Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My Inspirations - Edith Schaeffer

I mentioned previously that I wanted to begin a new series, inspired by reading John Stott's, People My Teachers, where he took the readers on a walk-thru of people who had greatly influenced his life... some in person, the majority in books.  I'll write these posts in between regularly scheduled ponderings when it is possible to tuck one in here and there.

What better person to begin with than the woman who influenced me most.  I was engaged at nineteen and married a week or so after turning twenty.  I pretty much went into marriage clueless on how to be a good homemaker at all, much less a young woman who wanted a Christ centered family.

The Presbyterian church I attended as a very young (literally) Christian was one that was radically on fire for the Lord.  Not only were the books of Francis Schaeffer a core part of the theology but our pastor was at L'Abri the summer of our wedding.

So that is how it came to be that Edith's books entered my life.  Answered prayer.  Changed my life. Affected my thinking about... everything.  Her influence can be seen today not only in my life and home but the generation(s) that have now come along.

I learned through Edith that every person is an artist.  We were created for Art. We make Art when we cook.  We make Art when we garden.  We make Art when we raise a family.  We show the world we are created in the image of a Creator when we live a Christ centered life.

Never perfectly, of course.  Her famous quote has also long been a foundation in my life, "If you expect perfection or nothing, you will always end up with nothing".

I think L'Abri* was the first book by Edith I read. It is still the foundational book for anyone to learn about the initial ministry of L'Abri as well as Edith's other books.  I skimmed through it when preparing for this blog post and decided it was time to read it again.  It reads like a novel!

Hidden Art was her first book about home-keeping I read, now called The Hidden Art of Homemaking: Creative Ideas for Enriching Everyday Life*.   In later books she said she didn't want the change in title thinking it would turn away men, who also have Hidden Art in their everyday lives.  But when it became available only in paperback, the publisher insisted on the title change.

This was the foundation book of the rest of my life.  Ground Zero.  From the first chapter on, I fell in love with the way Edith described what everyday life should become.  How we are made in the image of a Creative God so we must... create.  We were meant for Beauty.  We were meant to be His source of Beauty to a fallen world.

This book is now quite dated, having been written in the very early 1970s.  But the message is the same.  I have reread this book again at least once a year and usually three or four times as it is taken off the shelf when I need inspiration, ideas, courage, and a reminder of what it means to make a home.

What Is a Family* was also at the top of my list for inspiring the way I thought of being a keeper of the home, a mom, a wife, a part of the Church, salt and light in the community.  It opens with her ponderings at being sixty years old.  I thought that quite ancient at the time.  I thought of it again on my last birthday.  How time goes by quickly!

This book is similar to Hidden Art but much more specific to family life.  In a world where the family was already breaking apart, she spends an entire book sharing ideas on why the family is so important to the culture.  Why the family needs to have someone to look after it, cherish it, be there in times of crisis, and create within it.  I have reread it at least once every year, far more when I was in the full time mother mode.

Common Sense Christian Living* is another foundation book.  I gave my copy to someone long ago who needed to understand more of living the Christian life.  While it continues the message of the above books about living in family life, it branches out a great deal to talking about being salt and light in the world around us without compromising our values.

Someone had asked me for the title of Edith's book containing her L'Abri Family Letters and this is that much belated answer.  There are actually two volumes containing these letters (and these are just what they considered the most important to include!) which were originally sent to a few supporters and family members... then to the far expanded support group around the world.

These two books are a must read for those inspired by Edith Schaeffer.  Each one is truly like receiving a personal letter from her describing what is going on in their life.  She reminds readers that these were written in the midst of their daily life and unlike now... they had no idea of the outcome.  I have thoroughly enjoyed these two books. 

With Love, Edith* chronicles the years from 1948-1960 as they have been in Europe for only days.  We often forget that the Schaeffer's began their ministry in Europe just as WWII has ended.  So we not only walk through their early ministry there but Edith shares how WWII continued to affect people, years after it ended.

Dear Family* contains the L'Abri Family Letters from 1961-1986.  This volume begins at Swiss L'Abri and ends around the time of Francis' death.  Edith writes her letters in such a way that one feels they are reading a novel and must remind themselves over and over that this was life being lived one day at a time.

The Tapestry* is the official autobiography of the Schaeffers and L'Abri, written by Edith in 1981, when Francis was still being treated for cancer.  Whereas the first book I mentioned (L'Abri) is a good autobiography to learn about the ministry of L'Abri, it a short book, written in 1969.

This book is much larger, in-depth, and obviously continues the story into the very early 1980s.  This is the book for the serious Schaeffer students and admirers to read but I gave my original copy to a friend whose life was quite upside down at the time.  I told my friend this book would help them trust the Lord in the midst of serious trials..  For the Schaeffers experienced many of the "darts of the enemy" in their many years of ministry.

One could read this book and then both of the books containing the letters but all would be enjoyable and interesting on their own. You probably know how Franky Schaeffer has written so many rotten things about his parents (how sad that a child is used by the enemy of our soul as a source of intended destruction of a ministry).  One thing you will find Edith says over and over in these biographical books is that God uses them despite their imperfections!

Forever Music* gives us more about Edith's life after the death of her husband.  It is also the story of a Steinway piano and how music became the way God healed Edith's grief and led her into a new world as a widow.

