Idolizing Susie Homemaker

Contentment by the Fire

Contentment by the Fire

Idolizing Susie Homemaker is not something I set out to do. Nor do I recommend it.  Let me explain….

I’m not sure if you saw one of my first posts, but in it I shared how the title to this blog comes from a small plate I found ages ago. It has a drawing of a sweet cottage and written on the plate is a brief poem about coming upon a pleasant scene, the Cottage of Content. That plate captured perfectly my desire to create a nurturing, simple cottage life for my family. I bought the plate and happily hung it in our home.

I gave it a good shot, creating the Cottage of Content. I stayed at home while I raised my children, baked lots of bread and cookies and wholesome meals and had fun decorating and doing crafts and teaching my four children about God. There were choir concerts and sporting events and birthday parties and it was pretty much as perfect as I could make it. Which was not so perfect at all because reality is messy. Just ask my kids.

When, after 22 years, my ex-husband and I divorced, I came to realize that I had idolized the Cottage of Content. I believed that if I could create a nurturing environment it would ensure a happy future for my children. (See my posts on Divorce for more on that…)But when our family cracked, my idol cracked, too. There is no such thing as the Cottage of Content. Not really. Contentment has to come from within. I get that. Now, if all is well between me and God, I consider that contentment enough.

Still, I keep returning to that image. I still want that Cottage of Content. I know contentment comes from within. I’m talking about the creative part of making a house a home. It’s all the “Susie Homemaker” stuff. I can’t stop doing it. But does it cross a line to idolizing? For me it might. Let me try to explain.

All those years of being Susie Homemaker didn’t come to an end because I divorced. Sad though I was, I gradually recovered, continued to make a home for my kids and got a job, and then I chose to marry again. And create a new home aka Cottage of Content. I took it slow this time.  I didn’t want to make the same mistake by idolizing anyone or anything to the point that I served it too much. When it came to decorating I limited it to attractively blending our things. We bought just enough new things to make it feel fresh and “ours.” I still made the kitchen “mine” by baking up a storm (couldn’t help myself there!) but invited my husband in to cook a lot, too.

Ten years in we’ve had lots of fun creating a home that suits us both. We both enjoy hunting down “treasures” at antique stores and flea markets. I’m not sure how we started calling the “finds” we come across “treasures.”  “Did you find any good treasures today, Honey?” “Yes! I love it!” Sometimes I’ll put a treasured vintage tablecloth on my table to see if it’s a keeper or a seller. If I really, really like it, I keep it. The same goes with recipe boxes filled with old recipes.  I sort through them and decide which to keep (I’ve found the most awesome recipe boxes!) and which to sell. I do that with a lot of things. We rent space in antique stores and have a blast setting up in the summer at flea markets where we can sell our treasures there.

Sometimes I think it would be fun to blog about those things. I could share pictures of vignettes at the flea markets, and projects I create or those antique, handmade, lace bedspreads made of fine silk threads and the quilts I found for a song and the most amazing box of old linens. What fun it was to discover those and then sell them to others who also appreciate them!

But I worry that instead of sharing from the heart, I’d be sharing about stuff. Stuff can lead me to idolize, or covet or judge or feel inadequate or dissatisfied. I worry that it might do that to someone else, too. I feel a responsibility with my writing here, to keep it about the heart. Maybe sharing some recipes would be fun (if you could read through those recipes boxes with me you’d understand why I think they’re so cool), but only as they relate to our hearts.

Do you see what I see? What I love doing has become a way of living. Which should be a good thing. Except that lately I hear myself saying “I love that!” and “treasures” too often. The words escape my mouth – my heart – I say them too easily to swiftly retract. Yes, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. It’s true. I do love some things. As a homemaker, designer, a buyer and a seller of vintage items, things really can bring me joy. It may be for a moment, or a month or a year or a lifetime. But as the years go by, the things add up. You might say I have too much joy in my life these days. Too many cookbooks and pie plates and pretty china and linens. I’m uncomfortable with that.

So is it idolizing?

Lately I’ve been thinking hard about Jesus’s response to the rich young man who wanted to follow him.

Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

What if Jesus is saying that to me?  Selling everything would mean walking away from my comfortable Cottage of Content. Big or small, filled or not, I like living in a safe, comfortable haven.  I’ve worked hard to create that out of very little at times. It’s just what I do. It’s what I need and want.  I want it for me, for my husband, for our children and grandchildren and friends. It’s never been fancy or grand, trust me. But it’s always been home.

But what if, in order to avoid loving things and being occupied with taking care of them or moving them or cleaning them or selling them, and keeping myself safe in my contented cottage, I chose to embrace a different lifestyle altogether?

What would it look like if I was no longer a Susie Homemaker? It’s one thing to accept change when I’m too sick or too old and I have no other choice, it’s another to chose it now, when being Susie Homemaker means comfort and security.

Most disconcerting is my inability to even imagine what life could be like without being Susie Homemaker.  Something is up with that.  Maybe billions of other women are just fine being Susie Homemakers.  But for me, it’s a dangerous occupation. I can be too caught up in the stuff of a contented life.  Earthly treasures are a cheap reward for a life supposedly set apart for God.  I want heavenly treasures – the words “well done my good and faithful servant.”

Clearly, I’m thinking hard about these things.  I don’t have answers yet.  But I’m trying to open myself to possibilities.  And not be afraid to think out loud.  And continue to share from my heart. I know Jesus is called the Shepherd because he leads us, caring for us today by preparing us for what’s ahead. I think he’s doing that very thing with all these ponderings.  I’m going to work on being content with that for now.