Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Lifegiving Home (Review & Thoughts on Homemaking)

One afternoon, after being blessed with a sunny spring day, I went about my ritual of cleaning up the house before Matt comes home. I tidied up the living room, vacuumed the carpet, opened all the windows, set up a table fan for a light breeze, and lit a candle. My littlest guy was napping, and my other two were quietly playing with action figures, so I took a seat in my recliner and opened a book.

As I sat there, fully enjoying the feeling of that room at that moment, a thought came to mind. A simple, obvious one. 

"I created this environment. I set this up with my own hands and my own effort, and it's kinda cool that we can craft an atmosphere like that."

I can't tell you why I had those particular thoughts or why they came to me that way, or even more simply - why that never occurred to me before? There was just something in that moment I chewed over. This idea of being an environment crafter - an atmosphere creator - it energized me for some reason.

One way to make peace with chores, and a review of The Lifegiving Home by Sarah & Sally Clarkson

I kept that nugget tucked away, not knowing exactly what to do with it, until I started struggling again with caring for my home.

It really goes against my nature to constantly stay on top of chores and homemaking, and when I do, and my hard work is demolished by the life of little ones, I am left feeling endlessly defeated. I kept wondering if I would ever make peace with housework, or if there was another way to approach homemaking other than the two operational frequencies I've noticed (and lived.) Those being: you either live a sloppy life and try not to care about it, or you live a meticulous and tidy life and spend as much time trying not to be miserable as you are on the actual chores. And not even because chores suck, but because once you do them, and someone messes it up over and over again, you get really mad! (That is where obsessive coaster users are born.)

Wanting to do a little research on my quest for a happy medium, I picked up The Lifegiving Home (affiliate) by mother-daughter duo Sally & Sarah Clarkson. I didn't know anything about it other than what I could glean from the title, but it seemed as good a place to start as any!

When I first cracked the book, I was surprised to know that it had a heavy religious theme. That doesn't scare me away if it's done right - I am somewhat spiritual, and as long as you give actual useful information along with your testimony, I can roll with it. As much as I long both for a home church and a bigger God presence in my life, I don't want to feel cornered or like I've been smacked over the head with a bible while trying to do some personal development, yanno?

The Lifegiving Home Review & Thoughts on Homemaking

So anyway, at first I was pretty skeptical. Though I was totally into their descriptives of living quarters, and really related to what they were saying, I still felt like they were really going to have to sell me somehow. Mostly because of this quote, which was a quote itself from a book called Pilgrim's Inn by Elizabeth Goudge:
"[...]it was homemaking that mattered. Every home was a brick in the great wall of decent living that man erected over and over again as a bulwark against the perpetual flooding in of evil."
When I read that I thought....hang on, you're trying to tell me that if I don't hurry up on those dishes, demons are going to sneak in through a mousehole? I know I'm simplifying here, but I really couldn't grasp this idea that being a Cinderella would keep us spiritually sound. I believe in loving others and serving them when you can, but why does that have to mean dirty, unrelenting and unrewarding grunt work?

Don't tell me sweeping crumbs off the floor ten times a day is keeping the devil at bay. 

Somehow, though, these ideas slowly leached into my thought process. Despite my cynicism, this was somehow becoming the best version of "this is your art" that I've ever heard.

I've tried to think of my home as a bustling business with me at the helm - running operations and making tough decisions.

I've tried to set goals, play games with myself, craft schedule after schedule to fit everything in while also being flexible, and I've even hired help. None of that furthers my pride in homemaking.

Yet two ladies describing to me the importance of setting the stage in each room of your home for love and life to bloom and prosper within spoke to the deepest recesses of my soul. 

It's a calling. I've been asked to do it. By - pick your force - God, the universe, fate, the human species, my husband, my family. I am given the opportunity, every single day, to create art in my home. Both in the decor, objects and settings that I craft, and in the interactions and experiences that they in turn create.

As I read along through the authors' personal experiences, ideas for things to do in my own home, and the importance of crafting a lifegiving home, I kept thinking back to that afternoon when I finally realized that it's kind of amazing that we are able to manipulate our environments and inspire gratitude and love. There is something deeply gratifying for me knowing that I'm the person who does that for my family. My husband and my kids (my favorite people on the planet) experience their environments because I crafted them. My friends and family come to visit and they think and feel a certain way because of what I've presented to them. And at any given moment, I can move a few things around and flip a switch or two, and make everyone feel like they're in a totally new (and maybe even indulgent) place.

The Lifegiving Home review & how to deal with chores

That idea spoke to me before I even picked up The Lifegiving Home, so to have it confirmed and presented in different examples was a really good thing for me. I think my struggle with making peace with dishes and laundry and picking up toys is that if I ask myself the question, "Will I feel like a million bucks because I got the dishes done for the third time today?" the answer is no, because they will be on their way to being dirtied again the second I stop. But if I ask myself, "Will I feel cozy and proud in my kitchen if walking in there feels bright and fresh?" the answer is yes.

The key is asking yourself how you want to feel. (Hello, The Desire Map, there you are again.)

My one issue with The Lifegiving Home is that as it moved along through the months of the year (which is how its chapters were organized), I felt like writing moved farther and farther away from the point. Their ideas were spoken in the first few chapters, and then they just kept explaining them in more and more personal ways, which felt a little counterproductive. No one will live their life quite like them, and honestly I think the average reader will feel intimidated by their family because they spoke of it with an air of perfection. And the amount of things they do and accomplish in their lives? Yeow!

But the book certainly helped me put ideas to a feeling, organize my disjointed thoughts on an area of my life I've been struggling with, and even inspired me to complete some projects and start some new traditions. If you can overlook or be objective about the rest, this book may be worth it for you.

A super simple tip to make your chores more appealing? Get products that will make you enjoy it even just a little bit more. My favorite go-to items are heavily scented candles (lighting one in a freshly cleaned room feels so indulgent), and my lilac scented dish soap. I am so crazy about lilacs that the scent, and a homemade embroidery piece hanging above my sink combine to make it a much happier experience. Sneak what you love into the mundane!

Grab a copy here --> The Lifegiving Home Paperback
Or load your kindle with it here --> The Lifegiving Home Ebook

PS - There is also a companion workbook that goes along with The Lifegiving Home called The Lifegiving Home Experience. It's meant to help you suss out some ideas for things you can do around your home and with your family to improve your environment and celebrate tradition in a 12-month format. Check it out (click the linky!) if that's your jam!

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