Monday, April 22, 2013

Hidden Artist Within (in appreciation for a lovely lady in-the-Lord)

Hidden Artist Within
(in appreciation for a lovely lady in-the-Lord)

     The finish is wearing off the farm table. It is one of the messiest places in the house, when covered with cutting boards, vegetable scraps, bread four, mixing bowls, or groceries. Just before breakfast I oiled it.

oak farm table

     I oiled the antique butter press, too, and found a potholder I had sewn during my first attempts at log cabin patchwork. It felt good to do some sprucing up.

antique butter press

     Breakfast was hot cereal. The Man-of-the-House made a smoothie and left a few frozen strawberries behind – thawing in a dish. At an impulse his wife poured them onto a bowl of cereal. Their son appreciated the novelty when it was served to him.  

     I was feeling domestically uplifted. You see, the day before I had turned a few pages in The Hidden Art of Homemaking and that is all it took. On Easter Sunday an older-woman-in-the-Lord went to be with Jesus. This inspiring lady helped to shape my life. I never met her in person but I shed a tear for Edith Schaeffer. Hearing her messages on L’Abri Fellowship tapes and reading some of her writings satisfied a longing. In those early days I longed to know what a dedicated Christian woman looked like – that is - what was important to her, what she thought and felt, how she lived. I sought an example and found one when I made a book friend of Edith Schaeffer.

     In her writings she describes a myriad of ways to love God, love people, how to serve them and enjoy their company, all-the-while making special the day-to-day aspects of life. (Hmm, doesn’t this sound something like “the chief end of man?”) Most interesting of all, Edith Schaeffer expressed her personality and her art freely within the realm of family and domesticity.

The Hidden Art of Homemaking

     In her book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking Mrs. Schaeffer makes an appeal to the Christian woman who is married or unmarried. She holds fast to the belief that because a Christian is in communication with God the Creator, this should lead to an increased capacity to live creatively. There is no place for humdrum when we are made in our Creator’s image. We experience greater fulfillment as women and homemakers when we find and uncover the hidden artist within us.

     An unmarried young lady, busy wife, exhausted mother, might not feel artistic. Mrs. Schaeffer says we become stoical and inhibited by tucking away the artist within us. Are we safekeeping the effort of artistic expression for a later or a better time? She challenges and persuades us to express ourselves in creative ways now, today, wherever we are living. As we grow in the fruits of the Spirit we also have the wonderful freedom to grow in creativity. But we have to step forward and give talent a try.

     According to Edith Schaeffer it is a solemn responsibility to be a homemaker. It requires that we develop our personality and use it to minister to our husband, children, and in hospitality. Becoming a Christian, a wife and young mother all within a few short years, I needed someone to open my eyes to the varied opportunities of serving in the home. Edith Schaeffer provided a kindly nudge for me to step forward.

     In the confusing list of houses our family rented or owned over the years, I took little steps forward. A handful of bulbs, a few annual flowers and herbs were planted in containers. If a patch of sunny ground was available I planted the kind of vegetable - such as zucchini – that an inexperienced gardener doesn’t need a green thumb to harvest.

     I haven’t any particular knack for flower arrangement but Edith Schaeffer taught me what matters most – flowers are to cheer and to add beauty – so bring them indoors. Recently I stuffed as many apricot daffodils as would fit into an empty spice jar. I placed the flowers in a different sort of place - on the bathroom sink for the Man-of-the-House and me. It was indeed cheery.  

     Over the years a sprig of herbs and a few wildflowers came together to make a bedside bouquet for a sick child or husband. “Are these for me?”
     “Yes, dear. I hope you feel better, soon.”

     Edith Schaeffer also taught me how to enhance family life and make togetherness enjoyable. “Happy relationships within a family do not spring up without someone working at it,” she says, “someone who is not putting himself or herself first.” We might not consider this to be homemaking until we read Mrs. Schaeffer’s touching words. Creating a friendly atmosphere of home is homemaking. It is an atmosphere where unrushed time is taken to build relationships. In her book, examples of drama, music and other creative recreation, provide alternatives (and stand in contrast) to today’s enthralling media choices.

Andreola Sisters 1993

     One suggestion is to give handwritten notes. Oh, I liked this idea. Handwritten notes were affectionately given to my children. In time it caught on. The children began writing notes of their own.

