Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Work, Gratitude, and Stewardship

Recently I read a post from one of my favorite bloggers at Being a Mother Who Knows called "Lost Arts." It rang true for me, and I want to share some of my thoughts on "Lost Arts" here, because those are the ideas that fueled the creation of this blog. (The quotes by President Joseph F. Smith below are all from the "Lost Arts" post I linked to. Thanks, Deanna!)

How many of you, my readers, have grandmothers, great-grandmothers, or aunts and other ancestors who possess loads of homemaking skills that you lack entirely? I know I do!

When I was growing up, my mother did teach me several things-- sewing being the biggest one. She is an expert seamstress, and wanted me to grow up with that skill. But I know MANY women who have never been taught sewing skills who now want to try their hand at sewing for their families, and don't know where to start or who to turn to, in order to learn.

Yet, because of  my public school classes, music lessons, and lots of outside activities, I never did learn how to cook well (other than baking cookies!), plan a menu, or how to effectively organize laundry and other homemaking tasks before I left my parents' home. There simply wasn't time in the day! I do remember asking my mother if she felt I should take Home Economics classes, instead of the other electives I was busy with (choir, drama, and art), but she told me that they wouldn't teach me beyond what I already knew. Looking back, I don't know whether that's true or not, but I do suspect she thought I knew more about homemaking than I actually did at the time.

Can anyone out there relate? I always wanted to be a wife, mother, and homemaker, but I was not prepared to run a household when the time came. It was quite astonishing to realize how many hours I had spent being schooled in things I would rarely use in my life, yet I had neglected to learn the most basic skills every adult needs for survival.
"And here, also, a word to parents who have daughters. Are you fitting them for the practical duties of mother and wife, that they may in due time go out and make homes what they should be? Or are you training your daughter to play the lady by making them accomplished in flourishes, and expert in ostentatious embellishments?....We should not fail to insist that they shall to do the practical things, and they do not despise the common labors of life. Any other course toward them is an injustice to the boys and girls, as well as to ourselves and the community in general." ~Joseph F. Smith
In this day and age, we have quite a different perspective of "education" than our fore fathers had. In the past, a person was "educated" in basic LIFE skills first, and in academics second. And then, of course, the academics they studied included things like classic literature, Newtonian Math, Euclidean geometry, spelling, Logic, handwriting, Shakespeare, and memorization. Subjects like "Social Studies" or "Health" were not part of the curriculum. What surprises many modern people, is that our ancestors had greater practical knowledge, AS WELL AS greater academic knowledge than we possess today.

I believe the key to all this gained knowledge lies in one simple word: WORK.

When life was tied inextricably to seasons, wasting time was not an option. Crops had to be planted, cared for, harvested, and then either sold or preserved. Households ran on the timing of the work outside, and hard-working husbands and children had to be fed enough to continue the work still unfinished. The woman who took hours to prepare food for everyone to eat did not waste time wondering whether or not she felt "fulfilled." She was just grateful to have food to eat, a warm home, clothes to wear, and people to care about.

Children were needed and welcomed as contributing members of their families. The work they did was important. And as they worked, they learned the skills their parents were both modeling and teaching them. School years worked around plantings, weather, and harvests-- not the other way around. In fact, school terms were shorter, and the students learned more difficult subjects in a shorter amount of months and years than today's children. (THAT'S a post for another day...)

Don't get me wrong-- we are sooo blessed to live in a time of such ease and prosperity! The most advanced technology in history exists in the homes of most Americans, and opportunities for self-improvement and learning are all around us. But if we're so prosperous, and have so much more leisure time than our ancestors, then why aren't we better able to care for our homes and families? Do we really know more than those that came before? Or could convenience and ease actually be handicapping us?
"I would like to say to this congregation, and to the world, that if I possessed millions of dollars I would not be satisfied or content in my mind unless my boys knew how to do something that would bring them in a living, how to handle a pitchfork, or to run a mowing machine or reaper, or how to plow the ground and sow the seed; nor would I be satisfied if my daughters did not know how to keep a house. I would be ashamed of my children if they did know something of these things... If we would devote more money and time, more energy and attention to teaching our children manual labor in our schools than we do, it would be a better thing for the rising generation." ~Joseph F. Smith
What are we teaching our children? Do they know how to clean up after themselves and their families? Do they know how to cook meals, plan menus, and purchase food? Are they able to care for their clothes by keeping them clean, washing them when dirty, and mending them when damaged?

Your response might have something to do with how these skills are not really needed any more. With widely-available cheap food, inexpensive clothing, and time-saving appliances and cleaning products, extra work is unnecessary.

But, is work really UNnecessary?

I propose the idea that work is not just a good thing for us, but that it is VITAL to our very existence. When we perform needed, helpful work, we feel better about ourselves. We know that what we are contributing is important to ourselves and others. And it's not just an emotional sensation. When we physically work, our health improves. Our outlook on life improves. In fact, the brain literally releases endorphins into our systems that give us an over-all feeling of well-being. And when we work together as a family, we grow closer to one another in our relationships.

When we work for the things we have, we appreciate them more. We show our gratitude by taking care of our homes, clothes, and possessions.

To take this even further, when we perform honest, real labor, we are showing God that we are grateful for our blessings. We begin to recognize that we are merely caretakers of our blessings, and that everything good comes from our Heavenly Father. We come to understand what "stewardship" means, and we try harder to care for the gifts we are given.

