Obedience is a Pathway of Love informed by Training & Wisdom & podcast

 The sky was more and more beautiful as it progressed into the full day, just like our lives.

The sky was more and more beautiful as it progressed into the full day, just like our lives.

The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn which shines brighter and brighter until the full day. Proverbs 4:18

Obedience--first time or eventual?

Now, the secret is out--I do believe in obedience for me, for children, for all who want to love and serve God--because He cares about obedience. But, I see now that the goal for my obedience is not behavioralism--performance--doing a task that I want done this instant because of fear of punishment. I do not measure my success as a parent by whether or not my children instantly obey, though often they did and that was the pattern we aimed for little by little.

I think that the goal is to teach our children to obey quickly, but search as I may, I cannot find that as a standard in scripture. And so I may find relief in the grace I have found in scripture.

Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey me." 

His desire was that we want to obey him because we have come to love him so deeply. Mature love takes time. I studied Christ to learn how to disciple my children--

He served, I serve

He told them of his love over and over, I told them of my love over and over

He instructed, I instructed

He comforted, lived with, ate with, cried with them and so did I

Greater love has no one than this that  man lay down his life for his friend, He said to his disciples as he prepared to die on the cross. So He became my model of sacrificial love, always His eyes to redeem us, so I turned my heart to serve Him by always seeking to train and win my children's hearts as His Holy Spirit drew them.

My children and I love one another so much, some times people can't understand it. We are each other's best friends, we choose to spend time together, we talk often, we are the best and finest of companions. Once one of my kids said, "Mama, one of the many reasons I want to choose faith and choose to walk with God is that I would hate to ever break your heart. You mean so much to me I want you to see my love through the faith I have grown into because you loved us to Jesus."

There will be prodigal moments, doubts, imperfections. But love is what won Jesus's disciples and loe is what will win our children's obedience, not legalism.

The Pharisees were so concerned about fulfilling every jot and tittle of the law. And so the familiar language when they came to Jesus was, "What is the greatest commandment? What is the most important rule to follow, to obey?"

Jesus' answer was all about love-loving God, loving people. Love it he energy that provides us with the ability to obey when it is from our heart. 

Our children's proper obedience comes from learning to love us, learning to trust us, learnig to do what we ask then to do over time. 

I have loved the book by Eugene Peterson, "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction." ( Not a book about parenting, but a book on discipleship for adults) Even the title itself is about the process of discipleship--creating lives dedicated to the service and love of God by a life time of learning to make mature choices. Wisdom is little by little.

Instead, I want my children to learn to love God, to desire to serve Him out of their hearts of respect, awe, reverence, love. I look for growth, not perfection. Maturity, not instant holiness.

Now, it is in the process of having them learn to do my will, that they learn obedience. I must go against their wills to teach them to obey. But it is little by little, season by season. Personality and gender and exhaustion and wellness and life all go into the process.

Sometimes it is first time and sometimes it isn't. But the tension created from a false standard would make me wear a mantle of guilt for somehow failing that God never intended. But, I am trying to train their hearts to learn and to value and honor Christ out of their love which moves the to obedience.

For me, this was best done over years and years of training, correcting, modeling, loving and doing it all again the next day.

God's Ways

The older I get, the more I reflect on Christianity from a long term perspective. It seems that God is a long-term process Father. He doesn't do things all at once. He is rarely on my timetable. I almost always have to wait much longer than I want to to see my prayers answered. He does not make my life easy or take away the difficult things, but teaches me in the midst. I am very grateful, though, that he is not pernicious or unnecessarily harsh. He is patient, compassionate, understanding, loving through the whole process.

His focus for me as a child is that I move from immaturity towards maturity. From self-absorption to self-sacrifice. His discipline for me is daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, training my appetites of life to His ways. Teaching me to love righteousness and to be sensitive to His heart. Learning in my real paths of life how to life my life his way, with His wisdom. It has taken me a whole lifetime to learn the ways of righteousness. And so it is with our children.

God's Fathering of me

When I was a young, single missionary in Eastern Europe, I thought I was so spiritual--and I probably was for my age. I had given my life to Christ and wanted to be "His girl", following Him to the ends of the earth and bringing His love and grace to bear. But, because I was young and I had not failed enough or come to my own limits, I did not even know how much I needed to depend on God. I did not know how very capable I was of sin. I did not clearly see my own immaturity. I was not humble. All of these areas were not because I did not want to please God, but because I was young, inexperienced and didn't know better.