      Notes can be left on a pillow, secretly slipped into a suitcase, placed among the schoolwork, laid on a dinner plate, or taped to a door. They say, “You are special to me,” while they are saying thank-you, I’m sorry, get well, wonderful performance, good job, I know this was a sad day for you, or I’ll miss you.” What can take the place of a handwritten note in our modern world – especially one with a drawing?

      I cherish the notes to “Mom” that I’ve saved.  

     “We are citizens of a heavenly country and look forward to a home which is being prepared by God,” says Edith Schaeffer. Meanwhile we can do some creative feathering of our temporary earthly nest. Among her frugal tips for interior decorating, it is her invitation to add comfort and color to an otherwise drab apartment that especially ministered to me when I was feeling drab myself. 

     I remember one rented place that was covered in gray-brown wall-to-wall carpet – the kitchen too. The incident of dropping an egg meant a good amount of time was spent on hands and knees mopping the gooey spill out of the kitchen carpet while playful children surrounded me. I remember the temperature in the kitchen rising and being already frazzled that supper would be far from punctual. “Don’t cry over spilt milk,” came to mind - to which I added defiantly, “What if the milk seeps into the carpet?” 

     Although that kitchen had gray-brown carpet and gray-brown cabinets, it wasn’t a drab kitchen. The lovely bright sunshine that poured into it prevented this. The countertop was also unforgettably bright - humorously so – but at the time I wasn’t laughing. It was kumquat orange - an orange akin to Fluorescent - and overpoweringly garish.

     With Mrs. Schaeffer’s encouragement I made the best of it. Peering through the window of a charity shop I eyed a pitcher. It was cream porcelain with bright old-fashioned orange roses. “It’s got a crack on the handle,” pointed out the Man-of-the-House, who was trying to sympathize with his wife’s “orange problem.” I had my doubts that he was thoroughly convinced it was a significant problem but he put his arm around me and bought it for me, anyway. That Saturday the antique rose pitcher became a dainty addition to the counter top - blending in, and softening the color scheme. On some days it held creamy-white flowers. 

     “What ever happened to that pitcher?” Dean asked me (20 years later) after reading the draft of this post.
     “I gave it to charity,” I said, “a long time ago.”  
     He looked puzzled. “I liked that pitcher.” 
     “Really?” was my curt reply.
     The-Man-of-the-House fell silent.    

     Has your life been touched by Edith Schaeffer’s ministry? I’d be happy to know if you've also been influenced by The Hidden Art of Homemaking. Are you reserved about leaving a comment? Never mind. You are cordially welcome to click the inconspicuous word “comments” at the end of the post to read what others may share here – anytime.

Thank you for visiting,
Karen Andreola



  1. I love her books and am sorry she has gone ahead but am sure she is happy to be with The Lord and her loved ones. She certainly did not admire Catholics but I am a catholic who admired her and learned so much from her.

  2. I was quite encouraged by her writing. I read her book during a time when my life was quite busy and keeping it clean and tidy was a struggle. It was also during the time when I was learning about Our Lord and His Word.

    I appreciated her books very much and in a way, it opened a door for me to understand what a ministry we have in our home keeping endeavors.

    Beautiful table Karen :) Thank you so much for sharing... m.

  3. I saw that she had passed. I thoroughly enjoyed reading her books! Such encouraging words, that aren't always popular and are hard to find today! I so needed this post this morning as a pile of "home stuff" is overwhelming. Thank you for reminding me why we do what we do.

    Blessings, Renee

  4. I read her book about ten years ago. It completely changed my life. My home was in constant disarray. No organizing advice helped. It was her artistic and feminine views that inspired me and I have never gone back.

    My children are blessed even in this tiny apartment we live in because of the art, cleanliness and hospitality encouraged here.

    I hope to follow in her footsteps for other young ladies. Thank you for your wonderful post about a wonderful woman.

  5. Yes, I love this book so much. God was gracious to point me to her book and I have learned so much from it as a young Mom. I have also learned so much from you and was so happy to find you had a blog. It is encouraging.

  6. I'm just now getting caught up on your last few blog posts.

    All of them wonderful!

    I, too, shed some tears. I felt like she was such a spiritual mother and definitely an inspiration.

  7. OH Karen, Thank you for letting me know about Mrs. Schaeffer. I did not know she had passed on. Her books are a regular source of encouragement, and even admonition, for me. My husband and I give her Hidden Art of Homemaking as wedding gifts. Currently I am reading her Affliction. I also thoroughly enjoy Christianity is Jewish. Truly, I can't think of any work of hers that I haven't been blessed by.

