Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Martha or Maxine?

A little detour from the scheduling post, but I wanted to share what I was thinking about today. We are coming up on Pascha (Easter) this weekend, so blogging is not top on my list of things to do, but this struck me as worth sharing, especially as I prepare my family's Pascha basket and collect all of the special things that are needed for the services this week. A week or so ago someone forwarded me one of those emails that seem to cycle eternally through cyberspace. This one is titled "Martha or Maxine" and contrasts the solutions that Martha Stewart and Maxine the cartoon (you know, the slobby, grouchy old lady :) would give to common problems such as what to do with leftover wine. It is an amusing contrast, but it struck me today in a different way. I will freely admit that my leanings are to the "Martha" side of things (except for her solutions to headaches and leftover wine :), while most of my friends would consider the Martha solutions a waste of time. Granted, I don't usually take the time to wrap my celery in foil to help it keep better, but the point of the email was to imply the ridiculousness of Martha's way. My response to that is colored by the fact that I am currently reading The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer. I had not read this particular book before (though I have read others written by her) and thank you to Jennifer at Doing the Next Thing for sending me after it. Much of what she writes about is not new to me, but she communicates it most eloquently. The focus of this book is on the 'hidden art' in our lives. As creations made in the image of God - the ultimate Artist (just look around you and you will see the beauty of his creativity) we are all called to some expression of art or creativity. She insists that we all have it within us - not the ability to be famous for something, but the ability to creatively add beauty to our home and world - whether it is through a mural on the kids bedroom wall, a dress lovingly sewn for a daughter or simply a single flower in a vase at the table. So while many look at the infamous Martha as an annoying overachiever, I see beyond the perfectionist tendency her desire to take the everyday, the boring and sometimes even ugly moments of life and turn them into "art". And before you protest "I am just not that talented" or "I don't have time for silly stuff like that", take a minute and think about the difference it makes to sit down to a meal on real dishes compared to eating on a plastic plate (yes, it can be as simple as that, or putting your liquid soap into a pretty glass bottle instead of the ugly plastic one it comes in, or serving lemonade out of a china tea cup as an afternoon snack for the kids). How often do we offer the uninspiring to our family and children, and justify it by saying "oh, my kids would never notice that" or "my husband could care less" ? So, rather than get discouraged by perceived lack of "talent" or laugh off more 'artistic' solutions in life, perhaps remember that we are called to grow in the image of God, and one of the most visibly present facets of that image is reflected in the amazing beauty He created. As an Orthodox Christian whose life is focused on living the sacraments, this rings very true to me. As Matthew Gallatin puts it, we are called to dance with God(7/5/07), and learning to create simple moments of beauty can be a first step. I will leave you with a few thoughts from the book, a truly inspiring read.

"Children growing up in an atmosphere where beauty is considered an important part of daily life cannot help being inspired to develop their own original ideas in these areas, nor can they help being prepared to live aesthetically themselves." p.104

"The Christian should have more vividly expressed creativity in his daily life, and have more creative freedom ... 'Hidden Art' should be more important to one who knows and admits that he is made in God's image, than to those who do not." p.29 (emphasis is the author's)


Jennifer@DoingTheNextThing said...

Amen! Preach it, sister! Seriously, though, I agree - one can glean a lot of good from Martha if you take her perfectionism with a grain of salt and just let yourself be inspired. M and I found some Christmas crafts on her site that were very easy for an 8-yr-old and gave us some lovely new ornaments as well as tender times spent together.
I also love Mrs. Schaeffer! I often hear her words in my head when I get so focused on "doing" that I forget to be still and give my family beauty.
(Thanks for the shout out, by the way!)

Erin said...

Sometimes I wonder why I run myself ragged trying to make holidays and feastdays just right for my family. But then I remember how much it meant to me that my mother would cook and cook for Christmas and Pascha, that my father would lovingly decorate cakes for our birthdays, that we always had to set the table and use placemats and a full place setting, that many women went to the trouble to adorn the church with flowers on feastdays, and then I know that the labor is worth it. It matters. Of course, it's also OK to let things go sometimes, but these little things really do make a difference. They have shaped my life memories and I appreciate that. Thanks for this post!