The last chapter of our February book, Hallowed Be This House: Finding Signs of Heaven in Your Home, The Bedroom. Thomas Howard again emphasizes the constant theme, “My life for yours.”
As a married woman, mother of 7, my thoughts on the bedroom will look differently than Emily’s and I would hope that Miss Emily would please share all her wonderful thoughts with us in the comments or in a post I can link to. (Yeah! Emily took the bait and wrote about the bedroom from a single woman’s perspective.)
This total self giving, or at least the supposed self giving, can take many forms in the bedroom. Howard begins with talk of conception and comes full circle to talk of death. Both are a laying down of life…or a beginning of a new life. And so the bedroom is rightly called a place of beginnings and ends.
This total giving of self, hhmmm…How many times does our gift of self dissipate before the door even shuts behind us? And our husband, well, he’s left with the crumbs…Oh, and we want the lights out even though we’re already covered by an old gym shirt and years of insecurity?
And when we do have the lights on, what do they reveal? Is our bedroom junk drawer of the house? Laundry scattered, toys strewed, papers stacked here and there and a night stand with a tower of dusty books reaching higher and higher as if infused with the same magic Jack and his infamous beanstalk were?
The saying goes the kitchen is the heart of the home. I contend the bedroom is the heart of the family. If there is discord in the bedroom…there will be discord in the family.
Right before Leo was born I started making my bed regularly, turning on some soft Gregorian Chant and using a candle warmer to set the mood for our bedroom. Now, Chris could care less about any of the stuff. But for me, it made my bedroom a sanctuary. Now, since Leo’s birth, my bed is not made regularly, some days I forget the music or candle warmer…and the bedroom loses its oasis like qualities; it has just become another room in the house. It is not set apart as a mysterious sacred space in which the whole family benefits.
And your bedroom is a sacred space. It is in the bedroom we become co-creators with God. (Without being vulgar, I realize there are other rooms in the house in which intimacy can be achieved.) The bedroom most clearly express the reoccurring theme of laying our life for another in two very distinct ways.
And in the rite of conception, we can see, as we have seen in a dozen other exchanges and acts around the house, the whole story in one little act. Here, life is “laid down” quite dramatically, in order that the life of love may be born anew, and that literal new life may come into being. The exactness of the picture is astonishing, not to say amusing: both bodies laid down, like the corn of wheat; both laid open, like the corn of wheat. Vulnerability, defenselessness, giving and receiving–nay, giving and receiving wholly indistinguishable from each other, for who will keep tally in these blissful exchanges to make sure the score is even? My life laid down for you; our two lives laid down, becoming one life, and in this laying down and union, lo, the springing forth of new life. My service to you turning out to be joy. Your life laid down for me turning out to be joy. Your acceptance of me being itself your gift to me.
Hallowed Be This House: Finding Signs of Heaven in Your Home
And the two distinct ways our life is laid down? One, when we lay down our life, we do so with the least shred of pride. There is not time to think of self, only of the one whom we are willing to sacrifice our very life for. And yet how often do we shun a compliment from our husband? Dress quietly behind the bathroom door or wait until it’s dark? How often do we never fully relax and enjoy the most intimate of moments–two bodies becoming one? And so we have not truly laid our life down…we’ve covered it in thick blankets of wool and darkness. We’ve kept a part of ourselves hidden so as not to be hurt, laughed at or scorned. We assessed the risk and figured it to be of too great a price. The sacrifice of our life has not been made. We kept a part of ourselves back.
We may not be willing to splay ourselves in front of the body we vowed unity, but we push ourselves wide open to bring forth a new life…the second way we lay our life down in the bedroom. Each new soul that enters a family brings its own special set of graces…it also demands its own special set of sacrifices. This pregnancy may demand the physical sacrifice of the very food we eat; nine months permeated with bouts or days or even months of nausea. And yet another pregnancy may seemingly demand very little but the colicky baby more than makes up for the nine months of expectant bliss.
We easily see the need a child has for us to sacrifice all: sleep, comfort, self…in order to care for the defenseless. But what about our husbands? They have the same need of us. They need our complete sacrifice as well. And they are just as defenseless. Just as defenseless as we are when we slip under the sheet in the skin we came into the word. The baby and the grown man, both vulnerable in the skin God gave ‘em. Our men are at their most vulnerable and they cry…only silently. They want to be completely accepted. They want to be totally needed. They want unconditional love. We do not deny these things to a creamy white skinned baby, why deny them to the grown man?
