On the Home Front

IT WAS AN ORDINARY WEEKDAY EVENING, BUT THE meal was festive. To commemorate my husband Gerald's completion of a difficult writing project, I had prepared two simple and highly spiced Ethiopian dishes for supper. Our sons were pleased that Dad had met his deadline, and even more delighted to rip off pieces of flat pancake-like injera and dip them into the red-hot stew.

While dousing flames in his mouth with great gulps of water, our 6-year-old remarked, "I can't believe it! Just the simplest things at home can be so exciting!" I sank back into my chair for a quiet moment of exultation. Gerald's eyes shone across the table.

Our family likes to celebrate -- not with a lot of fanfare -- but by deliberately marking and enriching moments in time. It's an art we are cultivating after watching too much time slip through our fingers in a frenetic blur. On any ordinary day, there are far too few hallowed moments, particularly in our homes; too few occasions to savor time-honored stories with our children; too few gestures of old-fashioned hospitality; too few festive activities to send our spirits soaring.

Home, the quintessential source of family and companionship, where intimacy and trust are meant to flourish, has become an afterthought, relegated to the fringes of our days. For many families, over-invested or underpaid, wealthy or impoverished, home is a crash-pallet, hardly a place preserved and cultivated for ministry; a battleground, not a thriving hub of simple communal pleasures. The role of "homemaker," for varied reasons, has been maligned almost out of existence.

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