She said, “Now take another notion to grow like you done this spring, and I’ll be cuttin’ down your breeches to fit your daddy.”
Jody laughed out loud and Penny pretended to be offended. Then his eyes twinkled in the firelight and his thin shoulders shook. Ma Baxter rocked complacently. They were all pleased whenever she made a joke.Her good nature made the same difference in the house as the hearth-fire had made in the chill of the evening. 

If you are familiar with this story, you know that Ora is a hard woman, who fusses, criticizes, and has a sharp tongue.  Life has been hard for her--she has lost six children before Jody is born, the family is always on the edge of having enough to get by on, they work extremely hard and have constant set-backs--and she has been hardened by it.  In the passage that I quoted above, however, Ora is in an unusually good humor, and that is why her family is so much enjoying the evening spent in front of the fire.  Their spirits are lightened because "Mama is happy." 

"Her good nature made the same difference in the house as the hearth-fire had made in the chill of the evening."

The first time I visited my dear friend Debbie at no spring chicken, I was struck by this quote by Laura Ingalls Wilder that Debbie has in her blog header: 
"Let's be cheerful!  We have no more right to steal the brightness out of the day for our own family than we have to steal the purse of a stranger.  Let us be as careful that our homes are furnished with pleasant and happy thoughts as we are that the rugs are the right color and texture and the furniture comfortable and beautiful!"

Most of us would be horrified at the thought of stealing the purse of a stranger, but are we ever guilty of stealing the brightness out of the day for our families? 

I must insert here that I am not saying that we should not be "real".  There is a right time for sorrow and grief, for sadness and tears.  I am not suggesting that we waltz about with our insincere smiles, pretending that everything is great when it isn't.  It is neither real, nor truthful, nor helpful to do such a thing.

What I am saying is that our attitudes should reflect His grace, and when they do not, then we are robbing our families of brightness.  Even in sorrow, there can be the brightness of hope.  In tears, there can be brightness of encouragement.  In need, there can be the brightness of reassurance.  In everything, there can be a heart of thankfulness.

I do not write this post from the perspective of a woman who has mastered this, this gift and this responsibility of setting the tone.  I am afraid that I am not always that gentle heart and encouraging presence that is my ideal.  Sometimes I get annoyed.  Sometimes I have a chip on my shoulder, or an offended spirit. 

But I write about this concept because I believe it to be true.  A woman sets the tone in her home. 

So how do I go about setting the proper tone, or being that gentle, edifying presence?

Hear the wise words of my daughter-in-law, Sarah:
I find that it does no good to simply 'resolve' to be more pleasant and full of grace. It's the Lord's grace that allows me to be gracious to my family and His mercy that keeps me from my self.
I believe that is the answer!  Accepting the Lord's grace for us, and extending that to the members of my family.

This week, will you join me in extending His great grace to our husbands and children?  Will you allow Him to help you set the tone in your home?


This concludes the book club discussion of The Hidden Art of Homemaking at Ordo Amoris...
Thank you so much, Cindy, for hosting all of this stimulating conversation!

Click ~here~ for all the posts in the discussion. 


  1. Cheryl, you know I am shouting a loud AMEN! here at my cottage. This is such a powerful thing, this choosing grace and thinking of others and giving them joy by our attitudes. In hard times we can give our children hope, by our showing our hopefulness, in happiness we pass it along and make it twice the joy!

    Love you and thank you for sharing that section from the posts I found your blog through. I got choked up on that line "Her good nature made the same difference in the house as the hearth-fire had made in the chill of the evening. "

    Debbie's Laura Ingalls Wilder quote is wonderful too!


  2. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. You said just what I've been trying to say about the chapter (I'm still working on my post), only much better. I enjoyed reading the quotes, too, from Rawlings and Wilder. Such wisdom!

  3. Sincerity and grace and thankfulness - these things I want reflected in my home, beginning with me.
    Love this excerpt from The Yearling.
    I am going to take time this fall to read through your 31 days series.
    I've so enjoyed reading through and studying Hidden Art with you, Cheryl.

  4. Your daughter-in-law is wise. These attitudes do not come about by cranking them up or trying harder. They come from a yielded life.

  5. Wonderful words of wisdom, challenging words. But your daughter really "hit the nail on the head"--we cannot do this in ourself, it does take His grace.
    Really enjoyed this post. Thank you. Blessings, Sharon D.

  6. Convicting.

    So happy you joined in the club. I gleaned much from your always excellent posts.

  7. Good words. I still love your 31 Days series:)

  8. Great post with very good reminders. I've gotten behind but I don't have anything that could be said better than you have.
    Many blessings!


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