Well, “He can hurt me like a baby can’t,” we may contend. And yet we carry that same power. Our wicked tongues compare them or tear them down as they lay naked next to us. Or our own bodies stiffen as they approach. The “closed” sign slapped in their face.
Each sacrifice, one of laying with our man and one of laying down to bring forth man–none the more sacred than the other. The process of bringing new life into the world emanates from the sacrifice of being totally known. It is no coincidence the Bible says “Adam knew his wife.” And that one little word brings me back to my initial thought…the bedroom is the heart of the family. This “knowledge” must be rightly ordered or the family will suffer various forms of disorder.
I almost hate to bring this up…Years ago when I would watch Dr Phil, he said something one time that made so much sense. I will paraphrase to make it less crude. Basically, if things are going fine in the bedroom, that part of your marriage equals about 10%. If things are going poorly, it’s about 90%.
The bedroom is the heart of the family.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, this chapter on the bedroom. I’m sorry this post was so late in coming up, I couldn’t quite get the words together. Hopefully I did now.
Emily | A Year of Living Adventurously
I would not have wanted to be a first century wedding planner.
Instead of an event that last a day, these weddings went on for multiple days. People knew how to party in first century Israel. And anyone who’s ever planned a party knows that the two most important things you have to provide are drinks and food. What humans like hasn’t changed that much.
And you also had one heck of a guest list. No wimpy “plus ones” at these events. Jesus was there with Mary and all the disciples. Can you imagine that today? “Miriam? Hi, this is Mary, down the road…we’d love to come to Elizabeth’s wedding. My son will be coming, and about twelve of his closest friends…”
So we have the wedding. And then we have the party–a days long party.
With apparently very bad planning, because the wine ran out. Early.
At these parties, you started with the best wine you had, and then, as people “enjoyed themselves”, the wine got progressively “less good”, shall we say. It was prudent not just monetarily, but after a day or so of drinking, people probably weren’t noticing the quality anymore.
But at this wedding, there was no wine, of any vintage. Imagine the scene in the classic film A Christmas Story, after the dogs have devoured the holiday turkey: “No turkey! No turkey gravy! Or gallons of turkey soup! Gone, all gone!”
The wine was indeed gone. All gone.
Now, Mary had probably thrown a few parties in her day, or watched her mother do it. There was probably a party when she and Joseph became officially engaged. And like many seasoned hostesses, she didn’t panic. She simply turned to her son and said, “they have no wine.”
Now Jesus, like sons (and daughters) throughout the ages, had a little “do I have to” moment. (Remember, Jesus was human, in all ways but sin). “My hour has not yet come.”
Mary ignores this, and calls over the servants. “Do whatever he tells you,” she says. Then, Jesus performs his first miracle–he turns the large jugs of water into wine. And not just any wine–wine so good that the chief steward is amazed at its quality.
This is a “fun” miracle. No one’s life hangs in the balance, but the appearance of the wine saves the hosts from a lot of embarrassment that would probably be mentioned at every social gathering until the Second Coming. (It’s a quirk of human nature that we remember the ‘imperfect’ parties, but not the perfect ones.) But it’s also a nice reminder that Jesus and Mary care about the small events of our lives, things like parties and celebrations. We can turn to them in all times, when we need a healing, but also when we just need a party to come off without the turkey falling on the floor or someone spilling red wine all over the carpet, or the kids destroying the leather couch or the basement dry-wall.
Jesus and Mary were involved in every aspect of humanity, and that included the social aspects. In Lent, we’re probably not throwing a lot of parties. But we can remember that our heavenly family cares about everything we do, even our feasts.
Catholicism isn’t just a religion of the cross, although that’s an important aspect. It’s as Hilaire Belloc said: “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine/ there is always laughter and good red wine.”
Jenny | Big Family Small Farm
So now we’ve made our way into the kitchen. Isn’t it funny, how even in a home where the lady of the house feigns “domesticity,” the kitchen is still where people congregate? All it takes is for one person to head into the hallowed heart of the home, and people follow.
The heart? Of course! The kitchen is the life of the home just as the heart is the life of the body.
When you come in here, you are welcomed into the very bosom of the life here. We do not keep you sitting stiffly on a plush chair in the hall. Welcome to the inner circle.