But then when I got married and had children, I began to realize just how selfish I was and how little I had learned to work. For a while, I thought my problem was my children and marriage,  and then I realized that my children were God's gift to me, but also His way of bringing training of righteousness into my own life, by teaching me what it really meant to serve Him, to give up my rights, to be humble.

The real giving of my life to Him was every day, every minute to the constant demands of my family and Clay. Parenting was for me His pathway of teaching me to obey, to love, to serve. Family life was His training grounds to build holiness into my life.

I am so very grateful that He did not show me all of my sinful, selfish ways at once. He gently took my hand and through the process of caring for my family, little by little I became aware of my need to mature, to love more, to give grace, to be loyal, to work harder,  to serve, as He had done with His disciples.

He disciplines us that we may share in his holiness. Holiness is a long term process of development in our hearts, training our wills to want to obey out of a developed love and awe of God.

Path of Life Parenting

There are so many verses that speak of this. Clay calls it, "The Path of Life" parenting model.

The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn--it shines brighter and brighter, a little at a time.

Proverbs also tells us, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. It is a process--a little here, a little there, a little again. Giving our children the appetite for obedience, wisdom, love, and holiness.

I am so grateful in my own life, that God did not overwhelm me with all of my sin and selfishness at once. I would have quit if He had treated me harshly. I wanted to please God and I wanted to be righteous, but didn't even know that I was so very immature. My heart was right in my own eyes and was seeking to please Him, but my character and behavior lacked so much. it has taken me a life-time to understand just what it really means to be sacrificially loving, loyal in my faith, righteous and generous in my behavior. If God has treated me in such a way, shouldn't that be the way I treat my children.

Wish I could write more but not allowed. Having my amazing assistants try to piece together my messages and my heart I am sharing with them. I hope you can enjoy the podast.

Why I Now Read Fiction

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By Glenn Packiam

I have always been a reader, but I haven't really been much of a fiction reader. At the risk of revealing my snobbery, I must confess that I used to think of fiction as a waste of time. I read for information. I want to learn! Who has time for silly stories?

Over the last few years, I've realized what a fool I've been for ignoring great stories. Here are just a few of the things I'm reminded of when I read good fiction:

The power of storytelling is not just in the story but in the telling. Not all fiction is created equal. Many stories rely on gimmicks and tricks, with more plot twists than a bubble gum blockbuster. No doubt, these stories are entertaining, but they will never be great. They acheive an emotional response by manipulating the reader not be truly letting him enter the story.

Take Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, which I only recently read. There's not much of a plot per se. An old man goes too far out to catch a fish too big and struggles with sharks and fatigue as he tries to make it home. But that's not it. The way Hemingway tells us the story makes us feel the cracking rope burn against our hands, taste the salty breeze on our parched lips, and rise up with the deterimination to conquer age and nature and all the criticisms of society.

Solzhenitsyn's One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich is, as you would guess a story of one day. Yet, that one day captures so beautifully all the agony and disappointment and hope of living in a Siberian concentration camp-- ordered by the country he had once fought for.

The lesson is simple: how we say something is every bit as important as what we are trying to say. How we do something matters as much as what it is we are trying to accomplish. This foolish pragmatism of having to learn something efficiently or communicate something directly robs us of the joy of life. And God's way of teaching us is usually not as direct as we'd like. Sometimes it takes 40 years of wandering to test our hearts and make us humble.

Every scene matters.  Telling a story well means treating every scene with equal delicacy. Tolstoy in Anna Karenina transports us to elegant parties in Moscow and peasant farms in the countryside with equal deftness. Each scene is described in detail, making them believable and "feel-able".

To read more on the Stoyformed blog, click HERE.

First-Time-Obedience: How's That Working For You?


Formulas like "First Time Obedience" do not necessarily reach the heart! But they can bring lots of frustration and guilt if implemented as law. 

I was speaking at a conference once and the speaker before me was plying the audience with all sorts of guilt. This speaker said, "If you don't require first time obedience every time from your children, then you are disobeying God and you will be responsible for losing your child's heart and tempting him to rebel against God!"

"You need to always be in charge of your children--you are the master, they are the slaves, so to speak. If you give them an inch, they will take advantage of you."

