Who Needs a Home?

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.

Further Reading

L’ Abri by Edith Schaeffer
The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer

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.

5 thoughts on “Who Needs a Home?

  1. Hi Carol, I love it when a large number of the books I am reading seem to work together and a common theme appears. Home, home making, hospitality and the need for community seems to be what is making itself known to me right now. I loved this book as much as “For The Children’s Sake” because they seemed companions to each other. What struck me most in this re reading is the idea of being content with the basics and on p 16 where she explains that as the basics of a wholesome, everyday life, a balance of the basics, resonated with me. As a young Mum I was dissatisfied because I thought that more was better. Well, at age 50, I know better now and my little granddaughter is benefitting from that. So am I and my husband. I also highlighted the notion of ‘thought’ and ‘action’ as essential to the practice of these basics, making them a priority. Today I washed all the windows in the family areas, outside and in, and what a change it brought. More light, more colour, a sense of homeliness, nature was closer. I thought about this and then I acted, and it really was a very basic thing.

    I am also reading “Pilgrim’s Inn” by Elizabeth Goudge and on p.50, Lucilla, the matriarch of the Eliot family cries “that it was home making that mattered. Every home was a brick in the great wall of decent living that men erected over and over again as a bulwark against the perpetual flooding in of evil. But women made the bricks, and the durableness of each civilisation depended upon their quality”. Now, I know men who are home making too and those who share the task, but I think it is the idea of it being a need and something to be practiced that is key here.

    Those are my thoughts. Cheers, Cate

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    • Hi Cate,
      I’ve been a bit sick this week so my thoughts might be jumbled but here goes!
      Common themes in books – yes, so good, very encouraging, often unexpected and from varied authors, too!
      A balance of the basics, the idea that more is better – a crisis that strips away the excess & frivolous shows how much we don’t need or can do without; or when you’ve lived a bit longer and can look back with a wider perspective. Hopefully!

      I like that picture of making bricks of quality. I’ve been thinking about the traditional perception of the roles of women and how much that has been chipped away and not taken seriously. But someone has to care for the home, put meals on the table and everything else that goes with it – either that or pay someone else to do it. They are ‘basic’ but necessary but just because they are basic isn’t a reason to look down on them or denigrate them as unskilled.

      My newborn granddaughter was taken to emergency after only a week of being home and put into special care on oxygen. She had a common childhood virus which can be serious in infants & ended up with bronchiolitis and low blood oxygen. She was there for 9 days and just got home on Sunday. We had her 4 yr old sister with us overnight a couple of times and helped out with meals for my son-in-law. I was chatting to my daughter yesterday and she was getting on top of the washing – her husband had been overwhelmed by it – he’d managed other things fine, but the washing was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I had a flashback to the times I was in hospital & my husband had the same overwhelm. I had the routine down pat, had the washing machine on first thing everyday but neglect that routine & it was chaos.
      Enjoyed your reflections, Cate. I’ve done basically zero housework this week but the washing is up to date. 🤪I’d have to be moribund to let that go.
      Having my husband working from home since covid has been great. He’s been doing bits and pieces around the place. Lately it’s been keeping on top of mould – like everyone else on the east coast.

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  2. Hi Carol,
    Thanks for hosting this read along. I’m looking forward to joining in over the coming weeks!
    Starting this book has reminded me of the picture that Edith Schaeffer paints of the family being like a mobile, ever shifting and changing in the wind. I have always believed that homemaking is a vital part of my role as a mum and wife, but I have struggled to adjust to the various ways that our family has changed. I’m a mum of nine, two of my children are married, I have one grandson and a grandbaby due soon. I’m a mum to adults, teenagers, and small children. It is sometimes hard to bend with the changing years and hard to let go of expectations.
    When Susan states, In Chapter 1, “To create welcoming homes requires thought and then action.” I was challenged to re-think about how I am creating a welcoming home as my children grow and have their own families. I desire to honour God in the way I create a space to ‘root’ our family. The thought “What is a tree without its roots held deeply in the soil? What is a cup without its saucer? What are letters if they 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?” points us to the necessity for homemaking, not as an antiquated profession but as an essential role that we can play in today’s society.
    I thought the ending words in chapter one are a beautiful summary of why I’m looking forward to joining in this read along…
    “I hope that a clearer map for our homes and lives will emerge. May we be rooted and give generous lives. That is good”.
    Blessings, Jo

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  3. Hi Jo,
    I had to rescue your comment from spam – I have no idea why it went there. 😤Thanks for joining in with the read along and for your thoughts on what we’ve read so far!
    I read Edith Schaeffer’s book ‘What is a Family?’ when I was a newish mum. Also her ‘Common Sense Christian Living’ and although I remember her picture of the family being like a mobile, back then I would never have guessed how much more that picture would apply so much more later on.
    I read that Edith Schaeffer was about 60 when she wrote What is a Family? She’d been married for nearly 40 years and was a grandmother. When I read it, I was reading it with the eyes of a mum with just young children and thought it was referring to the messiness of life with little ones.

    Your comments: ‘It is sometimes hard to bend with the changing years and hard to let go of expectations,’ and about being challenged to re-think what a welcoming home looks like are things I’ve pondered over.
    We only have our two youngest at home now so it can be complicated with the addition of spouses and grandchildren (as you would know) while still giving room for our adult children to start their own home traditions.
    Thought & action seems to be a common denominator so far. (See Cate’s comments above).
    I had some time yesterday with my youngest son which I don’t often get. We had both had the flu & didn’t have much energy so we went to a park and sat in the sun & talked for a couple of hours; had a short walk, talked some more. I was so grateful to have this time with him & felt very encouraged to hear what was on his heart. I tend to do a lot of the ‘thought’ but the ‘action’ doesn’t always accompany what’s in my head. This opportunity of an extended conversation with him helped me put legs on my thoughts.

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  4. Pingback: Read Along – some comments/discussion | journey & destination

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