    Our own congregation has had to say farewell to seven dear ones over the past month. I am rejoicing for them in their victory through Christ, but oh how much I am missing them here. Mrs. Schaeffer's encouragement to perservere in Christ is a great treasure for me in the midst of this temporary loss and sadness.

    My extended family is coming this evening for dinner and a birthday celebration. Your lovely flowers have inspired me to bring in some dogwood blossoms.

    Thank you, Karen, for this wonderful place of encouragement and hope.


  8. I had not heard about Edith Schaeffer. Loved how you called her your book friend. Me too. She helped me through those early years of motherhood and homemaking - my copy of the book is underlined and dog-earred. Read it many times, often just browsing looking for a touch of inspiration to brighten our home and lives. You also do much to encourage all of us in little touches of beauty with a heart of love for the Lord. Thank you!

  9. I didn't realize she had passed away. I have her book too. It is lovely.

    Your post is comforting. It is like a visit to your life, and a lesson about home and family that is much needed.

    Mrs. White

  10. Hi Karen! What a lovely post and I am sure Edith would have been blessed by it! I too have been blessed by her works. I have pulled Hidden Art off of my shelf. It is definitely time to re~read it.

    Your farm table is gorgeous!!!!!

    I am 43 and have lived in 31 different homes. For the first 20 years of married life we lived in rentals, apartments or military housing and boy there was a LOT of white or off white going on. ;0)
    So, when we bought our first home 5 1/2 years ago we painted every wall with colour! ;o)

    Thank you for always blessing and encouraging me!

    Love, Heather

  11. Hi Karen! You've inspired me to finally pick up Mrs. Schaeffer's book. I've been eyeing it for years now. It sounds like it's just what I need at this season of life.

    Thank you!

  12. After all my homemaking years,raising my children...I never read her book. Your post has me wanting to run to our library and search for it :) Which I will do ...soon....blessings friend

  13. Hello Ladies,
    I like seeing your familiar faces. If you are new here, welcome to the blog neighborhood.

    Yes, Edith Schaeffer raises the standard of homemaking to a level of such importance (and divine opportunity) that we can't help but see "home and family" as a blessing that needs tender care, creativity and wiling hands to preserve. You can see my copy is sticky-noted. It is underlined, too.

    I tried to get through a "let's get organized" book that was filled with lists, tips and recommendations for efficiency but the words fell flat and so the ideas (all good and helpful) failed to inspire me. In fact, I felt exhausted just reading it. Therefore I find it interesting that an inspiring book such as "The Hidden Art of Homemaking" can also motivate us, and bring to mind, ideas on how to keep house in an efficient, orderly way - to have time enough to try a new recipe, plant a small arrangement of flowers in a clay pot by the back door, piece a quilt square, or add beauty and color with a paintbrush to a wall.

    I like our chats and am happy we are on-line neighbors.

    Karen A.

  14. I, too, loved Hidden Art. Will never forget the "hobo" at the back door story. Edith's influence is felt, too, in For the Children's Sake, written by her daughter. It has greatly impacted my parenting and teaching. It inspires me, even as I write, to make choices this very day that will influence for good the lives of my children and one day, Lord willing, many, many grandchildren. Thank you, Karen, for inspiring so many of us in much the same way!

  15. Hello Karen,
    Yes I have to agree she was an amazing lady. I have not read this particular book but really enjoyed reading L'abri. I did not know that she had gone to be with the Lord, however I'm sure there would be celebrations in Heaven upon her arrival. I too, love little vases of flowers to cheer my home. Thank you for the lovely post.
    Blessings Gail

  16. That book is one that did so very much to inspire me in my homemaking and hospitality. I am always encouraged here, dear Karen. Thank you for taking the time to share from your hands and home. :) ~Lisa

  17. I just read a bit from her book "What is Family?" this morning, Karen...I needed this post this the endless circle of mundane, it's so wise to stop and do something to create a little beauty to enjoy!!! :)

  18. Hello Karen!
    I wanted to thank you for letting us know about Edith Schaeffer's passing - I knew nothing about it.

    I own The Hidden Art of Homemaking and read it many years ago. I believe it may have been the first ever "homemaking" book that I picked up. It meant (and means) a great deal to me. I am happy to know you love it too.

    Love the photos of your beautiful kitchen farm table and the bright and cheery daffodils adorning the sink. Thank you always for sharing such beautiful (and artistic!) portions of your life; they never fail to brighten my own.

