By Susan Pearson
“You are come to the very edge of the Wild, as some of you may know. Hidden somewhere ahead of you is the fair valley of Rivendell where Elrond lives in the Last Homely House… And so at last, they all came to the Last Homely House and found its doors swung wide.” Vivid are the memories of two sets of wide eyes staring at me so many years ago as I read aloud these beautiful words from the third chapter of The Hobbit to my two boys. My emotions swept us away to Rivendell, where we imagined Elrond’s “perfect” house in a valley barred from evil, a healing house. We are told that Bilbo, his companions, and even the ponies “grew refreshed and strong in a few days there. Their clothes were mended a swell as their bruises, their tempers and their hopes.”
My family had been brought to the “edge of the Wild.” We had entered a valley, only it was not the “fair valley,” and it certainly wasn’t as beautiful and environmentally alive as was Rivendell. Therapy and doctor appointments, special diets and diagnoses filled my days and convinced me my valley was dark. Our home had become a battleground, not hallowed ground, and a center of chaos instead of a sanctuary. I desperately needed to have this realization. We all did. I longed to create my very own Last Homely House, a healing house with doors flung wide.
We set out to reclaim hearth and home as sacred, a place to both heal and grow spiritually, mentally, and physically. We knew our efforts would be in vain unless we first established our “mission statement” for our parenting and homeschooling. Given the ages my boys were during this time, it seemed appropriate to model our goal for these formative years after those of our Lord: Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52 NKJV) We purposed that everything we would do as a family and within our home itself would contribute to this goal of wisdom, stature, and favor in the eyes of God and man.
During the following years our family underwent a significant, yet positive, transformation. Our growth also involved a job change for my husband, an instate move to a charming small town, and other changes, both big and small. Here are a few practices we established along the way that have become invaluable in helping us build our very own Last Homely House:
1. We begin and end every day with the Aaronic benediction over each of our sons “The Lord bless you and keep you the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be merciful to you the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” ((Numbers 6:24-26 NKJV)
2. We instituted morning and evening prayers with Bible readings. We converted a space in our upstairs into a family “prayer closet.” There we light a candle in acknowledgment that the light signifies life and blessing. Together we stand before the Cross and pray, read, and sing.
3. We strive to maintain an atmosphere of peace and beauty by keeping the main living and study areas in our home neat and clean. Additionally, we have found softly playing ancient, sacred Gregorian chants in the background during most of our homeschool days to be extremely helpful, especially at the slightest indication that stress and tension are beginning to rise.
4. We take a long walk or hike as a family multiple times a week for fresh air, exercise, and for the opportunity to “walk and talk along the way.” This is in addition to other structured daily physical exercise, to include strength and endurance training. The benefits, especially for children with any special needs, cannot be overestimated.
5. We seek regularly to simplify, to carve out a deeply meaningful life unencumbered by excess. This is critical for remaining faithful to our family’s priorities. We spend time at least quarterly combing through closets, drawers, books, papers, and the garage to identify all that can be thrown away, given away, or sold.
We often fail each other, yet we trust in the One who truly gained wisdom, stature, and favor in the eyes of God and man. With His help we have brought a greater level of simplicity, order, and balance to our lives, and are better able serve one another and to respond to the needs of others with “doors flung wide” to our very own healing house.
Originally published in Simply Classical Jounral Winter 2018 edition