Monday, May 6, 2013

Home Making

It is a principle of the Civilization Sphere that the family is the basic unit of civilization. During this week before Mother’s Day, I’d like to take a look at some very positive and beautiful things about living together in a family home.
Perfection is not required. Earnest striving is enough, with God’s help, to sanctify the home for the family. The savage world may rage beyond the doors, but a civilized family protects its members from much suffering—and provides an abundant life.
The list today includes things that, in every category, I know people who are better at it than I am. But putting it all together, I think I can feel pretty good about the effort. As one friend of daughter Social Sphere said during the teen years, “Y’all are the most functional family I’ve ever seen.”
Mostly this list is what brings delight to me. I’ve been thinking about the word delight somewhat lately. Because it’s entirely positive, and yet the de- prefix often means the negative un-. So I used my faithful old dictionary and learned that the de- in this case comes from the Latin-based word for from: from light, literally, or from enticing or enchanting. What delights is what entices to do good or brings to mind what is good.
So, specifically, what delights in the family and home?
People who love one another is first. A family starts with the covenant between a man and a woman to commit to one another through whatever life throws at them, to choose to love through it all. And then, within that unit are added offspring—with the natural bonding that comes from falling in love with tiny little persons newly come from heaven. In my life, the crowning glory has been bringing children into the world, and watching them grow into civilized, brilliant, creative, God-serving adults. And the dessert is now getting grandchildren. I adore them. Everything about them delights me. Yes, I am idealizing for the moment, because dealing with them 24/7 is beyond my capability at my current age, but that isn’t required of me—which is one of the better perks of grandparenthood. We just get to enjoy the delight and let their parents deal with the more challenging moments.
My grandchildren, my delights
I want to look beyond the delights of the family members, because these things are part of an abundant life—and in an ever more savage outer world, we need to find ways to enjoy civilization within the home.
Make music. Enjoying music made by others is also important; sharing what we’re enjoying with each other is better. (We got to attend a concert of The Piano Guys last Thursday, which was a memorable and delightful couple of hours.) But making music in the home is something extra. It’s hard to beat having a piano in the home and someone who can play it while people gather around and sing. A guitar can serve as well. Patiently encouraging the development of music skill in family members is civilized, and civilizing. I have a sort of life rule that you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to learn a new instrument or a new language. To that end, I’ve learned enjoyment level skills playing piano, guitar, mountain dulcimer (play this in a weekly jam session), soprano and alto recorder, and ukulele. I developed the most skill vocally (good in choirs, because there’s not a lot of clamor for classical altos), and I currently lead the church choir. We also have a violin and cello in the house, that kids studied for several years. There are families more musical than ours, but we have had enough to delight.
Make good food. It’s possible to have a good home without a lot of cooking skill. But it adds delight. The conversation is more important than gourmet skill. But sharing delicious, healthful meals together adds delight. I’m in favor of simple, by necessity. I’m better at it than I used to be. Skill really does build over time. And sometimes putting in extra effort into food, to celebrate holidays or special family occasions, adds delight. One of my favorite parts of Social Sphere’s wedding celebration (nearly a year ago) was planning and preparing the food. I couldn’t do it every day, and it exhausts me just to imagine that much effort again. And yet finding those recipes, trying them out, putting things in the freezer to wait till last minute finishing—that was my fun. Who knew?
from Social Sphere's Houston reception

One thing I learned with small children (probably because it so much applies to me) is that the best way to prevent a meltdown/tantrum is to keep a child well fed and well rested. Carry food, and make sure a child doesn’t have to go too long. A quick drive through the fast food lane might be occasionally necessary, but a cooler with grapes, carrots, cheese, and some sliced turkey will be a better cure. Also allow for regular rest times. If you plan a schedule that runs over a child’s need for regular food and rest, you’re going to suffer the natural consequences. Don’t get mad at a child for that. Next time make the proper preparations.
Grow a Library. Going to the library is a good addition, and having a Kindle or Nook is handy. But having books to hold and share, read aloud together, and pass along is necessary for civilization in the home. I’m one of those who watch Beauty and the Beast and say, “The library is what she first fell in love with.” (Note: I think Mr. Spherical Model may have fallen in love with me becaues of my piano and my library.) My kids used to sleep with a stack of books. Books were something we shared together, and still do. All through their high school years we read aloud together. My granddaughter runs for a stack of books when I arrive; that is what we must do together. The concept of old, unneeded books is kind of foreign to me. Sharing the delight with a new generation is worth the space on the shelf.
Beautify the Home. This one is tougher for me. I have good intentions and occasional success. After all the family moved out, I finally recovered my pantry, and to me it is now a thing of beauty. But there are many more parts of my life not set in order yet. I have friends with lovely homes, full of art and color and coordination. My priorities were elsewhere (see Library and Music above). But I love being surrounded by beautiful, inspiring things as much as the next person. I believe in having meaning in the surroundings, so that is a constraint. Energy, time, and money are also constraints. A home needs to feel comfortable to live in while being beautiful. I’m a fan of Pinterest, online. So many ideas; so little time. I think it’s a great thing we can share ideas for free. There is a lot of delight to be had there, as long as you take it as a source, and not as a comparison causing a sense of failure. Décor is a matter of taste. But home beauty is about the sense of love you feel when you come in.
Believe me, this is a huge improvement
Making a home is making a place where family love can thrive. In monetary terms, homemaking doesn’t pay well. But, without a wife and husband putting love into making it happen, there is no way to buy it. And without it in your own home, for you there is no civilization. Make a home first, and then worry about the rest of the world.
As the great Christian writer (author of The Chronicles of Narnia) put it, “The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only—and that is to support the ultimate career.”
One more quote, from one of my favorite people, the late Gordon B. Hinckley, who was President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “Women who make a house a home make a far greater contribution to society than those who command large armies or stand at the head of impressive corporations.”

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