It must be that nesting urge, combined with all those rosaries: these days are turning evermore to hearth and home and how we can live here with the gentleness and grace of our Blessed Mother. I’ve been pondering elegant simplicity and in my own way, talking and researching it to death.
But still, my mind is awhirl. Where I am from, homes looked perfect. But it’s been far too long a road back from the misery of perfectionism. I know that’s not what Our Lady wants for me and I know that’s not what the home of a lady is. Homes where ladies live are homes where the words of John Paul II are taken to heart by the homemaker who lives there:
By taking Mary into his own home, John showed her his filial affection… John's action was the execution of Jesus' testaments in regard to Mary. But it had symbolic value for each one of Christ's disciples, who are asked to make room for Mary in their lives, to take her into their own homes. By virtue of these words of the dying Christ, every Christian life must offer a space to Mary and provide for her presence.
Certainly a devotion to Mary is obvious in the home where she lives. Carefully chosen statues and images are nicely displayed there. My friend Alice, for example, is adept at welcoming Mary with style that rises above the cheesy, sanctimonious religious arts and crafts. Her home has lovely touches of Our Lady. If something is truly precious, it needs to look that way. Collections, whether they are polished rocks or religious icons, should never be clutter. Instead, if it matters enough to be invited into our homes, it should be treated and displayed like it matters. A cluttered, disheveled home is much like an unkempt, disheveled woman certainly not the look of a lady. What is truly important is not the statue or the icon or any of the “stuff” at all, but the palpable presence of Our Lady and the way it is infused in the atmosphere.
However, homes of true ladies are not magazine-perfect, nor so clean that they are sterile. Instead, they are inviting. Beauty is not a buff, polished, dyed, surgically-corrected woman in clothes that could finance an Indian family for a year. Beauty is the acceptance of the body created perfectly for the soul He infused in it. It’s good stewardship and care of that temple. It’s attention to detail but not obsession and vanity. It’s being ladylike with gentleness and grace that are a style of their own. And so it is at home.
Sights and smells and even sounds of those ladylike homes welcome the weary to stay and be comforted. Whether it’s a simple vase of flowers on a dreary January day or freshly squeezed lemonade in the heat of July, the home cheers its inhabitants while not being wearisome or ostentatious. It’s not about the show; it’s about ministering to souls with gentle, thoughtful grace. And the homemaker who lives there calls frequently upon the Blessed Mother for the grace she needs to see to all the details with calmness and composure.
The ladylike homemaker goes about her daily round with one purpose: to live as God wants her to live. It does no good if her house shines from top to bottom and her drapes coordinate perfectly with the upholstery and she has hand-glazed all her walls, if she has done it all to impress her neighbor and she has been less than gracious to her children while getting it that way. We want to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, not as the lady across the street is perfect.
So what does that mean for a house with seven children, a dog, a traveling husband, and a baby on the way (which means a mom of limited mobility and energy)? To some degree, it means lower standards and higher goals. It means I can’t be on the phone the way I was yesterday morning trying to talk, barking at my kids, and becoming increasingly frustrated with everybody’s imperfections (not to mention their lack of cleaning finesse).
It means I need to take a deep breath and think about how I want our home to be when we welcome our baby. What’s really important? Order? Yes. Beauty? Definitely. Comfort? Certainly. Peace? Absolutely. Perfection? Only in God’s way, in God’s time.
Elizabeth Foss is a freelance writer from northern Virginia. To visit her blog click here.
(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)