  19. I am so sorry to hear of her passing. I love her book also and it has inspired me too. We are currently renting a house and there are many wonderful things about it, especially the outside space. But I have carpet in one bathroom and plaid wallpaper in the kitchen. The carpet baffles me but the wallpaper isn't too bad, it's just not what I would have chosen. So I set out to make the best of it. I painted three canvases in blue and yellow (the canvases were in the attic) and I painted a dresser for a sideboard. Also I recovered the seats of my dining chairs. All of this to make the best of wallpaper that I'm not in love with. Now it's quite lovely, not modern or what's in style , but lovely none the less.

  20. Dear Ladies,
    I appreciate what you have shared.

    Making the best of plaid wallpaper sounds like a challenge that has been met with courage and flair.

    Karen A.

  21. Your article inspired me to get "The Hidden Art of Homemaking" from the shelves again. How lovely to see how you apply her suggestions to your home! I like the daffodils in the simple vase especially - what a wonderful color and texture.
    Visiting your website is, as always, like a fresh breeze. It makes me see our home with new eyes...

  22. Oh, I do love this post, Karen! Homemaking is a subject that is dear to my heart, and your thoughts regarding it are well-expressed.

    I am smiling at your pitcher with orange roses. What an inspired way to make the most of a kumquat orange counter top! I also smiled at your husband's grieving its loss...even if it did take him years to miss it. :)

    Along with making homemaking an art in our own lives, I think that it is vital to pass along that art to our daughters (and perhaps even the appreciation of that art to our sons). Homemaking is quite undervalued in our culture.

  23. I purchased Mrs. Schaeffer's book(The Hidden Art of Homemaking)several years ago and read a few chapters then became busy with little ones and did not finish it. This is the first that I heard she had passed. You've encouraged me to finish the book. The kids are older and I am sure I will find helpful hints for help in the room that we live in the most and all it's clutter.
    I love your chopping block island.

  24. P.S. Is it okay to say that I drool when I see your beautiful farmhouse table? :)

  25. Yes, Edith Schaeffer for me was my "spiritual mother" and I too dearly loved her though we never met. Thanks for sharing, inspiring me to sort through my many memories as well. Fondly, from a reader of yours, Cindy.

  26. Oh yes! Hidden Art of Homemaking was a big influence on me in my early married months that continues to influence me now. You've inspired me to get it back out and review it again. I haven't read it since I added children to our happy home, and I'm sure my perspective would be richer now than it was then. She was the one that made me serious about having a centerpiece on my table. I've always loved having something, even if it is simple.

  27. It is funny about that book. When I was 20 years old I met Edith Schaeffer and had some interesting conversations with her in Switzerland. I spent some time with friends at L'Abri. I did not know anything about her at the time, but I enjoyed talking with her a bit. Years later as a Christian mamma at home, I stumbled across her book and have delighted in it ever since. It awakened my soul to the creative possibilities of life at home. By the book's suggestion the children and I have enjoyed making flower arrangements for the table over the years. Our family has been encouraged to make time for music and theatrical read alouds. And I was even emboldened to try sewing with some leather scraps after reading about Edith's experience making the leather furniture. I look forward to meeting her again in heaven. I am so glad you enjoyed that book, too! You are a kindred spirit!

  28. I very much enjoyed your post - your thoughts on homemaking are lovely! I have heard of Edith Schaeffer's book but have never read it. I think I would like to.

  29. Dear Karen, this is an indescribably lovely post. Edith Schaeffer's books, "What is a Family?" and "The Hidden Art of Homemaking," were some of the first books I read after becoming a new wife. I went on to read several of her other books, too.

    Her words shaped and influenced me as a homemaker, and I still return to them from time to time. Her "Hidden Art of Homemaking" book is also what inspired the title of my blog (the actual title was already taken, so "Artful Homemaking" had to suffice). What I have always hoped to convey is something of the spirit I caught in Edith's book. I'm not really much of a writer, so I rely mostly on photos to tell the story, but I always hope to inspire other ladies to view their homemaking as an art, whether they are making a meal, cleaning the bathroom, or arranging some wildflowers in a jar for the table.

    Thank you so much for sharing your appreciation for this lovely sister in Christ. Your words always inspire me.

  30. I remember reading this post last year. I've had this book on my wish list since then. And last week a precious friend gifted it to me for my birthday.

    I'm almost half-way through and yes indeed, it has struck a very high cord with me.

    Thank you for your reccomendation!