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Sarah Edwards’ managed her home to optimize her husband’s ministry, she loved her children well, and she continually offered hospitality. And we might begin to wonder, is there anything this woman did not do? As a matter of fact, yes. There are many things she did not do. Today we’ll look at three strategic things that Sarah Edwards did not do that allowed her to excel in the things she did.
1. Sarah Edwards did not do everything to keep her home going; she delegated.
Sarah didn’t do everything to keep her home going; she was the manager of her home. They had a hired man she gave instructions to regarding the large garden and servants and children did many crucial chores around the home. Elisabeth Dodds writes:
The management of a large, busy household took leadership and efficiency. Mothers then had to be administrators, because the food and clothing depended on the mother’s ability to produce it. Sarah had to learn to assign chores so that one child would take a turn breaking ice in the lean-to next to the kitchen to get water for the breakfast tea, while another child brought in wood. Meanwhile, if a guest was leaving after breakfast, someone else would be packing a lunch for his saddlebag. (A staple for such lunches was journey-cake–a cornmeal concoction.) Another girl would be setting the table. […] Children then had the advantage of knowing their chores were indispensable.
2. Sarah Edwards spent no time on gossip; she kept busy working at home.
It was common in that time for the women to get together and gossip over quilting. Sarah Edwards was always absent. In Titus 2 we see that young women must learn to be working at home from older women. In Paul’s mind, the opposite of working at home was wasting your time away going from house to house gossiping. In 1 Timothy 5:13, he warns:
Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.
Sarah Edwards’ hard work at home and it’s contrast to idle gossip is precisely what Paul says young women need to learn.
Because Sarah spent no time on gossip, she had the extra time that other women let leak away (a minute to place a pewter candlestick where it would be reflected in a mirror, time to make rose petals into a potpourri that would scatter fragrance through a sheet chest.) She communicated this art of keeping house to her daughters, so that they, too, left visitors with an impression of a house with distinctive character.
3. Sarah Edwards didn’t work 24-7; she kept the Sabbath.
Puritans toiled hard all week, so they took seriously the admonition to rest on the Sabbath. After sundown on Saturday, no one could work at all, except to brush sparks from the hearth. They couldn’t even make beds. So a Puritan housewife shined up her house on Saturday, and did a colossal baking. Then after three o’clock on Saturday afternoon, the mood of expectancy began to build up to the pivotal day. These people really believed that Sunday would bring encounter with a living and dependable God […] Then on Saturday night the family sang a psalm together, had prayers, and went upstairs to bed with a sense of anticipating drama, as children now do only on Christmas Eve.
This regular time of physical rest and spiritual revitalization strengthened Sarah Edwards each week for the tasks that lay ahead of her.
Learning to work at home is as much about what I don’t do as it is about what I do. And Sarah Edwards challenges me to be strategic and God-centered as I evaluate the best way to use my time and energy.
Questions for thought and discussion (feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments!):
- Where am I letting time and energy slip away through idle gossip and not using it strategically to help my husband, love my children, and serve others?
- Do I need to schedule true rest into my routine? Do I have regular time to be refreshed and satisfied in God?
- Are there any activities I need to cut back on in order to keep the priorities I ought to have?
(Photo above is of an 18th century kitchen, original image here).
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