Friday, May 30, 2014

On Homemaking and Hard Work

I have been under the impression lately that my newer friends believe that I am just naturally wired for homemaking and domesticity and that I have always been this way.  This really is funny to me...if only I could show them my room when I was growing up, my dorm room and the places we lived when we first got married.

None of my current skills in the home were magically gifted to me.  They are a result of learning and growing and plain old hard work.

As a young married woman, I had no idea how to cook. My capability in cleaning came from working in two fast food restaurants late in high school and in college.  Clutter was my nemesis. Laundry was never ever under control.  Piles and piles of clean laundry would overflow everywhere and we just grabbed what we needed from that. Dirty dishes would pile up for days.  Our kitchen table was two-thirds office and one-third dining space.  My mother would swoop in from time to time and help make pillows and curtains and soften everything.  She would help order my life again but her habits weren't my habits and so it didn't take long for everything to fall back in disarray.

In 2002 I bought a Woman's Day magazine and learned about Fly Lady.  I knew that reading her and having someone daily "mentor" me in the home was what I needed.  I needed her to help me clear clutter and get into a habit of clearing clutter.  I needed her to teach me routines.  I had resisted routines for so long and was no longer satisfied with all of the emotional and physical chaos that inevitably came when I lived without them.  Day by day and step by step, I purged my spaces, our storage unit, our clothing. This took time and a few years.  I began to believe "do not keep anything in your home that is not useful or beautiful". I let go of fear and hoarding and sentimentality and freed myself to decorate simply and in my unique style.

I read the book "Use What You Have Decorating" and it helped me to understand design and that I didn't need new and shiny and expensive.  I could make what I already owned or what I found in a thrift store pretty and pleasing and self-expressive. This book taught me how to arrange furniture and lamps and why certain spaces feel better and function better than others.

I got obsessed with Pampered Chef and my sister's recipes and between the two of them, I learned to cook. I knew from going to many of their Shows that their recipes were usually delicious. So I bought a cookbook at every Show and began to experiment and work my way through them.  People would rave over what I made at an event and it was always one of their recipes.  They taught me how to use kitchen tools and made me realize that the right tool + a well-written recipe makes a world of difference.

I checked out books and bought books on homemaking and domesticity for years. I became a student of it all.  My thinking was that if I believed that God was calling me to be at Home and raise a family, then it was my responsibility to learn how to do that.  My desire was to create spaces that were warm and cozy. Happy and inviting. Uncluttered and relatively easy to manage.  None of that was "natural" to me. It was a choice I decided to make.  I began to view my home as a Professional would...this was my "job" now and so I needed to learn and work hard and grow into that.  No one becomes good at a new job overnight.  You become skilled as you gain knowledge, observe others, ask questions, and practice, practice, practice.

Blogs came along my path around 2006.  I was amazed that I was being given peeks into people's real life homes through their photography and their words. Being the visual learner that I am, I now felt even more inspired and mentored to view beauty through simplicity, through natural living, through doing art and making stuff alongside my children.  Through my sister's help and many books and online tutorials, I taught myself to sew. To knit. To crochet. To embroider. To do a million crafty things and to invite my children into a creative lifestyle. I stopped listening to the inner monologue of "don't try that because you won't be perfect so don't even go there" and released myself to try new skills, to make mistakes, to fail and to be messy. I began making things for my home and making things for others and never in my life did I feel so free and so joyful and fulfilled.

I never realized that Home could be the place where I would find myself, where I would find calling, where I would find fulfillment. It started out just as a choice.  We just knew that my being home was what we wanted for our children but I never stopped to think at all what it would do for me. Here is the place that taught me to love, to create, to grow, to learn, to clarify, and to focus. Here is the place that provided me space to learn to cook and later to learn hospitality and and to give all that I learned away to others. Here is the place where I learned to lay down my life only to find it again.  It was a choice we made by faith only and I began to receive the fruit of that decision years and years later.

I say all this to say that I am not more "gifted" at this homemaking thing than anyone else.  I don't possess a skill set that isn't available to others. I was dissatisfied with how I did just about everything in our home and decided that I needed to learn, practice and grow. One thing that stuck out to me as I have been doing those Powersheets is that she says that we can make all of those goals and steps and plans, but at the end day, it's putting in the hard work. That is true of any job out there, homemaking included.  When we put in the hard work of learning, practicing, failing and learning yet again, we are rewarded with that effort.  We gain virtue, skill, and ultimately gifts that we can bless others with.  All of that hard work enables us to fulfill our calling which is always to love our neighbor.  Our neighbor is our family, our friendships, our church and our wider community.  Our acquired skills become our avenues and paths to bring blessing and grace and joy to those that God allows to cross our paths.

In the quiet and hidden place of Home and family, God gifts us with time and space to grow, to learn, to become skilled in a variety of ways. For years we may wonder at it all and question our place there and get depressed and doubt it all...but the fruit will come. As the roots grow deep and receive nourishment over time and storm, we can grow and blossom into fruitful trees which bring beauty and health and growth to others. Little by little, day by day.


Stephanie Shepherd said...

Aimee, I love this. It so resonates where I have been this past year. In all things, but survival, I feel like I have taken the past year off. Between home, homeschooling, the part-time work I do at my church, tutoring in our co-op, etc and etc, I have jumped from one fire to the next. A few months ago, I really felt a stirring that I needed to become a student again, within my home. Instead of feeling like I'm missing out on what's out there, it was time for me to start studying and investing in my time in what I AM called to do. I'm still taking baby steps in this (getting my powersheets out that's I'm scared to use would probably help!) but really "owning", for lack of a better word, my role as homemaker and homeschooling mom. I'm decent at organizing and cooking, but I've started reading cookbooks like books and seeing how better I can serve my kids (and even more especially my husband!) with good food. I'm trying to take to heart something I heard Sally Clarkson say - to really become a student of my kids. I have one that is really struggling and has some learning disabilities and hurdles to jump through. I know I'm called to work with her, therefore, I need to be a student of her and how I can serve as well as continually being before the Lord and studying HIS word and what it means to be a servant to my family (laying down myself in this place as you beautifully put it).

Apologies for such a long comment, but your words are encouragement I needed today! Love being your Instagram friend. : )

Lori Alexander said...

You are a young woman after my own heart. I wrote a post similar to this one there ~

Your family is truly blessed!!!

Christine said...

Thank you for sharing, Aimee. I wish I had read this years ago. :)

bobbi @ revolution of love said...

ohmygosh, I love, love, love this! It is exactly what I have been going though over the last couple of years although I am still in the purging and organizing stage. Being consistent and keeping up with the tidying is my downfall. I have always wished I could sew or knit but I have zero experience and have yet to give it a try. You make me think that it is possible. :-)

Cay Gibson said...

This is beautiful !