Excel Still More- A Call to Excel in the Domestic Arts
According to the Oxford Dictionary, homemaking is defined as: “the creation and management of a home, especially a pleasant place in which to live.” Contrary to what many in our society believe today, homemaking is not a brainless occupation meant only for those who have no real ambition or potential in life. Homemaking is an art which requires knowledge and skill. Like all arts, it must be studied and practiced if one is truly to excel in it. Our job as homemakers is to create a sanctuary in which people can come into and be refreshed by, a place of beauty and peace. I do not mean that our homes must look like the cover of a “Better Home and Gardens” magazine or the dream house we’ve carefully planned out on our Pinterest boards. If we are to be biblical homemakers though, we must not be content with mediocracy, the Proverbs 31 woman “looked well to the ways of her household” and we should desire to do manage our households well also, striving for excellence.
If we are to pursue excellence in the domestic arts, we must be willing to work diligently. Pursuing excellence rather than simply settling for the bare minimum requires ambition, effort and an eagerness to learn. It is challenging and requires troubleshooting, perseverance and innovation when things don’t turn out as we planned. It requires creativity, along with careful study and research. It goes beyond simply cooking and cleaning and does not have to be dull and drab. Homemaking, if we strive to do it well, is a rewarding occupation worthy of our time and efforts. Most importantly, it is the role God has called us to as women (Titus 2:5) so we should strive to do it with excellence for the glory of God.
Striving for Excellence in a World of Endless Possibilities
“And whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your heart.” -Ecclesiastes 9:10
What if, instead of being content with doing only the bare minimum we purposed to purse excellence in the arena of homemaking? What if, instead of always looking for the way that requires the least amount of effort from us, we were to look for ways to truly become excellent as homemakers?
It takes little effort to open a can of soup, heat it up on the stove and serve it to your family for dinner, but it is so much more meaningful to make your own chicken broth and make a nutritious chicken soup from scratch and serve that to your family. Obviously, there are always going to be exceptions, the mom busy with lots of littles and battling morning sickness may not have the time or energy some days for homemade soups and pizzas, that is okay. What I am referring to, is those of us who can do better but choose not to. The world of homemaking is a world of endless possibilities just waiting to be explored if we will only apply ourselves. Always seek to be learning and growing, don’t settle for mediocracy, pursue excellence!
Below is a list of ideas for skills you could learn and master:
- Cooking. Learn how to cook from scratch. Rather than just grabbing a package of pasta and can of spaghetti sauce, learn how to make your own pasta and your own sauce using fresh tomatoes. Try making biscuits from scratch rather than just grabbing a can from the store. Learn how to make your own ice-cream, whipped cream or butter. Make your own salad dressings or learn how to make your own tortillas. Learn about foods from other cultures and try mastering Chinese, German or Indian cuisine. Take a culinary class with your daughter or watch videos on the different types of knives and chopping techniques. Buy yourself a new cookbook and try out all the new recipes, some of them may just become your family’s new favorites. Don’t ever be afraid to try new things with the possibility of failure, how will we ever succeed if we never begin to try? Mistakes are all a part of the learning process.
- Hospitality. Hosting guests in your home requires skill, it typically involves preparing your home and making it a lovely, refreshing place to be in. It often involves preparing a meal and perhaps, even extra research and being willing to try a new recipe if your guests have a food allergy or dietary restriction. Hospitality involves being able to carry conversations with people in a way that makes them feel welcome, comfortable and encouraged. This is a huge area of homemaking and a vital ministry to invest yourself in!
- Bread Baking. Learn about the various types of bread you can make such as sourdough, challah, whole wheat, etc. Learn about different types of flours like spelt or einkorn. Learn how to make sandwich bread, braided breads, cinnamon raisin bread, garlic bread sticks, rolls and more. There are so many possibilities!
