"Discipline is not my claim on Christ, but the evidence of His claim on me."

The Unexpected Gift of Homemaking and What I Learned from Elisabeth Elliot

Today I attacked the kind of cleaning chores that I envision other more diligent and domestically devoted women doing all the time, the tidying that requires pulling furniture away from the wall, vacuuming under beds, and applying a ferocious dust cloth to the rungs of chairs and the hidden recesses of bookcases.

 Homely household routines are the background music behind everything else I do. Studying and ministry preparation are accompanied by the hum of a washer and the cadence of continual meal preparation. In the winter, a voracious wood stove requires care and feeding; in the summer, there’s a garden that needs attention.

 This steady thrum of activity is the glue that holds a home together, and one of the most startling discoveries of my life has been that it is possible to find a fulfilled and meaningful existence in the midst of mind-numbing routine. It turns out that it’s not mainly *what you’re doing* that makes a life. It’s *why you’re doing it*. And no one taught me that lesson more powerfully than Elisabeth Elliot.

Author and Housekeeper

Twenty-seven years ago, I packed up my favorite coffee mug, my personal files, and a few samples of my work and walked away from my career in human resources. Four babies in eight years, homeschooling, church ministry, and a huge vegetable garden each year left little time for deep study, but early on I dove into Elliot’s writing with zeal and found myself being mentored through her books.

"Discipline is not my claim on Christ, but the evidence of His claim on me."

I soon discovered that Elliot was quick to trace the connection between the routines of domesticity and the mysteries of spiritual practice. Although she became a sought-after public speaker, and her words reached (and still reach) literally millions via print and radio ministries, she actually claimed to enjoy housekeeping most of all, for she knew how to do it, and (unlike authoring a book) she knew what the results would be. Her attention to detail was fostered in part by her boarding school headmistress, who pronounced, “Don’t go around with a Bible under your arm if you haven’t swept under your bed.” She didn’t want a lot of spiritual talk coming from someone with a dirty floor.

With her perfect diction, ironic humor, and crisp, no-nonsense delivery of gospel truth, Elliot has impacted my teaching and my parenting like no one else, but she has also hugely shaped my attitude toward domestic chores. I’m writing about the gift of Elisabeth’s influence for Desiring God, and invite you to click on over and join me there.

Joining you in the commitment to daily faithfulness,

It turns out that it’s not mainly what you’re doing that makes a life. It’s why you’re doing it. And no one taught me that lesson more powerfully than #ElisabethElliot.

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57 thoughts on “The Unexpected Gift of Homemaking and What I Learned from Elisabeth Elliot”

  1. “Don’t go around with a Bible under your arm if you haven’t swept under your bed.” … Well now I’m convicted! I once heard Joyce Meyer say something about not expecting to get spiritual victory if you can’t get victory over a sink full of dirty dishes. (At least that is what I got out of her statement.) And I’ve been careful to keep a clean sink all my life – but dust under the bed? Umm… I’m not there yet.

    I, too, love Elisabeth Elliot. Such wisdom!


  2. Just yesterday on my way home from errands I heard an old episode of Elisabeth Elliot’s radio program being rebroadcast – that is, I heard about sixty percent of it as my driving location on hilly back roads afforded only partial coverage. Each time my radio would cut to the other Christian station I would cringe a bit at missing some of her words of wisdom (even though I remembered hearing that episode years ago). As a young mom in the early ’90s I would listen to her in the afternoons when my kids were napping. I always seemed to gain just the sustenance and encouragement I needed at the time from her fifteen minute show. Having read many of her books and even attended a conference where she spoke I am so thankful for her ministry and how God has used her words time and again to bolster my faith in Christ.


  3. I remember chafing under the repetitive routine of childcare and housekeeping when our three children were young. So much of the day’s routine was downright boring and felt meaningless. Colossians 3:23, 24 helped, when I came across it during a Bible study one morning. But I sure would have appreciated this post and Elisabeth Elliot’s wisdom on the subject of homemaking. No doubt you’re helping many young moms, Michele, with your attitude of imaging God with the repetitive tending that goes with mothering and housework!


  4. Love the part about sweeping the floor under the bed before preaching. And I would add to that, make your bed. LOL. I agree with Elizabeth, I know how to do it (housekeeping) and do appreciate the outcome. And why I do it, is important. Heading off to read the rest of the post.