Hallowed Be This House: Finding Signs of Heaven in Your Home
Thomas Howard is very clear about the function of the kitchen…charity. Where else does one serve so willingly I wonder? It’s not like the service of washing the laundry. No one in my home has ever “MMMmmmed” over clean socks, or “AWwwwed” over spic and span undies.
But make a meal with attention and intention and people take notice. Even a quick weeknight meal is met with appreciation.
“Well, your family may thank you, but my family snorts it down like hogs and leaves me a mess to clean up!” you may be thinking.
But let me ask you this, does the attention and intention you put into a thing depend on the admiration you get out of doing the thing?
If so, you will not find the sacred in your everyday. It will remain elusive and you will squat right down in self pity.
Preparing food for the table and cleaning up afterward are, like the tasks of the Virgin and Joseph and Christ and the Holy Spirit in the Drama of Charity, obscure and menial.
Hallowed Be This House: Finding Signs of Heaven in Your Home
And without taking note of the sacred, we miss the virtue of charity we could be extending to each person we feed and clean up after. We also miss the opportunity to offer our Lord our joyful sacrifice; an exchange of “My life for Yours” a theme Howard has continued through each chapter.
The bathroom, a sacred place in the home? Of course!
For there we are engaged in tasks that reveal our total vulnerability and mortality, and these things we cannot, in the ordinary run of things, share with everybody. We are precisely too vulnerable…It is too taxing to be totally open, all the time, with everybody. Dear God–I need to get alone!
Hallowed Be This House: Finding Signs of Heaven in Your Home
How many women, and I can only speak for the women, go into the bathroom, close the door behind them, and let it all hang out? I’m not talking about unfastening the garments we mercilessly squeeze ourselves into, letting it all “literally” hang out; I’m talking about the click of the lock signaling the floodgates, “Now it is safe to open.” And open we do.
The day’s thoughts, words and deeds come rushing out, a veritable Niagara Falls gushing down the mountainous cheek bones and furrowing into the crevices of our face. The day has done us in and it may only be 9 a.m. But in the bathroom, where time and eternity seem to meet over the porcelain, we let it all out, suck it all up, dress it up with a smile and make our way back to the other side of the door.
We have let ourselves become the most vulnerable in our own “Come to Jesus” meeting. There on the cold tile, held in place by straight lines of grout, we have regained our direction, solidified our focus and remembered why we do what we do and we offer it up in the name of charity…”My life for theirs.” The constant theme Thomas Howard has interlaced room to room.
I would love to discuss this book with you all. I regretted having this book for so long and not reading it. But I understand the purpose in this was so I could read it along with you and we could discuss.
How’s the book so far? Even if you don’t have the book, don’t let that stop you from sharing your thoughts on Hallowed Be This House: Finding Signs of Heaven in Your Home. It’s alternate title is Splendor in the Ordinary; Your Home as a Holy Place.
Do you recognize your home as a holy place? How do make it so or keep it like that?
Good Morning Sisters! Happy Saint Valentine’s Day to you and yours. Just a short and simple post today. I had one terrific headache yesterday so the house was very well managed by my older girls, but today, it needs me. So do our 10 new laying chickens…busy, busy, busy.
I am always dumbfounded by the declarations of love proclaimed and demonstrated on this day. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way a scrooge or unromantic, but if you are putting all your romantic dreams in the heart shaped tin of chocolate candy or the small jewelry box, you are going to lead a very unhappy life constantly looking for more love than can fit into a box. Those boxes can only hold so much. And you were made for so much more love.
And speaking of looking for love, remember the song “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places,” well, I’m pretty sure it should be the anthem of aisle 2 in the grocery store. No one–and in this case I mean…no one–is going to “find love” on this day. It was there yesterday, February 13th, or it wasn’t. And if it did just magically appear today…be afraid, be very afraid.
Yesterday, Chris rushed around trying to load up his trailer and tools so we could go look at a dinning room table we found on Craigslist. That’s love. Of course seconds before we walked out the door, trailer loaded with blankets and van loaded with kids, we got the message the table was gone…Hmh! You know what love did? Backed the van into the barn and unloaded the trailer and his tools.
The day before, love spent the evening working on the van in the cold barn while it rained. I appreciate that much more than a box of chocolates. Which he did buy (we exchanged chocolate on February 13th), but if I based my opinion of his love for me on a box of chocolates, what happens February 15th…when the chocolate is gone? (What, chocolate lasts longer than a day in your house?)
If love were based on the events that happen, or don’t happen on February 14th, it will be a fleeting and most likely disappointing love.
