Hi and welcome to the For the Family’s Sake read along. This post contains reflections on the Preface and Chapter 1. Unless noted otherwise, quotations are from the book.
The concept of ‘home’ and ‘home maker’ is in many ways being relegated to history.
We all need a fresh look at what we’re aiming for at home. We need to discover a balance in our practical lives that is life-giving and works well.
‘Is it worthwhile to give generous time and energy to the home. Is it necessary? And what should the home look like?
What do the most vulnerable of persons, little children, need?
Are homes just a temporary arrangement for the care and development of children?’
Who Needs a Home?
In 2013, Moth and Raynor Winn, a couple in their early fifties, lost the home they had shared for over twenty years. They had spent those years bringing up two children and rebuilding a ruined farmhouse and it’s surrounding land in Wales. It had been their home and their livelihood but a failed financial investment left them liable for debts and they lost everything. On top of all that, just a day later, Moth was diagnosed with a terminal illness, corticobasal degeneration (CBD).
They were homeless.
The Salt Path is Raynor Winn’s account of how they coped with their dilemma, which was to walk the 630-mile South West Coast Path of England, camping in the wild and surviving on a small allowance which hardly covered the cost of their food.
Who needs a home? The Winns certainly did. The walk was only a temporary solution.
As Susan Schaeffer Macaulay observed, if you were to ask a miserable refugee that question, they would think it a question not worth answering.
‘What is a tree without its roots held deeply in the soil? What is a cup without a saucer? What are letters if the aren’t put into words and sentences? What is a child’s life like if there is no home and no family to belong to?’
For The Family’s Sake addresses these questions and many more. Home is not just for families. Single people of all ages, divorced, widowed, empty-nesters; we all need a home.
I’ve never been homeless but I have been rootless.
In my teens I lived for a while in a caravan with six other members of my family. It was a roof over our heads but it wasn’t a home. Later I spent about a year travelling around Australia, basically living in my van. Although I told myself I was a free spirit, I was really running away. I didn’t want to be tethered – that sounded boring – but I learned the hard way that I needed stability and relationships.
When I became a Christian at 19, I began to sense that I needed to be tethered; to have some sort of continuity in my life. I had to learn to make a home wherever I was. To have some sort of continuity in my life.
A Utopian view that ‘when we can afford a bigger/nicer/better home…then we will take steps to put down roots;’ romantic dreams that dissipate in the cold light of day; the ‘If only…’ excuse, can lead to bitterness and hopelessness:
‘If only I were married.’
‘If only I were married to another person.’
‘If only we could leave this miserable home and have a nice place.’
If only my spouse had not died/left me?
Homes are for everybody – single persons or families with children, young or old, people with good jobs or bad ones. Homes are not a romantic idea to dream about wistfully; homemaking needs to be put into practice as a priority. A good home life is too basic a human need to whine and fuss about with the plaintive words, “if only.”
Unrealistic expectations may cause dissatisfaction with simple basics. We need to ask what ingredients make up a good home.
Macauley points out that a mixture of common sense, realism, and traditions have worked in the past and we should look at how different kinds of people have made a success of life. ‘Our needs haven’t changed but today we have overcomplicated and stressed our lives, minds and bodies with the “too much” that we have lost a “pearl of great price”: the basics of wholesome everyday life at home. A balanced life.’
“May we all live rooted and generous lives!”
Some questions to consider:
- How much do commercial and social media pressures mislead me and breed discontent?
- Am I making excuses for not working at my everyday life? (“If only I had more money;” I didn’t have a good childhood model.”)
- Is homemaking a priority? Am I putting in the thought and action to create a welcoming home?
- What ‘if only’ is preventing me from creating a balanced home life?
- Is there something practical I can do in the next week to put some good patterns into place? Some ‘if only’ I can delete from my thinking?
“One of the most important aspects of life is the home. And then communities of homes.”
Have I put down roots where I’m living? Do I belong to a broader community? I read The Salt Path with a couple of friends and what surprised us all was the couple’s lack of a broader community that could step in and help them. We are all connected to a church and extended families who would make space for us.
Community and hospitality are areas that Schaeffer explores later on in the book. It’s something I feel strongly about because as a single person, I was made welcome in a home that opened its doors to me. A family who barely knew me made me one of them when I was rootless and alone.
I’m finding that even though I’ve read For the Family’s Sake before, there are so many ideas to mull over. I had six children under 12 when I first read this book and we had just moved from a home we’d been in for ten years and I was shocked that I felt so uprooted when we left. Over those ten years I’d put down roots, we’d been part of a local community and five of our seven children had been born while we there. Roots don’t establish themselves overnight and it’s important not to give up when relationships and community take a while to develop. Roots are amazing things and we all need them for growth and nourishment.
For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn – a personal account of a couple who became homeless overnight and the attitudes they encountered. It’s a look into the hidden homeless; the ‘ordinary’ people who are forced out on to the streets due to a change in circumstances. There are frequent ‘F’ words scattered all through this book. A friend listened to the audio narrated by the author and found the swearing less jarring because of Winn’s accent.
Fictional Books With a Heart for the Home
The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher – I loved this story of how a father and mother didn’t let cultural norms rule them but found a solution to how they could best nurture their children. Linked to my review.
Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton – some of my thoughts on a part of this book that shows the importance of ‘feeding our children only on things worth caring for,’ and that the best atmosphere is made and not bought. Very refreshing.
The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder – fictionalised stories of the author’s life that shows how her mother made do in difficult circumstances.
The Hobbit by J.R. Tolkien
Chapter Two, Home – the Best Growing Ground for Children, is 17 pages long so I plan to post about it around the 18th June. That gives those who are still waiting for the book to arrive some time to catch up.
Please comment below with your thoughts, your own experience of ‘home,’ what you have struggled with or what has worked in your situation. If you have a blog post about this chapter you may link to it the comments, too.