A Well-Ordered Home

A Well-Ordered Home

Reflecting God's Glory in Family Life

by Leslie Ludy | March 1, 2011

Katharine G. Howard (the mother of Elisabeth Elliot) wrote an inspiring article on parenting in which she stated:

There is a great deal of talk these days about having things “unstructured.” Just how can a Christian make this jive with such Scriptures as, “Let everything be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40), or with a careful study of God’s creation? What would happen to the galaxies if they were unstructured? Certainly there should be order in the home.

As a mother of four small children, building a well-ordered home has been both a great delight and a great challenge. So many other parents have told me that it simply can’t be done. There seems to be a general belief among modern Christians that “we should all stop attempting to create a ‘perfect home’ and instead just chuckle and accept the chaos that comes with raising kids.”

In her book The Shaping of a Christian Family, Elisabeth Elliot describes a cartoon scene from a Christian magazine, “the mother disheveled and harried, the children wildly out of control, the cat and dog tearing each other’s ears off, the father a helpless spectator.” When Eric and I were first married, we visited homes like that – literally. It bothered us to see so many Christian parents throw up their hands in defeat and allow disorder and mayhem to dominate their families. It caused us to begin talking about what we desired for our future family. We knew we wanted something different than the usual circus act. We wanted a home that was orderly – peaceful, beautiful, dignified, Christ-centered – not just in its physical state, but even more importantly, in its spiritual state. We wanted a home that was a reflection of God’s glory in every possible area.

When we spoke of our vision to others, the typical response was a smug chuckle and the statement, “Well, just wait until you have kids. Then you’ll be forced to face reality!” Others told us, “Life with kids is chaos – get used to it!” For a while, I started to believe these statements, which is why it took a bit of courage for me to finally accept the call of motherhood. But a year or two before Hudson was born, I read a book called Great Women of the Christian Faith (by Edith Deen) that completely changed my perspective. The book described the lives of mighty Christian women throughout history who were excellent both in ministry and in raising their families. Their lives were not chaotic and harried, but triumphant and beautiful. I read about Catherine Booth who had a very large family and yet advanced the Kingdom of God all over the world through her work with the Salvation Army. I read about Elizabeth Fry who was an amazing governess of her home and large family, while at the same time she transformed the prison system in Europe for the glory of God. Their children “rose up and called them blessed” (see Prov. 31:28). Their lives made an eternal impact. These stories brought great hope and encouragement to my heart. And I began to finally have faith that a peaceful, beautiful, Christ-honoring, orderly home and family could actually become my reality, by the grace of God. There is an overriding belief in today’s world that children weaken a marriage, wreck havoc in a household, and turn a perfectly normal woman into a frazzled, frumpy, harried mess. But what is God’s perspective?

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate” (Psalm 127:3-5).

Our Creator declares that children do not bring weakness, but strength. He tells us that they are like arrows in the hand of a warrior – like mighty weapons that equip us for battle.

So, Eric and I have chosen to swim against the tide when it comes to building our home and family. We refuse to accept the “children are chaos” mentality. We believe that a Christian home is meant to be a true reflection of the nature and character of our God, even in the small day-to-day areas of life.

We are certainly not a finished product. There are many areas of our parenting and home-life that are constantly being refined by the Spirit of God. But an orderly, Christ-centered home and family that reflects the glory of our King is our vision and our desire, and we are proactively aiming in that direction with the aid of our Lord.

Here are a few ways that I practically put these principles into action:

1. Proactive Child-Training

We learned early on in our parenting that unless we took a very proactive role in training, directing, and disciplining our children, their selfish agendas would quickly take over and rule the atmosphere of our home. From the time Hudson was a newborn our philosophy was, “Hudson must learn how to become part of our family – not the center of it.” This approach is much harder work for the parent, especially at first, than the attitude that says, “A baby gets whatever he wants simply by screaming for it.” It’s so much easier in the moment to just give in to a whining, screaming, demanding child than taking the time to train them how to yield to their parents’ will. After all, if you can make a child stop crying by giving him a cookie, why would you resort instead to a forty-five minute training session involving lots of unpleasant discipline? Because it’s the only way a child can learn to submit to their parent’s authority, and ultimately to God’s authority. When parents take the easy road and give in to their children’s whims and demands, they are failing to lead them to Christ.

So for the past six years we have striven to bring the order of God’s Kingdom into every aspect of our parenting and home-life. Our babies are trained to sleep through the night at an early age rather than being fed every two hours until they are toddlers. They don’t rely on Mommy and Daddy to put them to sleep every night. They are not fed on demand, but according to a pre-decided routine.

Our children have a structured schedule each day. They know what comes next. Some people think this seems limiting and restrictive, but in our home it has had the opposite effect. Structure gives our children incredible security. It improves their behavior. It allows our family to have time for what is truly important rather than always responding to one crisis after the next.