  5. Wonderful post, Michele! Have you read the new authorized biography, Becoming Elisabeth Elliot? It’s a life-changing book God brought to me just when I most needed it. Her story and her example of dying to self and living for Christ are incredibly convicting and inspiring.


  6. I need to do that kind of cleaning chore more often; it’s a rarity for me. 🙂 I can do a swift declutter and surface cleaning every week, but that deep cleaning it harder to get motivated for. Elisabeth Eliot is a great mentor for going deeper on all things.


  7. As you know, Elisabeth was a mentor from afar for me, as well. I don’t always hear her radio programs (BBN has been replaying them), but I caught one recently on this very topic–that making soup for her husband was just as holy and pleasing to God and just as much a ministry as speaking to women or writing a book. As often as I have read that principle, I still tend to chafe under the everyday routine tasks and feel they take away from the more “important” work. I still need to work on doing everything as unto the Lord.


  8. I admit it was the picture of the tomatoes that drew me in; Great post and words to live by and I am always impressed and interested in what you are reading. Thanks for sharing. Interested in the Title of Brueggeman’s book. The last one I read by him was “Sabbath as Resistance.” Blessings for the day, Michele


  9. Coming from an unsaved home, Elisabeth Elliot was my spiritual mother! So much truth in so few words…..but weren’t they POWERFUL words? I still cherish a hand-written note she sent to me years ago. I’ve just recently found your newsletter and I’m looking forward to a long relationship of encouragement!


  10. so many areas, I am constantly reminding myself of the why. Being in this stage of life where my purpose sometimes seems to allude me – and time is much more own – I need to remember it is not the doing – or more specifically the “what” – but it is the why!! So insightful. Thanks for the encouragement!!


  11. Been thinking about deep cleaning for a few days. Also been putting it off but now am convicted to get started 🙂 “All the mundane tasks that are stuck on replay in this mothering life have meaning.” Wonderful post!


  12. Michele, Elisabeth Elliot is one of my all-time heroes of the faith. I so appreciate what you shared about the worship that comes in bringing order from chaos in our homes, in serving our families, and caring for the homes God has given us. I needed this perspective-refresher. Thank you!


  13. “Mercy, justice, and sandwich-making.” I love this, Michele. Although I’m familiar with bits and pieces of Elizabeth Elliot’s story (and have great admiration for her faith and tenacity), I don’t think I’ve ever actually read one of her books! What a blessing to read of her influence on a part of your life that is so significant and yet can sometimes seem so mundane. 🙂


  14. I feel like I have been slacking off so much when it comes to housework lately.. it’s hard not to feel like it is drudgery at times!


  15. So many positive messages to take away from this post. I love that reminder of remembering that it’s not the what, but ‘why’ you are doing something. Very mindful too. Thank you for joining us for the #mischiefandmemories link.


  16. I love Elizabeth Elliot. She wrote such powerful stuff. Thanks for this great reminder! #trafficjamweekend


  17. This is so true, Michele, “It turns out that it’s not mainly *what you’re doing* that makes a life. It’s *why you’re doing it*.” And I might add, Who you’re doing it for. The why and the Who make all the difference in living a content life at home. Thanks for sharing Michele, I enjoyed this article.


  18. Brilliant and beautiful message, Michele! This past year has definitely helped me to regain my perspective that my life is truly blessed. Ever since having children and making the decision to stay at home with them, I have always felt not enough. Like I should contribute more. But then I realize how blessed I am to have the opportunity and ability to stay at home and raise my children. The why is so much more important, isn’t it?! Thanks for sharing and linking with me!



  19. Serving my family with love in my heart is the best way I can think to honour God. It isn’t always easy to put others first even when you gave birth to them but humility and compassion shine through. Thanks for linking up with #MischiefAndMemories


  20. Congratulations! Your post was my Most Clicked at #OverTheMoon this week. Visit me on Sunday evening and see your feature! I invite you to leave more links to be shared and commented upon. Please be sure to leave your link number or post title so we can be sure to visit!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. This is so incredibly true, “It’s *why you’re doing it.” I’m in a season of my life where, added to the regular routines of housework, I find myself caring for my aging mother and trying to help a granddaughter who has been thrown into a divorce she didn’t want with a 16-month old and another one on the way. I find myself exhausted much of the time but thankful to God for His grace and reminders about the “why.”


  22. As you are aware I sometimes stuggle to understand the meaning of some posts, but I take this to mean not to go to end the day without a good and kind thought for others and/or yourself, knowing your house is in order.
    Thank you for linking with #pocolo and hope to see you back soon


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