Christianity is Jewish* is Edith's book about the Jewish (Old Testament) roots of the Christian faith and gives a bird's eye view in the process of Jesus in the Old Testament through early church.  She wrote that this book was a result of sharing through the years with her Jewish friends.  This is an excellent book for bringing the Old Testament and New Testament of the Bible together.

The Life of Prayer* is about... ummmm.... prayer.  But more so, it shares with the reader the miraculous answers to prayer through the years at L'Abri, examples of prayer through Church history, and trusting God when our prayers seem to go unanswered.  Once again, Edith makes a theological subject easy to read and understand.

A Way of Seeing* contains sixty essays first appearing in Christianity Today magazine.  I have picked up this book through the years to read an essay here and there when I need inspiration from Edith.  It is basically about how the Word of God and living with Christ causes us to view every aspect of our life through the lens of Christ.

Affliction* is a book about suffering.  No way to get around it in life.  Edith talks about what the Word has to say about suffering, how it has affected her own life, and how it affected people she has known and loved.  This is considered one of her best books.

There are a few other books by Edith that I haven't included here but these were the most important in my life.

I can't talk about Edith without sharing a book by her daughter, either!

For the Children's Sake* came along just as I was considering homeschooling Christopher.  In the book, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay shares the story of how they were introduced to the works of Charlotte Mason and her philosophy for education.  This was the book that caused me to homeschool using this philosophy (this and the books by Karen Andreola).

I know there are a lot of book links here but I never met Edith in person.  I was mentored through these books.  I can't wait to have tea with Edith someday in Eternity.  It is a good thing there is no time there, for I am certain a long line would otherwise form.

*All links to are Associate links.


Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

I do know Susan has also written at least one other great book but these were all the links I could handle at the moment!

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

Susan's other book is For The Family's Sake. The only book I have of Edith's is Hidden Art. It is a great influencer! I am buying copies for my daughters so they too will be influenced and encouraged in the making of ART in their lives. So good.

One day in heaven we shall have a lovely tea with Edith, Emilie Barnes, Karen Andreola, Susan, Sally Clarkson, a few other ladies whom I know would love to be in on it, and all our daughters!

Thank you for this post, and for all the links and descriptions of her books.


Anonymous said...

I so enjoyed your post today. I read Hidden Art and What is a Family years ago. I also really enjoyed both of the books of letters. I need to get them out and reread them. Last year I watched the video series of How Should We Then Live with my home schooled son. What a blessing the Schaeffers were, and still are, through their writings.
Dianne L

Anonymous said...

Wow! This was So Interesting! We have only two of the Schaeffer's books, "How should We Then Live" and L'Abri. I didn't realize there were so many more! My husband and I talked about going to L'Abri when we were first married in the mid-70's but never made it. I wonder sometimes how it would have changed our lives had found a way to go there. I love your quote that we are all artists and were created for art! I'm only recently realizing that in my early 60's!! Thank-you so much for sharing!
Hugs and Blessings,
Laura C. (WA)

Sarah said...

Now i am inspired to get her books. I love Susan's book, For the Family's Sake. I am a chaotic mess, and her book always gives me a clear vision of what a functioning, healthy family life should look like. Thanks for all the recommendations!

Vee said...

I had no idea there were so many and you left some off. As I read down through the list, I find myself most interested in the essays and in Affliction. The thought of your having tea with Edith, "Tea with Edith" sounds like a wonderful book... < insert a big grin >, makes me smile.

Little Birdie Blessings said...

Wonderful review Brenda. Thanks so much for a list of Edith's books, I have some of these that you mentioned. ~ Abby

Heather LeFebvre said...

Hoping to start For the Family's Sake the middle of For the Children's Sake. In NYC this past week visiting my dear friend. Turns out Edith Schaefer's son-in-law is a professor at King's College where my friend is also a professor! We had some good talks this past week about Edith's writings, L'Abri, Franky, and the extended family.

Sherry said...

this post is a walk through yesteryear and i so appreciate the reminder of Edith Schaeffer's books. :)

Anonymous said...

I was so excited to read your post on Mrs. Schaeffer! Finally someone else knows about the treasures within the pages of her books! Her books were the first ones I read about having a Christ centered home. Many of the younger women I know have never heard of her. I'm happy to enlighten them! Your blot is one of the few I read/check daily. Thank you for sharing the richer things of life! Hope you have a joy filled day! Dawn

suzanne said...

Thank you for this list and the explanation of each book! Now I can decide which to read first. I am writing these down! The one about music is destined to be a gift to my mother,,,a lover of music and a widow who has been a great example to me of how to live after a spouse passes on.

Karen Andreola said...

As always I like to spy the books on your shelf. Thank you for this tableaux of book reviews featuring Edith Schaeffer. Her "Hidden Art" has been an encouragement to many and a favorite of mine. I spent a memorable but fleeting hour with her daughter Susan Macauly more than 20 years ago - not long after reading her eye opening book, "For the Children's Sake"

In my closet is a shoe box stuffed full of cassettes from L'ABRI (from days of old) that I can listen to now and again. I have a few with Edith speaking. I particularly like one on prayer.

It is possible that you and I become Christians around the year.

hopeinbrazil said...

I've read almost all of Edith's books. Yes, she was/is a wonderful mentor.

Rebecca said...

Oh, how I enjoyed this post. I can't get enough of E.S. (And I think I told you that I got to meet her once -- sit around a table in Minneapolis with a small group of women (Denominational Directors of Women's Ministiries) long, long ago......

I'm VERY eager to find Stott's book now and read it, too!