What about love that gets up at night and runs to the pharmacy to get a prescription? How about love that thanks us for making dinner…even though it was a new recipe that was as flop. Or love that picks up his socks…maybe not everyday, but at least every once in while. Love that let’s us pick out the movie or the flavor ice cream at the store. Love that builds garden beds and fixes cars and plunges the toilet. How about love that spends holidays with in-laws or birthday parties with the joyful screechings of two-year-olds.
Just like looking for God’s gifts in the ordinary, look for love in the common. You will find so much more love in the day to day sacrifices you make for each other, than any box of chocolate can hold. Guaranteed. But sometimes you have to look.
Today, in honor of St Valentine, I am going to giveaway two books. The first is For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men and the Second is The Power of a Praying Wife.
Just leave a comment telling us a really ordinary way someone showed you love. I mean it, we want to hear the unsung declarations of love! Whether it’s your mom, husband, brother, co-worker, anyone…Make this comment box the Olympic stand for common, ordinary love.
Winner drawn randomly and announced Monday in the Catholic Woman’s Almanac post.
Hello Ladies. Today I want to discuss the dinning room as read in Hallowed Be This House or its alternate title, Splendor in the Ordinary.
A certain theme struck me as I reread this late last night, after figuring out what our Mass plan was for Ash Wednesday. This chapter on the dinning room spoke about the room itself and the happenings there more formally than I would have expected, and yet it made sense–even in my somewhat chaotic feeling life at the dinning table with small children.
Many years ago, my husband had the opportunity to dine with some cloistered monks. After the meal, I asked how it was. I was so excited to hear him say he really enjoyed it. I of course asked for more details, hoping for some supernatural stirrings. He replied it was so nice…no one fell out of their chair, no one spilled the salad dressing or their milk or their brothers water. No one needed their meat cut up or cried because the meat was cut up and they wanted it whole. No one complained or had to be coaxed into eating.
Perhaps for all our zeal in the pursuit of spontaneity and innovation, we are missing the stark truth about what we are: highly ceremonial, even ritual, creatures who move at the tag end of a millennial-long procession of humanity who have all ceremonialized things.
Hallowed Be This House: Finding Signs of Heaven in Your Home
This idea of “ceremonialized” and “ritualized” seem a bit stuffy and cumbersome to me, a mother of many young children. But this is a necessary in their development–spiritually, physically and emotionally.
We were created from the Author of order…not confusion or fly by the seat of your pants or let’s just mix a pinch of this with a smidge of that and see what we come up with. He is a God of order. We are made in His image and likeness so we are a people of order.
I was thinking the other night about some of the memorable moments from 2012. Of course Leo is at the top of the list. But as I thought harder, or maybe deeper would be the word, I thought of a memorable experience related to his birth, or rather his arrival home.
My best friend had come and stayed with the children while I was in the hospital that day, and then my sister came and stayed the night while I was in the hospital and for almost a week later. I can still vividly remember the day we brought him home. The last day at the hospital always leaves me a bit stressed and antsy…ready to get home, but not ready to leave the care available at the press of a button.
The day we brought Leo home, Chris pulled the car into the garage and I slowly climbed out of the back seat of the car holding my new baby son. I opened the familiar creaky laundry room door. The laundry room which had laundry piled ready to be washed when I had left, was now neat and tidy…no trace of dirty laundry waiting. The late afternoon sun was streaming through the back door and windows and it smelled fresh and clean. I continued into the kitchen/dinning room. The kitchen was bright and sparkly and the dinning room orderly. The living room was freshly scrubbed; the sun did not have to fight its way through sticky finger prints left on the back door. My bedroom was clean and neat as well. The blinds were opened to let the sun in and the bed was smartly made.
I walked into a house of order.
And that homecoming felt almost ceremonial as I walked from room to room, christening each room with the presence of a new little soul meant to grow in wisdom and in grace in its confines. My children proudly showed us what they had accomplished under their aunt’s watchful eye. An eye for order that had been sorely missing the last long months of pregnancy.
The recollection of that day a couple of nights ago, pricked my conscience. ”Chris should have that same experience each and every day he walks through the creaky laundry room door.” The world he moves and breathes in is a disordered place. He should come home to harmony and peace.
There are preparations needed for a ceremony or a ritual. These do not have to be harsh or formal. They do need to be consistent. They do need to have for their ultimate good, the message of sacrifice.
The ritual of the Holy Mass, is a ceremony of sacrifice.