Another blessing our ancestors enjoyed, was that they KNEW that their lives depended upon God. Weather can be unpredictable, seasons can be irregular, and circumstances are not always reliable. They knew they NEEDED God and His help to make it through the trials of their lives because they did not have convenience, government programs, corporate jobs, or technology to rely on. They were reminded daily that their best efforts were not always enough. They knew they needed help from above.
"I believe the morals of the people will improve as skill in workmanship and productive labors is acquired. Parents, too, will find it easier to govern and control their children, if these are trained in usual manual labor…" ~Joseph F. Smith
In the end, when we teach our children to work, we are also bringing them closer to God. And we need that closeness, as well. Are we leading the way?

I can see I have room for improvement. I need to better lead my children in Work, Gratitude, and Stewardship through my example. What would happen across the world if we all made more of an effort to give our children these gifts? How much better would we connect to older generations if we asked for their help in learning and then teaching the "Lost Arts" of the past?
"That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.
The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness... teachers of good things;
That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.
In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works..." Titus 2: 2-7

If WE want the knowledge of generations before us, we need to ASK our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, neighbors and older women in our church congregations to teach us. We must recognize that we have much to learn, and then seek out the books, resources, and people who can help us. The potential for joyful contribution and collaborative work makes me smile.

That reminds me: I need to ask my Grandma what the secret is to making her light and buttery rolls. I'm sure she'd love to tell me.


  1. We can have the best of both worlds. We have the time to develop those arts but aren't forced to by necessity.

    I read about my great great great grandma's abilities as an herbalist. Now I'm reading up and developing those skills myself. I recently learned how to make my own soap. It was so fun. We can bring back those arts if we really want to badly enough.

    I love your blog and it's support of my pursuits as a homemaker. Thanks for posting!

  2. It's true, Arianne-- I love it! Thank you for that positive perspective! I am also loving your blog. Your photography and writing are beautiful! Thanks so much for commenting today. :-)

  3. I am that struggling homemaker that was never taught how to cook or do laundry or sew. I can completely relate! I am learning as I go. I have taught myself to sew and I love it! We don't have very many clothes, so laundry isn't really a problem. But I still am not confident in the kitchen. I love staying at home and keeping my kids at home so I hope to teach my daughter how to effectively run her own household one day. Thanks for your encouragement. I love your blog!

  4. Thanks, Stefanie! The beauty of homemaking is that we CAN learn it-- it sounds like you're doing a wonderful job! Way to go! :-)

  5. Thank you for visiting my blog. I'm so glad, otherwise I might not have had the chance to meet you. I'm definitely becoming a follower.


  6. Beautifully written! I have found that many of the older generation are more than happy to take the time to teach their skills. All we have to do is ask and learn!

  7. I, too, only knew how to make "cookies" when I got married...I burned everything and for years could not figure out how to get everything on the table at the same time. Whew! Wish I would've learned what my mom knew before I left home. I hope to teach my girls the basics before they fly the nest.

  8. We are trying to get a group up and running on HIP called "Lost Art", or something! I am excited at the prospect of teaching one another all of the things we know how to do! :0)

    P.S. I have a new blog address:

  9. I love the quotes that you used. Just beautiful! Thank you :-)

  10. I was taught how to cook, plan a menu and shop-but man did I hate learning! My poor mom! She tried to teach me to sew but I refused to learn-I remember many tearful arguments. Honestly she is a saint for what she managed to teach me. Now I want to learn how to sew but I live so far away from her-I really regret that.

    I know how to clean just about anything, and quite about woodwork from my dad as well as outside work like gardening. The one thing I wish I knew was sewing!

  11. I can relate. I too was in the dark when I married. My husband actually taught me many of the things I needed to know in order to begin running a home and tending to children. (Including how to change a diaper) He was the eldest of 11 children and out of necessity had to learn things early. As for our daughters learning how to run a home they too had to learn out of necessity. With each new baby there was always an extra hand that was needed. My girls are definitely not lost when it comes to making a home. For that I am truly thankful.

  12. Too true...

    In a recent church meeting, we were asked how we can help young men to accept mission calls. People had all sorts of ideas, even stating that it is the young women's responsibility to help young men go.

    My answer was simply, "We have to prepare them to not need their mothers anymore."

    My comment was brushed aside pretty quickly by the ward council. So, I expounded a bit upon what I meant and that didn't really help too much either.

    I had read a couple books and some articles about young men not feeling comfortable leaving home. They had no skills or preparedness for their own life. I know I was not prepared either. Thank goodness I learned quickly to begin learning! I have since learned many useful things...and I'm still working on some...including a prom dress for my daughter next month (which she is doing a large part of the sewing) and making artisan bread.

    We just have to start where we are...and press forward!

  13. Thank you for all your comments! This has been a wonderful discussion! I am so grateful that so many women are turning their hearts and minds to their HOMES. I am so excited about the positive impact we are having on future generations!

    Thank you again for all your great comments! :-)

  14. Rachel!!! Oh how I love this blog. This is my journey right now. I am longing (painfully at times) to be an old fashioned homemaker and find myself way behind! But, I have hope:) I am wondering who painted the picture on top of this post of the women out drying the clean linen? It is so inspiring! Will you pretty please email me the answer @ [email protected]? Thank you so for your hard work on this beautiful blog. I am so inspired!

    Elizabeth Little
    Springville, UT


Old Fashioned Motherhood will not approve any comments that are rude, negative, or disrespectful. Thanks for being civil! :-)

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