The Older Woman on My Bookshelf – A Review (and Giveaway) of “The Hidden Art of Homemaking”

I don’t read very many books more than once. My “to-read” list is way too long to use up time reading a book I’ve already read. But over the last few days I’ve been reading The Hidden Art of Homemaking for the fourth time. Every time I read this book I come away refreshed and inspired. And every time I read it, I’m in a different season of life and see different ways to apply Mrs. Schaeffer’s wisdom.

I first discovered The Hidden Art of Homemaking when we were still having babies every couple of years. Our church family was a lively collection of young families with lots of little children, but there was not an older woman to be found in our young congregation. So Edith Schaeffer became one of “my” older women.

Hidden Art profoundly shaped my view of homemaking and its rich creative potential. Without this book, life in the Forster household would be very different. She inspired me, in the midst of raising six little ones, in a period of our lives where our decor was bricks-and-boards bookshelves and wall-to-wall Legos, to bring beauty and creativity into our home, however insignificant or simple my efforts seemed.

The main message I always take away after reading Hidden Art is: God has made us in His image. He has made us to be creative. We will have greater joy and bring joy into the lives of others when we are exercising that creativity.

Mrs. Schaeffer challenges us to take our hidden talents, those creative abilities that we may not be exercising in the midst of everyday busy-ness and duties, and put them to use in ways that will enrich the lives of others, beautify our world, and satisfy our own creative needs. For example, we may not have time to write the novel we have always dreamed of,  but we can find and give joy by blessing others with our lively letters (and email and blogs in this present era), a loving or humorous note tucked into a lunch bag, a personalized little story for a child, catchy poems for clues to a family treasure hunt, etc.

The bulk of the book offers creative and practical ways to bless others, especially our families, while we exercise “hidden art” in:

  • Music
  • Painting, sketching, and Sculpturing
  • Interior Decoration
  • Gardens and Gardening
  • Flower Arrangements
  • Food
  • Writing – Prose and Poetry
  • Drama
  • Creative Recreation
  • Clothing
  • Integration (of different ages, races, economic and educational backgrounds, etc.)
  • Environment (the environment we create around us through our attitudes, character, appearance, etc.)

While inspiring us with her creative ideas, Mrs. Schaeffer continually calls us to be all that God has created us to be as “creative creatures,” made in God’s image:

“There is no need to lock up this capacity for expression because you have not been able to make a career of it. Develop it for your own sake, for the enrichment of the lives of those you live with, and as an unconscious spark to set fire to other dry wood, other creative creatures on a finite level.”

“You will yourself will be a more interesting person. It is very logical, really. Stifling or squashing a natural expression detracts from one’s personality.”

“There is no specific kind of house you must live in to be ‘spiritual’ — only the house the Lord has chosen for His chosen purpose for you, and the house with you in it. But whether it be a palace or a tree house, beauty is important, and this very simple form of producing beauty is really one of the most universally possible expressions of ‘hidden art’.”

“…But Christians, who do have a base for creativity, as well as other marks of personality, are very often not the most creative people nor the ones who produce an atmosphere for creativity. Yet they have a solemn responsibility in this: to themselves, to others, and to the God who created them.”

The book looks dated. Don’t let that put you off. It was first published in 1971, and newer editions still include “70’s-ish” illustrations. Some of Mrs. Schaeffer’s ideas may also seem a bit outdated, simply because she was writing for her own contemporaries over 40 years ago. But that only gives the reader more opportunities to be creative by looking for ways to apply her wisdom to our present-day world.

Be ready for a delightful new outlook on homemaking and creativity, and for a new joy as you slip bits of beauty into the lives of those around you. In our household, illustrated letters and Bible study notes; bed time piano “concerts”; drawings on discipline charts; a flower or two in whatever place we stay as we travel; creative table centerpieces (often created by the children); simple herb gardens; the choice of dishes to highlight the colors of a particular meal; the added dollops of whip cream, mint sprigs, and fresh berries on top of a pie; treasure hunt meals; illustrated short stories; dramatizing Bible stories and proverbs, the purposeful arrangement of colors and textures in my container garden on the deck, and much, much more can all be traced to the inspiration of my mentor, Edith Schaeffer, who chose to exercise her own creativity by writing The Hidden Art of Homemaking to enrich the lives of thousands of other women.

If you need a fresh shot of energy and creativity as you care for your family and create a home for them, read The Hidden Art of Homemaking. We would like to give one of you a free copy. You can enter our giveaway by sharing one thing you do to add beauty and creativity to your home. The winner will be announced this Friday, June 8, 2012.


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