Originally published here in 2010.
There are so many reasons for today’s mother to find inspiration and comfort from Charles West Copley’s A Life Well Spent. This Victorian-era painting has many parallels in our homes today, emphasizing the nobility and necessity of a mother’s Divine calling.
Notice the home in which this family is placed. It really is not much different from our own. The home-maker is seated in a comfortable, yet mis-matched chair (can you see the other one in animal print off to the left?). She has placed a tapestry over the table; I wonder if the surface under there is worn and scarred. She has placed a religions painting on the wall, just behind her son’s shoulder, as many of us strive to keep Scripture in each room, before our children’s eyes (Deut 6:8). A comfortable rug (could it be home-made?) is her daughter’s favorite reading spot. The house itself is obviously upstanding (ok, we call the architecture ornate), and this is a testament to her hard-working husband who provides well for the family. My favorite parts of this house are the pottery (did you see it? I have Fiesta ware in my house) and the yarn scrap on the floor. A happy, comfortable, discipled home is more important to this home-maker than “neat as two pins.” I love that.
Now the children. The little girl in the lower right seems to catch the attention first; I assume she is the first-born. She has already been trained to learn independently (she is reading to herself and has her slate for math at her feet). She is caring for the baby, absently rocking her little sibling and ready to help her mother with the little one. Her maturity is evident in her pristine white dress, perfect golden hair, and peaceful demeanor. What a blessing she must be to her family.
It is the son, though, that makes us smile. Haven’t we seen that face before? My friend Twigee thinks his mother is scolding him. I have read several art critics claim he is trying to recite his catechism to her. I, personally, don’t believe we can know for certain what exactly is contained in the book on the mother’s lap. Regardless, the boy is on the receiving end of some wisdom he badly needs, and he knows it! But what I love is his face. He is not rebellious or angry. He seems ashamed. And he is clearly listening to his mother.
My son, hear the instruction of they father,
And forsake not the law of thy mother;
For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head,
And chains about thy neck.
And then there is the “middle child.” In our family, it is “Sweetie Pooh.” This beautiful, quiet, loving one is content to be near Mother, close to the beloved family members, and within earshot of the lessons. Here we see her learning from her brother’s lecture; perhaps she was in on the escapade? I see her hair is not quite as gorgeous as her older sister, and she has not graduated to the “big girl frocks.” But her deep, round eyes are the most open of the entire family. The middle child sees all and takes it all in. I think Mother is going to hug her in a moment.
Finally, Mother herself. She is not over-done, but she is definitely beautiful. We have no indication she is leaving today, but she is “dressed up” for her family. She is about her business, but she is serene and calm. Her inner peace is radiating to her beloved little ones, giving them joy and security in their environment. Even when she must correct or train her children, they never fear her, for she only communicates unconditional love toward them. Her hands are busy, but not in frivolous fancies. They are colorful stockings! Don’t you think they are from mismatched yarn? See the fabric scraps she collects? Her family dresses nicely, but I think this and her household decorations are due to her thriftiness and her husband’s hard work, not any great wealth.
What an intelligent woman! She is an educator, a decorator, an accountant, a child-care expert, a craftsman, and a Christian counselor. And she knows it is all
“A Life Well Spent”