Myra taught me much about keeping house. Like most stay at home moms with young children, I was experiencing the weariness of long days with lack of adult conversation. Then Alan and Myra joined our small Bible-centered startup church in Massachusetts, a state that was 90% Catholic at the time. With two preschoolers the same age as mine and finding a common interest in “arty” things, we decided to get together every Wednesday morning to do those sorts of things. The toys in the downstairs room in their split-level kept our four little ones occupied while we did “our thing” in the kitchen upstairs.
What shocked me when I first entered Myra’s home was the inordinate clutter. She explained that she was a messy housekeeper, but she was clean. I had difficulty figuring that out, especially when our project was making silk screens to print our own greeting cards. We pushed aside the clutter of assorted canisters, condiment jars and a freshly baked pie shell to make room on the counter for our paint and turpentine. Messy house? Yes—but a stream of neighbors freely popped in to join in our activity. Myra and I called it our “Art and Philosophy Hour. With the two of us, we found we could easily turn conversations to eternal things.
In another place far away and another time, Carol, one of those neighbors, and I were brought together again. While her Air Force husband was stationed 15 minutes from our new home in California, Carol, a committed Catholic, and I decided to get together one day a week for outdoor sketching. One morning she was so irritated because a neighbor was constantly telling her that if she didn’t “accept Christ” she was going to hell. She needed to talk to me. She knew I would tell her the truth— so instead of sketching, we spent the morning going through Scripture passages in Romans and John. Friendship evangelism—but it also required that irritating neighbor for Carol to be open to what I would tell her. “One plants, another waters.” I Corinthians 3:6-8
After living ten years in Massachusetts we moved to Marin County, California, the bedroom community of bank officers and other executives employed in San Francisco. Joy Pipkin was the wife of a Sears Vice President. She, too, was a newcomer to our newly found church, as was Marie, the wife of a Coast Guard officer. We decided to get together one morning a week for fellowship and prayer. Since Joy was the mother of two little girls, and Marie’s and mine were in school, we met in her home. In contrast to Myra’s home, I do believe you could have eaten off of her floors at any time. Other women in the church were a bit fearful of inviting Joy to their home for fear it wouldn’t pass her standards. One day I was with a friend who was finishing up her two-week vacation. Asking her how it went, she sighed, “Oh, I was going to ‘Joy Pipkin’ my house but time just went too quickly.”
I have thought of that contrast over the years. Perhaps I shouldn’t be too critical of either Myra or Joy. I began to think about what a “home” is—especially a Christian homemaker’s home. I am fully persuaded on a home of beauty— a place of refuge providing comfort and rest for the family God has given. Do we decorate our homes according to the latest suggestions of those on HGTV or in magazines? Do we aim for a home that looks beautiful, or one that is a place of beauty and warmth to minister in love to others—including the desires of our husbands?
After thinking about my two friends, I considered—what is my ministry for Christ? Does my home reflect that ministry? If your ministry is bringing up small children to propagate the gospel to future generations the home will not look like that of a wife who must be ready to entertain her executive husband’s colleagues. If you minister to unsaved neighbors and your messy house makes them feel utterly comfortable, then God bless the mess.
Margi Hawks is a widowed octogenarian, a graduate of a Christian University with a degree in Art Ed and a great lover of history, blessed to have been a stay-at-home wife and mom with a career of serving the Lord in whatever way He has directed in the various places she has lived in this wonderful country.