Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ordering our Home

Alicia, one of our nature study group mothers, who moved away to New Mexico about a year ago came to visit recently. It was so nice to see her and her four adorable girls, it was just like she had never left. She joined us for our annual blackberry picking nature day and by the time she left, all four girls were painted all over with the beautiful crimson juice of the berries :)

All of our girls discovered they could rub berries on their lips and look oh, so grown up!

Before she left, Alicia handed me a card congratulating us on the arrival of our 4th child, and in it was a Barnes & Noble gift card :) Thank you Alicia!!

With it, I scanned through the stockpile of books I'd thrown into my Amazon Wishlist and came across A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul by Holly Pierlot. I had read about it some time ago on The Common Room and have been interested to read it ever since.

In case you don't know, I'm a very spontaneous person who considers rules, schedules and structure a rather heinous restriction to my liberty. "We'll wing it!" is one of my favorite battle cries and for the most part, I somehow managed thus far. But now with four children, homeschooling, homemaking, reading, blogging, crafting, etc., etc., that way of life is losing its luster and I've found myself more and more seeking a way to bring order to our home. So this book was top on the list along with Doodle Stitching (my next handcraft horizon) and a couple others.

I've only just started reading and it's already made a difference in my home. Don't you find that sometimes all you need is the excitement of knowing that an eminent solution is at hand to move you in a positive direction? Well, that's been the case for me here.

Holly is Catholic, so her views come from that perspective and there is much in the book I don't understand because I'm not Catholic, but there's a lot else that is of practical use whether you are Catholic or not. She starts by looking at Mother Teresa's schedule for the Missionaries of Charity and says this about it...

The Rule brings order: 'a happy disposition of things ... a multitude reduced in some wise to unity.' That was just what I wanted: a 'happy disposition,' and to reduce all the overwhelming tasks of motherhood into a nice, single unit of work I could handle. And in my mind, I couldn't see any extreme difference between a religious community and a family community...

A rule is an organization of everything that has to do with your vocation, based on a hierarchy of the priorities that define the vocation and done with the intent to please God. It deals with the essential responsibilities of your state of life, organized to ensure their fulfillment...

We all share the same need for sleep and rest, meals, prayers, and work every day...

While I can't just now find the exact quote that explained this for me, what hit me more than anything in the first couple of chapters is the idea or perspective of seeing my family as a community of people, working together to meet the needs of that community with the intent to please God by maintaining peace and order in the home.

I think I've always seen our home as a place for me to manage, to somehow get it all done, find ways to get more done in less time, maximize efficiency, delegate chores, etc., etc.

...but this idea of all of us working together to make it work, to glorify God in our home, to bring order and peace, ensuring our family's needs are met, isn't about me and all that I can do, it's about us answering God's call in our home.

Because I'm an "I'll do it! Don't worry, I'll take care of it!" kind of person, I take on everything, thinking that I'm serving my family. Of course things go undone, I grow frustrated, lash out at the kids for the mess they're leaving behind, when I never really took the time to institute order or a reasonable way for them to manage their mess.

Oh sure, I'd poke around at it here and there, but it was sporadic and incidental. Then on days when the mess is everywhere and the kids are playing and giggling oblivious to it all, as I, once again, sacrifice what I want to do to tackle it all, I'd start playing that martyr tape in my mind again - you know the one: "Look at this mess! Do I have to do everything around here?! Crumbs on the counter, socks on the floor - don't they see how much I do for them!!? And they don't even notice or appreciate it!"

Dangerous chatter in our minds ladies.

Then I'm left grumpy and too tired to play. Way to serve my family!

Holly goes on to say...
Each need in my vocation and my personal life was given its fair share of my time. Hence, I found a greater variety of pursuits in my daily life as well as the discovery of real free time. Life was not all work or all play, but a healthy interweaving of both.

there's much more that I'd love to read you. And I can't wait to read the rest to learn more from her.

Just in the past couple of days, instead of everyone dumping their plate in the sink and me doing all the dishes for 30 minutes while everyone ran off, we just talked about how if we all work together to clean up, it can be done in 5 minutes. And we did! Rather than me assigning individual chores and alternating them on different nights, we looked at what was left that needed to be done and did it.

In the past, my son would look at what was assigned to the others and would sometimes grump about how unfair it was that someone had an easier chore than him. Even though he'd end up getting that person's work on top of his own - because 'fair' isn't what we get in life and it's our job to teach him that - he still wasn't showing the right attitude towards his chores.

But this working together, all of us, is different in that we're all looking at what else needs to get done. They're seeing the whole picture and all of us working together to achieve it. So it's "What else needs to get done?" Not "Am I done?" Subtle, but significant.

How this will be applied in all areas of our home is yet to come, but I'm hopeful to find some sort of clarity about it in this book.

I think it's important for us to become a 'crafstman' of sorts in our vocation, just as in anything else we'd do. And it is so good when we're able to find wisdom along that path that helps us. It's a rare woman anymore that knows how to manage a full house joyfully, peacefully, orderly and yet it is so necessary, in so many ways, and it affects so many people, and so many things.

God tells us,

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. ~James 1:5

I think I'm seeing some answer to prayer!


  1. Holly's book is a favorite of mine - lots to contemplate and pray through and implement. Her intentionality, and prayerfulness, and making decisions with the lenses of Christ's mind and our purposes really brought clarity into our home!
    (and doodle stitching is a blast!)

  2. Oooo...that sounds like a great book! Is it on Kindle?? ;) Doodle stitching sounds wonderful as well! :) Such a cute idea with the berries! I will have to try that with my daughter! :)

  3. This touched on what I have been feeling lately. I needed to read it-thank you so much....

  4. My first impulse was also, is it on Kindle? Sadly, no.

    I had some of the same thoughts you're sharing here several years ago when I read St. Benedict's Rule. His isn't for family life, of course, so it wasn't very practical....