- Gardening. This is one of those skills that requires constant learning, troubleshooting and careful research. It can be a rewarding challenge if you are willing to put in the effort and persevere when it gets hard. If you don’t have enough space to plant a large garden, try a potted garden on your balcony. It’s amazing what you can grow in pots, plant a couple of cherry tomato plants and you’ll end up with enough tomatoes for salads, salsa, and maybe even spaghetti sauce. Plant your own herbs in pots, there’s nothing homier than herbs hanging to dry in the kitchen or the smell of basil drying in the oven. Try a raised bed garden if you have the space. Even just one small, raised bed is enough to plant a salad garden with a variety of lettuces and tomatoes, there are various ways to make a raised bed affordably. Feeding your family a salad from your own garden is incredibly rewarding. Plant a flower garden and take a class on floral arrangements, then sell bouquets at your local farmer’s market.
- Canning. If you are one of those people who have enough space for a larger garden, can the food you grow. If you don’t have a large garden and still want to learn how to can, research places online where you can buy large quantities of produce affordably. There are places that will sell cases of good, though less than perfect, produce for a discounted price. Order a case of apples and try making your own applesauce or apple butter, if you don’t have storage space for extra canned goods, they can still make excellent gifts for others.
- Fermented Foods. This is an area which requires research and study. Read up on the health benefits of various fermented foods and try making your own kombucha, kefir or kimchee.
- Sewing and Monogramming. Learn some basic sewing skills and you could make new pillows and curtains to give your living room a cozier feel. You could learn how to sew an apron and monogram it, or even learn how to sew cute children’s clothes and open up your own homebased boutique. The Proverbs 31 woman was quite the entrepreneur in this way, she made linen garments and sold them, making a profit for the benefit of her family. These skills, if mastered, could be valuable in supplementing your family’s income.
- Knitting or Crocheting. These skills go right along with sewing. You can make your own sweaters, hats, scarves, pillows, blankets etc. It is an excellent way to beautify your home and wardrobe, or just to make gifts for friends. I knew a girl once who made hats and mittens for children in orphanages, my sisters and I are currently working on starting our own online shop to sell knit and crocheted items so that we can send the money to missionaries and support adoptive families. The Proverbs 31 woman worked with willing hands and reached out to the needy, we should do the same and find a way to use our skills to bless others.
- Cake Decorating. There are endless amounts of YouTube videos and online recourses to learn and master this skill. It requires patience and practice, but it can be done. Paired with some basic food photography and business savvy, it can be a great idea for a homebased business. It can also serve as a blessing to your family when you are able to make your children birthday cakes they love or maybe even their wedding cakes someday.
- Lettering, Calligraphy, Painting. This can be a wonderful way to beautify your home, making it a desirable environment to be in. Paint your own pictures to hang on the wall or letter your own Scripture verses to adorn your home in.
- Refinishing furniture. No one ever said that homemakers can’t use tools. Find an old piece of furniture at a thrift store and make it beautiful on a budget. This is a way of being resourceful. Watch DIY videos and grab some tools. Get some fabric and reupholster cushions, paint an old piano, turn an old TV cabinet into a play kitchen for your kids- be creative!
- Budgeting and Frugality. For many people, this is a less exciting task (though I personally enjoy it a lot). It requires some basic math skills and a willingness to shop around for the right prices which may take a little extra time and effort. It may require a little extra planning, but it can be fun if we allow it to be. Make it a personal challenge to see how much money you can save or how you can make the money you have stretch further. You can make this task more meaningful by purposing to use the money you save to build Christ’s kingdom through supporting a missionary or adding it to an adoption fund. Meal plan in advance to closely budget the grocery bill. Make your own laundry soap. Use a clothesline instead of the dryer to save on the electric bill. This doesn’t have to be a stressful area of homemaking; it can be a challenge we find solutions for if we are creative and frugal.
The possibilities could go on and on: embroidery, weaving, pottery, candle making, organization, not to mention things pertaining to raising children. One of my friends even learned how to make her own root beer! There is unlimited scope for the imagination when it comes to homemaking. Don’t settle for mediocracy, excel still more. Invest in the means God has given you, take His gifts and yield a profit from them. If we as homemakers decided to apply our creativity, imagination and efforts in this area, we would see incredibly rewarding results.
