Monday, April 12, 2010

The word "culture" comes from the Latin and its original meaning dealt with the cultivation of soil for crops. So it is natural to consider that the "culture" of the home is something one must "cultivate" in order for it to exist and thrive.

We who treasure our home lives have an instinctive knowledge of what it takes to make a house a home, and it has very little to do with ticket price, address or stainless steel appliances.  Indeed, the art and let's face it, work of home-culture building is the one-of-a- kind molding that takes place in the space of the minutes and hours which comprise the years of our lives.  Instead of hiring the landscaper to design and implement your garden space, you spend a dollar fifty for a small six-pack of impatiens and plant them lovingly in a little bed in the front yard, and watch them grow and multiply into a charming little mass of cheery color. Next year you add some marigolds or primroses. Or take a doily from a box of things that Grandma left behind, and place it with care on a less than beautiful table.  Add a candle and a little figurine from the dollar store and you have given the eye something lovely and homey to rest upon.  It just takes a little time and thought and very little money, but you have cultivated some warmth and beauty in your home. And if you keep that little area free of clutter and the table cleaned and polished, you have made a tiny patch of heaven, right here on earth!

People will naturally feel relaxed and comforted in your home if you build its culture, because they feel they have entered a place that is full of real life. The best hospitality is when someone goes to the trouble to invite you in, gives you a warm beverage and a cookie, and after drawing you comfortably into their little home circle, they kind of take the focus off you and let you become part of the real life that is happening around you.  A lot of this came naturally in former times, and now we need to re-learn how to build our homes and build into the lives of others whom God puts in our path.

Back in ancient times, like when I was little, women used to drop in on each other and without fuss or thought start working alongside the hostess, snapping string beans, folding laundry or tending to the baby. It was all quite natural as well as quite helpful.  There was a lot more visiting in those days because there was someone home to visit. These were the times that women would use to talk with each other about subjects light or profound as they worked along, and thus be satisfied to welcome their tired husbands home at the end of the day with a good meal, without feeling the need to extract a "discussion" from them, and rake them over the conversational coals.   As a youngster, I loved to sit nearby and listen to the conversations, playing with my dolls and thinking about how great it was to live in the very center of the universe.

Perhaps it was easier then to think about the home as an important place to cultivate, guard and preserve. Back then, we didn't have quite as many entertainment distractions, nor any strident feminists dinging on our mothers' heads about how repressed they were.  We also didn't have a clothes dryer, dishwasher, microwave oven, or even an electric can opener.  In fact our can opener swung out from the wall by the kitchen door, and you just positioned the can up there and turned this crank until it opened.  Best can opener I ever used! The pencil sharpener was mounted in another room, and that was the best and most efficient pencil sharpener ever!   Funny.      

So indeed, manual labor was kind of built into a housewife's day, but so was the satisfaction of being the builder of her home. No two houses were remotely alike, and each family had their own unique way of expressing themselves in their home. The Bernard's had Victorian furniture and a kitty cat clock in their kitchen whose eyes and tail moved to the rhythm of its tick-tock.  Mr. Allen had a huge second yard that was a vegetable garden (complete with greenhouse and asparagus bed), my mother made the best coffee and baked wonderful pies and you could perform surgery in sanitary safety on Mrs. Reinhart's bathroom floor. My father had a workshop in his basement and his mother made wine every Fall in hers.

Perhaps people just need permission once again, to take pride in their home life - which is something different than making sure it is tricked out with all manner of granite and expensive flooring. It has more to do with a man taking joy and satisfaction in getting out there quickly to shovel and scrape that snow off the walk, or a wife touching up his no-iron shirt with, of all things, an iron. Or taking time to arrange some new things on the mantle and standing back to make sure they look just right. Or sitting down when you absolutely do not have time, and rocking that annoying child who is overtired and might just be coming down with something.

These and a million (at least) other small, routine, often repetitive deeds are what build the culture of home. They make memories, they bind hearts together, and forge the future. They keep the embers of love burning just enough to be able to once again be fanned into flame. They will give your children something to lean back on when they are out there someday as scared adults on the battlefields of life.

Right now, you just need to be there. Unplugged and interested. You need to be home.


  1. Anonymous4:33 PM

    Another wonderful post! Thank you for the very thoughtful and inspiring words. Very encouraging.

  2. Anonymous9:02 PM

    This post is so very true. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and taking the time to write it - very much appreciated. Linda

  3. Anonymous9:17 AM

    A beautiful post, Emmarinda...thank you for such uplifting thoughts!


  4. Very uplifting. Thank you.

  5. Anonymous12:19 AM

    I am new to your blog and this post is old but yet so timely. I love going to Lady Lydia's Home Living for such inspiration. This post touched my heart. You blog on many different subjects but also with a woman's eye and sensabilities,...and beautifully. Thank you so very much for taking the time to share your thoughts. It is so warming to know there are other Christian women out there that feel as I do on so many subjects. Sarah

  6. Anonymous1:00 AM

    I wanted to add: I remember those "ancient" days when women used to come to each others homes and help out or just sit and sew or clean together. When keeping home was an honored position etc and all the rest you wrote about. I am in my early 60s. I thought I'd grow up in just such a world too. Wanted to very much. womens lib {boo} and other things changed that.Even when I started housekeeping that world was fading fast. But there are still many of us out there young and old who still believe in home and all its potential.I love how you summed so much of it up in this blog post and others. I still love making a home best of all. I noted a few homes on our street that seemed to have a fast turnover of renters. They all had children but the families seemed to care less about their homes. I started to think about what the outside of my home looked like to these children. I tried to be outside when they came by on their way home from school to smile and say hi at least. I started to pay more attention to the flowers by the street and such they would see. One day one of the groups of children stopped me. One looked at me wistfully and said "You must have a very beautiful house....cause your outside is so pretty." They noticed the difference. Most of my street is frankly pretty ugly. I had hoped to put some beauty and hope into these children. Maybe I planted some along with the flowers. I am thankful to Him for giving me the time to do this. Sarah

  7. Anonymous12:24 AM is now 2014 and I reread this forgetting I had commented so many years ago on this very post! :) But again I enjoyed reading it and got a tear remembering those gentle days at my Mother's knee while she talked and worked and visited with her friends. As they worked there women were mentoring me in home keeping and their love of their home whether they thought they were or not..they were! I wanted to be just like them one day. God granted that wish. :))) Only thing is for most of my years as my children were growing up, no other homemakers were home on the block! This as you know is typical. I had married at about the very time women's lib hit strong and so many young women abandoned home to work full time away from it. Still I was where I wanted to be. I am happy to see many young women now are trying to stay home. Through the internet at least they can 'chat' with other mothers and learn and share with them. Hopefully some will return home on their streets so they can personally work and friendships together. I pray they will. Sarah


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