The ritual of welcoming guests or more importantly daddy, should be a ceremony of sacrifice.
This idea of sacrifice is clearly established at the dinning room table. Father gave of himself to provide the furnishings and the food. Mother and children gave of themselves to provide the atmosphere of the room and the preparation of the food. This mutual exchange is a reflection of the the sacrifice on the altar. Jesus’ life for ours…our life sacrificed for life with Him. There is an economy at work here, the economy of supernatural sacrifice built upon a heavenly order.
One of my broader goals this Lent is the proper economy of order, not only in my home, but more importantly in my soul.
My life for theirs. A continual recognition of Christ’s life for me. An appreciation of Chris’ life for me. A greater awareness each time my children make an offering of themselves.
**Please go read one of my all time favorite Elizabeth Foss posts on keeping a home, Why Bother?
Good Morning Ladies! I heard from many of you that the Scripture helps for January’s Scripture Memorization were helpful, so I made some for February.
Here is the Post It Note Template provided by Sugar Doodle. Print this template off. Then place your Post It Notes over each little square. Open the February Scripture memory helps for 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (Click on that link and it will download the Scripture formatted to fit on the Post It Note Template). Place your template, with the Post It Notes attached, in your printer and print.
Place these Scripture reminders over the sink, on your computer, in your Bible, on your mirror…anywhere you’ll see them to help as we memorize 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 together for the month of February.
Good Morning Lovely Ladies. Miss Emily is sick today, so it’s me again.
I’m not quite ready to end our month of being little.
I’ve been reading some of St Paul’s letters in the New Testament and wondering
How can one be little for Christ and yet preach Christ boldly?
Are they contradictory?
I came across this sweet little quote of St Therese and thought I’d share it with you.
Isn’t that a lovely mental image she paints with her humble little words?
LuAnne | Winterpast Family
That day started out like almost like any other. A bit too early, a bit too cold. The middle of January is like that.
Socks and books and papers strewn all over and crumbs still needing to be swept up. Just life, really.
Life as I know it. It’s usually all good, really. I don’t usually have much trouble counting up blessings at the end of the day.
But that day the emotions of three teenagers seemed perilously close to the surface and the ordinary back-and-forth bickering turned into fighting and angry words bubbled up and burst out without warning.
And I asked the “why?” again and again to those three boys who are fast working their way to manhood.
“Why fight over this trivial thing?”
They don’t answer. They don’t seem to notice me. They don’t seem to notice anything but their anger and I don’t really understand and I ask again “why must you fight”, but it seems that I might as well ask the wind why it has to blow, because I don’t get any answers.
Boys-nearly-men have their own agendas. That I know nothing of.
Agendas that include one-ups-man-ship, or whatever it is that my dad and their dad calls it. To find their place in the world of men. I guess.
I still don’t understand.
I question myself. Question my mothering.
Of course I do. Because that’s what I do. Because I raised them and shouldn’t they know BY NOW not to throw mud at each other?
I quiet. Stop asking questions because obviously I don’t have the words. I whisper prayers instead. Silently. I beg Him for the words I need to say. I don’t hear them.
I do hear the slam of a door. Two. Three.
And I question – can even this day be a good day? Can I take this – this day that God gives me – and thank Him for it?
I should. I know I should. “In all circumstances give thanks” He says and I know He means the “all” part just as much as the “thanks” part.
I just don’t know how to do it.
I sweep crumbs and swallow words because I don’t really know what words to say. I whisper prayers inside for grace and peace and the words to say, but I don’t hear the words.
I do hear the stomping of feet.
And then the opening of a door. Two. Three.
I hear what sounds an awful lot like boys talking – not yelling.
I plunge hands into warm water brimming with bubbles and start to scrub the dried egg off of the breakfast plates. Try hard not to listen to what’s coming from upstairs. Try to brace myself for more slams.
I don’t hear them.
I hear feet running down stairs. Into the living room.
I scrub on.
And when I finish with cleaning the morning’s mess, picking up socks and books and papers, I wipe tears from the eyes as I hear apologies spoken from three sets of lips that are fast approaching manhood.
And I question myself. Question my mothering.
Of course I do. Because that’s what I do. Because I raised them and I should know by now that they know by now. Because everyone makes mistakes and how amazing that we can say we’re sorry and be forgiven and know that this is how love works.
I quiet. I stop asking God for the words to say to my children. Obviously He spoke directly to them.
I start speaking thanks instead.