Making the Mundane Meaningful
Though the world of possibilities is endless, it doesn’t mean that the necessary tasks of homemaking never become mundane. Sometimes, the day in and day out tasks can rob us of our enthusiasm in homemaking. Take cooking for example, this is something we must do on a daily basis. We have a choice in this area to either take on an underachieving attitude of sloppiness, or to joyfully embrace the task. Again, this does not mean that there is never a time to pull out the frozen pizza or even order takeout, it is the attitude here that makes all the difference. A lazy, underachieving attitude is not pleasing to Christ, but a willing and joyful attitude is. There will be times in homemaking when our job will not be as enjoyable or exciting and we will simply have to joyfully embrace the hard, press forward, and do it anyways. By God’s grace, it is possible to make even the most mundane duties meaningful though.
In her book Eve in Exile Rebekah Merckle shares how to embrace the everyday duty of cooking in a God-glorifying way, she says:
“…This is a task that I have to do every single day, I had better figure out how to get good at it. So, you start thinking through the significance of the task. You start asking questions like, why has God made us get hungry and have the need to eat food every day? What does He want us to learn? How can I use this to teach my kids about God’s goodness, His generosity, His grace, His overwhelming kindness and use it to embody grace to my husband, my children, my guests? How can I take this necessary task and use it to bless everyone in my house? Maybe you grab some books by Father Campon and start thinking through the crazy beauty and significance of food and the task of feeding people. You decide and try to explore the absurd world of tastes and flavors that God has put all around us. You decide to learn all about the traditional cooking technics that women have been using for centuries. You decide to make use of the ridiculous number of recourses that surround us to actually attempt to master this job you have to do every day anyway, you’re curious, you want to never stop learning. You start trying to figure out the differences that different types of cookware make to the finished product and develop opinions about cast iron and copper. You decide to master the soufflé or the blintz. You decide to conquer the bread baking now. You go on a binge of brazing meats to see what your family likes best you start reading up on weird vegetables that you can’t buy at the grocery store, and you decide to grow them yourself and find out more about them. Essentially, you decide to use the task that’s been put in front of you as a way to learn more about God and the breathtaking world He has put us in. A world where things come up out of the ground for heaven’s sake. Things with color, and flavor and smell.
Have you ever stopped and thought about the sheer ridiculousness of the kind of world we live in. I can step outside my door and put two seeds in the dirt, the dirt, and one of them will magically turn into a hot pepper plant which will produce bright red fruits to sear your tongue off and the other seed can magically give us a giant, bright orange pumpkin. Where on earth did those seeds get that crazy color from anyway? Where did it find that shocking taste? How can a seed produce a giant purple onion out of nothing but dirt, and air, and water. Why are basil and tomatoes so stupidly good together? God could have put us in a world where all food was brown and mush, but He didn’t. He gave us textures and flavors and the insane ability of heat to transform those flavors into something different. Out of the hind ends of chickens He gives us egg whites that fluff up into crazy meringue which is just downright silly. And out of cows He gives us milk, that can turn into butter or ice-cream, and have you ever thought about that?! Before the sugar cane was noticed, ice-cream couldn’t have been a thing. And chocolate wouldn’t have tasted good. Both perfectly breathtakingly pairings of flavors that no one had noticed yet, to say nothing of what happens when you combine the two. Or think about life before coffee, how sad would that have been?! How many absolutely fabulous foods are out there still waiting to be invented, just waiting for the perfect magical combination of ingredients and techniques. God has made the world of food, a world that is just begging to be explored. And he has actually made us with the need to eat food every single day if we want to survive. There is a wealth of possibilities there and you could devote yourself to it for the rest of your life and not have even scratched the surface. So why not decide to approach your tasks with that attitude and see what difference it makes in your own heart and in your family.”
What a great attitude to take on even in the most mundane tasks! God has given us so many good gifts, so many recourses to learn from, don’t waste the opportunities God has given you, excel still more!