When I was a child my mother framed a picture she had torn out of a magazine that featured the well-known words from “Song for a Fifth Child” by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton.
Cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
for children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
I remember this bit of inexpensive wall art so well because these words perfectly summed up what my mother was about. My mother didn’t just love us – my three siblings and I – she loved the experience of being with us. This is why she homeschooled us as much as she did. She liked our company more than anything else, and she would tell us so over and over – especially when we asked why she didn’t work outside the home, why she wanted to homeschool. Her answer always was “I just like being with you.” And I believed her. Because I had read those words of Ruth Hulburt Hamilton over and over.
I am a writer and a speaker, a nest-fluffer and a crafter. The written word and meaningful, creative objects are my thing. I am also someone who has always leaned towards intentional living. I tend to see every part of my life – from how I decorate my home to what we plant in our garden to what books I read – as being a chance to make intentional choices that will infuse the atmosphere around me with the things I value most. Which is why our home is peppered with objects that may appear decorative at first glance, but are in fact all signposts in their own right. They are the words and phrases, symbols and practices that are hopefully serving as visible formation tools – reinforcing what we believe, and what we want to teach our children about God, about love, faith, patience, generosity, belonging, growth, and wholeness.
On our dining room table sit three such objects – a small rice bowl bank, a plastic loaf of bread holding scripture cards, and a statue of St. Joseph.
The bowl was a gift from my grandmother, a relic of my Southern Baptist childhood, one that reminds me of the missionary Lottie Moon of China, who practiced relational servanthood and sacrifice before it was cool. The plastic loaf of bread is also a childhood favorite. During family dinners we take turns pulling out scripture cards and discussing what questions or emotions they stir up within us. This practice helps to understand the importance of scripture – personally and communally. St. Joseph is with us, having been dug up out of our front yard when our house sold at long last, allowing us to move to the farm. He reminds us that sometimes dreams take time, and that going slow can grow us in beautiful ways if we have faith.
The table is not the only place with signposts. Our walls feature lyrics from favorite old hymns, questions from great thinkers, reminders of how we want to live, and prayers for peace and guidance, Bible verses that extol our greatest wish – that our table would be a gathering place, one where anyone can come to break bread and give thanks in the company of family.
I don’t know how much of what I have put out my children have noticed. I am not sure which signpost they read most often, which tradition they will look back on with fondness, which bank or statue or framed prayer they will seek out for their own homes. But I believe that something is getting in there. That if I am living with the sort of purpose and intention that I think I am (that I am trying to do!) then something of my words and something of the art on our walls, the decorative do-dads on our tables, will come together, each reinforcing the message of the other.
My great hope is that in being surrounded with visual reminders of service, patience, generosity, belonging, welcoming, wisdom, and wholeness – all of which are rooted in God’s unending creative love – that my children’s faith will continue to grow, and that their hearts and minds will continue to be formed in the likeness of Christ.
What signposts of faith are in your home?