I’ve been a work-at-home mom for more than 14 years — and a homeschooling, work-at-home mom for six. However, I would quickly correct anyone who tried to call me a “homemaker.” I work from home, people — I’m not Suzy homemaker! I’m still a bonafide member of the workforce. I don’t just have a job, I have several… I’m not just keeping house!
Clearly, my perception of a “homemaker” was the problem. From the time my own mother began working from home so she could homeschool us, I had a very specific idea of what I hoped to be someday: A successful working (and eventually homeschooling) mama. I thought of a homemaker as one of those professional (though unpaid!) keepers of the most beautiful homes, those lovely women who turned housekeeping into an art — and who I certainly didn’t identify with.
Fast forward many years to the day I decided to step down from my leadership position with a direct sales company to focus on homeschooling. I knew I needed to free up more time and attention to focus on our homeschooling efforts, yet I had no intention of letting go — completely — of the role of partner income producer. Since that time, I’ve really struggled with balancing working from home while homeschooling… and yes, keeping up with that ever-present housework! And I’d resigned myself to the idea that some women are simply gifted homemakers: I’m just not one of them.
Enter Sally Clarkson and her newest book co-written with her daughter Sarah: The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging & Becoming. I purchased a copy at Sally’s Mom Heart Conference in Denver a couple of weeks ago. Knowing in advance that this book would be a focus of the conference content, I wasn’t 100% sure if I would relate. I’ve heard Sally speak before, and I know her heart for moms isn’t about perfection or creating a home that rivals Martha Stewart magazine photos. However, I’ll admit that the title of the book intimidated me a bit because of my resistance to homemaking. I saw the cover photo — beautifully arranged artisan bread loaf next to a cup of tea in lovely china and branch of flowers — and thought all the wrong things.
I should have known better! Right away, I realized that this isn’t just another book about “homemaking.” If you know anything about Sally’s personal testimony, you know that she was not a natural-born homemaker dreaming of a houseful of children when her journey began. She struggled with messes, hectic schedules, many moves, challenging personalities, and unkind criticism just like the rest of us. She too prayed for strength, for wisdom, for peace, and for a lifeline to drop down and rescue her from drudgery and chaos.
Then God gave Sally and her husband a vision for creating His “lifegiving home” — a home that starts with Jesus (the way, the truth, and the life), radiates from within with His light and life, and sends out its occupants to shine that light into a dark world. Here’s how Sally describes it:
“During those years, God seemed to whisper to me in my quiet times, Give foundations of strength and inspiration to these precious ones, but give them wings as well. Prepare them to take risks, to live by faith, so that they can take the messages and cherished values they learned at home and share them with a hurting world. And so our home became a launching pad, a place of blessing, as we sent our beloved children on their way — hopefully strong, whole, and secure in the ideals, faith, and values that truly matter.”
— Sally Clarkson, The Lifegiving Home
So what about that beautiful homemade bread and cup of tea on the cover that reminded me of the homemaking I’m not good at? A vital component of Sally’s vision for a lifegiving home was to create a home of hospitality, with achievable order and predictable rhythms for her children and a warmth and receptiveness that enveloped all those who would pass through their doors. Have you ever been to a home like this, a home that greets you with the comforting embrace of its keepers? A home filled with inspiration, healing and belonging? This is what the lifegiving home is all about. Not homemade everything and beautiful china, but God-motivated hospitality and outreach.
What I love about this book is how Sally and her eldest daughter Sarah bring to life this vision of a lifegiving home through their family’s personal journey. You get a more realistic picture of what a lifegiving home looks like when you see it through the eyes of both mother and daughter. And it’s not just a high-level view: The Lifegiving Home is chock full of practical tips on everything from personal devotions to family read-aloud time, from household chores to making visitors feel at home. Although some of the ideas might sound familiar to those of us who are Sally Clarkson fans, the common thread that ties these elements of home, both large and small, together is how they combine to bring God’s life into your home.
Sally’s vision really struck a chord in me. I realized that all these years that I’ve been running away from the word “homemaker,” I’ve been missing out on an opportunity to create a home that reflects the lifegiving truth of God’s Word. By resigning myself to being a terrible housekeeper who needs at least a day’s notice to open her home to friends, I was completely missing the point: God wants to use my home for His work — for what He wants to accomplish in the lives of my children and others seeking fellowship and a hand extending God’s love.
When your goal is to create a lifegiving home, you recognize that the time you spend to keep things in order, plan ahead thoughtfully, and be a faithful steward, actually frees you up to better express God’s love to your family, friends, and anyone who God brings through our doors. That’s the kind of home I want to keep, and that’s the kind of homemaker God wants me to be!
I’m extremely grateful to Sally for sharing this vision with us, giving me a chance to reclaim my home for God’s purposes. The Lifegiving Home was a wake-up call for me, and I’m looking forward to diving into The Lifegiving Home Experience companion Bible study to get me started on this journey.
What about you? Are you running away from the label of homemaker like I was, or have you reclaimed your home for God’s purposes in your family and in ministry to others? Share your thoughts in the comments below!