Our kids know that they cannot get what they want by screaming or whining. They are learning how to become a cooperative part of a family unit – rather than believing that they are the center of everything or that their wants and whims must be catered to. Like I said, we are certainly not a finished product in any of these areas, but with God’s help we are diligently striving toward this vision and seeking to use every moment with our children wisely and not carelessly.

2. An Ordered Environment

Having four small children has forced me to put a huge amount of focus, time, and effort into maintaining order in the daily flow of our household environment. As a mother, if I want to avoid becoming like the chaotic cartoon scene described earlier, then I must put a high priority on cleanliness, organization, and systems in our home.

We do not allow toys to be strewn all over our house, shoes and clothes to be left heaped on the floor, beds to remain unmade, or peanut butter and jelly streaks to adorn our kitchen walls. Though it takes an enormous amount of work because of the ages of our kids, we make every effort to keep our house clean and uncluttered. We do not use our four small children as an excuse to live like slobs. This means we are constantly picking things up, constantly scrubbing dishes, constantly emptying diaper pails, and constantly teaching our children how to gather up their toys and put them away. There is not much time for “just sitting around” at our house. But I find that when we put a high value on both the spiritual and physical orderliness of our home, there is beauty, peace, and dignity in raising children. We may not have the luxury of lots of leisure time, but keeping an orderly home allows us to guard what is truly important: prayer, worship, and plenty of time to be together as a couple and as a family. We laugh, we sing, we read, we tell stories, and we enjoy our life together – all of which would be impossible in a chaotic, messy, disorderly environment in which every child is screaming and demanding his own way or leaving a trail of toys all over the house.

We are a work in progress. Some days, I feel that I truly am “on top” of the organization and systems in our home. Other days, especially when life takes a hectic turn, there are areas of our house that aren’t quite up to par. But an orderly home brings glory to my King, and brings peace to our family. I view cleaning, organizing, and maintaining our systems as part of my sacred calling as a mother, no matter how tired I might be or how little “leisure time” it might leave me.

3. Dressing with Dignity

I’m always disturbed when I observe homemakers that habitually look like slobs, using the justification, “Why should I bother looking nice? I’m just hanging out with kids all day long.” This attitude disregards the value of guiding a home and caring for a family. I’ve observed that when a mother dresses with dignity, she takes her role far more seriously and the work she is doing begins to actually feel valuable and important.

If I dress haphazardly around my husband and kids, and only make myself look nice when we go out to meet other people, I’m sending the message that my family is not as worthy of my efforts as other people are; that I don’t feel like going to the trouble of making myself look good for those closest to me.

There is a big difference in how I feel on days when I’ve dressed hurriedly in sweats than on days when I put effort into my appearance. When I am dressed sloppily, I am more prone to feel sloppy, lethargic, and unmotivated as I go about my daily tasks. But when I’m dressed with dignity, it brings value to the things I’m working on. It reminds me, This work is important. It is deserving of my best attention and focus.

There are certainly exceptions to this principle – on days when I am cleaning out the garage or baking with the kids, it’s just more practical to wear jeans and a sweatshirt. But in my normal daily flow, dressing with dignity reminds me that my calling as a mother is worthy of my very best effort and my family deserving of my highest respect.

4. Laying Down Luxuries

As a woman, there is a constant temptation toward taking “personal time” – things like shopping, visiting with friends, taking up hobbies, or being part of social gatherings. But I have found that saying “no” to personal desires helps protect God’s sacred call upon my life as a mother. At this stage in my life, I rarely, if ever, take time to go shopping with friends or have a long chat with someone over a cup of coffee (except for Eric on our date nights). I don’t spend time texting or talking on the phone. I don’t relax in front of the TV or movies, and I do not spend time on Facebook. I don’t spend time surfing the Internet just for fun. I don’t have any hobbies right now. It’s not that any of these activities are necessarily wrong, but God has given me a clear and specific calling in this season of my life, and I must be very watchful of how I use each moment of each day.

I don’t have the luxury of “me time.” Instead, I have the privilege of teaching my children, serving my husband, and building our home into a sacred sanctuary. I don’t try to “take time for myself” as so many experts would encourage me to do. Rather, I take time for prayer. I focus on living a poured-out life, serving and giving in every way I can – starting with those in my very own home. When I say “no” to personal indulgences in order to say “yes” to God’s sacred call on my life as a mother, I find I’m not missing out on anything. My life is not dull, depressing, or stressful. Rather, I receive amazing joy, peace, and fulfillment from knowing I am walking in obedience to my King. His pattern brings life, and life abundant!

Journalist Sydney J. Harris wrote, “The commonest fallacy among women is that simply having children makes one a mother – which is as absurd as believing that having a piano makes one a musician .”

Well put. By God’s grace I am endeavoring, day by day, to learn the art of excellent motherhood. Not so that others can see and applaud, but so that when I stand before my Maker one day soon, I will not be ashamed.*

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