[Karel’s] last words made my heart soar. Only months afterward did I remember how strangely he spoke them; the urgency, almost desperation in his voice. . . .
“Corrie, write to me!” he said, but not gaily. Pleadingly. “Write me about the Beje! I want to know everything. I want every detail of that ugly, beautiful, crumbling old house! Write about your father, Corrie! Write how he forgets to send the bills. Oh Corrie, it’s the happiest home in Holland!”
– Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place, 42-43
Even though I’ve listened to this audiobook countless times, these words still arrest my wandering attention. Lately I’ve been realizing that Karel’s longing to hear and see more of a happy home is echoed by many throughout literature: Leslie Moore in Anne’s House of Dreams, Mary Power in Little Town on the Prairie, Laurie in Little Women — even Harry Potter in The Burrow. Many of their cries are silent, even withdrawn, but underneath are eyes hungry for a place to belong, in which to know love and to thrive in it.
I recognize it, because I have that yearning too.
When Y and I first dreamed of what our family life might look like for our children, I often said we were starting “from scratch.” Neither of us grew up in a Christian home, and this means that we have glorious stories of what God has done in our families since our childhoods, and also the adventure of working out what our own home will look like as our children grow. Since we were newlyweds, I’ve sought out accounts of how other families cultivated a love for each other, for God, and for those outside their homes in their own unique ways, and I’ve delighted in hearing them all.
Over the past two days, I’ve been reading The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming, by Sally and Sarah Clarkson — and I believe that it’s one of the richest resources I’ve ever met in this vein. The Lifegiving Home discusses the importance and the biblical purpose of home, and it’s filled to the brim with tales and traditions from this mother and daughter’s six-person family.
I mention it here because of friends and readers — single as well as married, with children and without — who’ve come to mind as I’ve read. Many of us share a hope of making our dwellings into places where people want to be, where the walls are soaked with laughter and vulnerability and the deep awareness of God’s presence and grace, and so I wanted to pass the news of this book on to you.
While reading through the Clarksons’ traditions, told through monthly themes from January to December, I’ve been flooded with more memories from my childhood days — signals that perhaps I’m not starting as much from scratch as I thought, and that the makings of life-giving practices are right here in my own house.
I’ve been marking sections with little green circled “i’s” (for “idea”) as I go, and I’ve already lost count of how many I’ve made. I love seeing how intentionality can pervade the air of a house, from birthday celebrations down to a child’s small bit of earth in a garden.
But the most invaluable aspect of the book for me, by far, is the time that Sally and Sarah take to explain the why’s behind the things their family has done, such as the reasons behind cultivating good manners, gathering a pile of “memorial stones” every August, and prioritizing discipleship with teatime.
These explanations reaffirm some of the practices we’ve woven into our family fabric, and illuminate what the lasting significance might be for our children. More importantly, they help me grasp the worth and purpose of the detailed traditions so that I can adjust or translate them to our family’s culture and needs.
Given the number of notes I’ve made for the future, I fully expect this copy to become soft and feathered at the edges in my hands.
The Lifegiving Home gives me hope that thoughtfulness can indeed transform our home into a place of rich life and growth and fellowship, and it reminds me, too, of the hope that all such homes extend to the weary citizens of a broken world. It’s an invitation to create a refuge and a launching pad by graciously opening the doors of one family’s history, and I recommend it heartily to home-makers and home-seekers alike.