There are houses and then there are HOUSES. Houses (lowercase) simply provide basic shelter. On the other hand, HOUSES (uppercase) are built and planned with love and care. They provide shelter, but also enrich the lives of those who live in them. These two kinds of houses are symbolic of an ordinary job of mothering and approaching our job with an attitude of excellence. Looking at the creations of the Lord here on this earth, I don’t believe He is interested in the easiest and cheapest. A sunset, a starry night, a pine tree, or a peach blossom remind me that God creates glory—even in the smallest details. A HOUSE of God should be glorious and as excellent as we can make it.
Christ promised us a more abundant life if we would follow his teachings. He taught that going the second mile in any task brings joy and abundance. If we just do the minimum requirements as mothers, it is easy to be frustrated and feel that our job is demeaning. If we rise above the minimum and work to make motherhood a work of art, we will experience joy.
Take, for example, the rather onerous task of changing diapers. It is a necessity, and we can treat it as an evil and be very unhappy about doing it over and over again. Or we can see it as a part of nurturing a precious human being—in which case we change the diaper as soon as it is necessary, making sure the child is comfortable and happy and clean and that the dry diaper fits well. We take care of the soiled diaper at once (they do not improve with age). We can even use this time alone with our baby to give him some special love and attention. When we approach the job this way, we even get a certain amount of satisfaction out of it, and why not? We have to do it anyway. It’s a matter of choice—do we want to build houses or HOUSES?
Excellence in living the gospel is what separates our little outposts from the rest of the world. We must try harder to be more in tune with the Lord, to know our blueprints (the scriptures) better, to teach our children better, to prepare more beautiful and nutritious meals, to acquire homemaking skills, to develop our talents. There is nothing wrong with being that much-maligned creature, the “Mormon Supermother,” for it is within all of us to do it. Not that we all have to be alike, however. One supermother might teach her children to sing, another might help them learn math, and another might take them skiing. The whats and hows are not important, but the attitude is. If we are constantly trying to improve and rise above the earth, we are following “a more excellent way.”
Excellence is rewarding in so many ways. We love our tasks, we grow in doing them, our families excel, and heaven smiles on our efforts. Most of all, happiness and love and the glory of God fill our homes, and they truly are houses of order, faith, prayer, fasting, learning, and glory. (Petrea Kelly, The Joys of Motherhood)
I love the story of the Shunammite Woman in the Old Testament. She recognizes that Elisha is a prophet of God who often passes through Shunem. She goes the extra mile to provide a sanctuary for him to rest and stay during his travels. She seems to have thought of everything he would need.
“And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.
Now that doesn’t seem like much does it, especially in our modern day full-of-conveniences lifestyles, but it was enough. There was a place to sleep, a place to eat, a place to sit and study. Elisha acknowledges she had been “careful for us with all this care.”
Do we take our roles of creating HOUSES seriously? Do our families also recognize we have been “careful for them with all this care?” It is the little touches that make a world of difference. HOMEmaking is done in the simplest of gestures, in what most would label the mundane tasks of life. Who isn’t refreshed by clean sheets, a vase of flowers gracing the table, warm bread from the oven, or words read from the scriptures?
Our task as homemakers is to create a refuge from the world, a heaven on earth, where our family feels safe, secure and loved.
Homemaking is often described as an art. And it is.
1. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.
Our homes are of more than ordinary significance. They are of eternal significance and value!
“The most important of the Lord’s work
you and I will ever do will be
within the walls of our own homes”
(Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974, p. 255)
As with any art there are many aspects and areas to think of when creating a home. Yes there is the cleaning, the laundry, the cooking, the budgeting. But there is also the decorating, the music, the spiritual teaching, the nurturing, the doctoring, and so much more.
“His house was perfect, whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Evil things did not come into that valley.
“I wish I had time to tell you even a few of the tales or one or two fo the songs they heard in that house. All of them. . . grew refreshed and strong in a few days there. Their clothes were mended as well as their bruises, their tempers, and their hopes. Their bags filled with provisions light to carry but strong to bring them over the mountain passes. Their plans were improved with the best advice.” (J.R.R. Tolkein, The Hobbit, 61)
I’ve always loved this description of Elrond’s house from Tolkein’s book, The Hobbit. It conjures up the image of what a home should be – a place to sleep, work, eat, sing, rest, where physical and emotional ailments are mended, where evil does not come. Elrond has created a HOUSE.
Sometimes all we can do is bring in a few cut flowers. Sister Bonnie L Oscarson’s daughter shares this “I love the story of my paternal grandmother, upon moving away from family and the comforts of their closeness, as a young married woman herself walking into a new, unfamiliar apartment that was not as nice as where they were coming from. She promptly turned around and walked out but returned moments later with a sprig of flowers from a bush outside, placed them in a jar and set it on the mantel and declared “there, now we are home”.
As you go about your day today, look around and see if there isn’t someway you can take a little extra care to show your family you are making HOUSE not a house.