Many men in the audience cheered loudly and clapped. I could just see the harshness that would follow in their homes because a speaker had given them permission to be harsh and demanding every time with children, without ever teaching these parents sympathy, wisdom, skill, and understanding with their children, personalities, exhaustion, or state of heart, considering their ages and their paths of life.

But ... Really? Can you cite me verse and give context that says God always requires first time obedience without mercy or sympathy? I am thankful that He is much more patient with me than that in my own life. I have made so many mistakes over the years and done such foolish things, and still He is there loving me, instructing me, showing me his compassion and gently leading me daily to better understand His holy and righteous standard for me.

As a matter of fact, I have noticed as an older woman that there have been many "sins" or attitudes in my life that He reveals just a little at a time, not all at once. His patience humbles me. I think if God showed me all the ways I fall short every time, every day, I would be devastated and just give up. 

I have seen no Biblical evidence that this is a true "rule." Of course I believe in training our children to obedience and to teach them to have the highest of standards, and often it meant training them to learn to obey us as we requested something of them, by training them to obey quickly. And we did will training, "You have a choice to make," which I will explain in a later blog post.

But I believe the reason Deuteronomy 6-8 talks about us speaking to our children morning, noon, night and presenting truth and the gospel to our children every moment of the day, is that training is to be a whole-life passing on of values and obedience and wisdom, a morning, noon and night---let's live together in fellowship and relationship and you will see that I have your best in mind and I will teach and train you how to be mature, wise and excellent--type of life.

Training children to respond to our direction comes as a journey, a pathway, a way of life, a process of growing stronger.

It is a process of love, consistency, patience, and repeating over and over and over because it takes many years for a child to become mature, which is why demanding or expecting first-time obedience doesn't work well for any of us, especially if it makes us feel like a failure because we have asked the wrong thing of our children.

Did you know that at some stages of toddlerhood, the brain doesn't register the request in the brain for 40-60 seconds? So often little ones don't really know what you are asking them until you have become angry that they are not doing it. And then you put yourself in the position of adversary which naturally draws conflict. 

Have you read the verse, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger?" Proverbs 15:1 

Or from Jesus, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS." Matthew 11:29 Do our children find rest and peace in our presence because we have learned humility and we humbly guide them on the path of life?

Clay and I have been working for the past few years on a summary of principles we've learned and practiced as parents based on wisdom and respect for our children, and The Lifegiving Parent book is the result! Find it here:

Marriage: Building a Lifelong Legacy OYL 15 & Podcast


Today, as I awaken and tromp down the stairs to our kitchen, Clay has made me a cup of tea and is waiting to put eyedrops in my eyes for about the thousandth time since he came about a month ago. As we look back on our lives, neither of us knew what our marriage would cost us in time, money, service, humility, forgiveness or joy, memories, traditions, building our home, ministry and life. Our marriage has become more valuable with each year of living in companionship together. But we did not know any of this at the beginning. 

 Marriage: A picture of the first community that God designed to be a blessing to all generations.

Before the fall, when all that God created was reflected in perfection, God created Adam and Eve, male and female to be the foundational unit through which all of life was to be organized. God gave the responsibility of being stewards of the earth He had made to Adam and Eve, the first couple, first family, and to their children. As a matter of fact, having children was the very first thought of God when He was blessing them.

"Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it." Genesis 1: 28

Children, from the beginning and marriage and family, from the inception of the world, were a blessed design from God. Furthermore, creating children and parents to be a part of a larger community called family. This is a reflection of God's  relationship orientation to life. From the beginning He created us to belong to a history of people, to a love of parents, to a community of related people who would provide stability, security, comfort, purpose and love. Marriage brings life together. Marriage is about God's idea of how to organize life and purpose.

Though many of us have not experienced this unity or blessing in our own lives and have had broken places in this fallen world, knowing God's perfect design before the fall, gives us direction to follow and wisdom to pursue as we seek to redeem that which has been broken in our world, in our time. Following His design brings blessing, direction and purpose.

Join me in my podcast today where I discuss the way to contentment in marriage, how to build this legacy for a lifetime and why God considers your worship of Him as a reflection of how well you choose to love and live in harmony with your spouse.

Everyone Stop and Think About Jesus!


Being opinionated and having something to say seems to be a Clarkson heritage. One never knows when some innocent comment might incite a rousing discussion in which every family member feels compelled to participate.

After talking with Nate daily and spending some weeks with our kids in the UK, I stand amazed at the ability they all have to write, communicate, think, and put all of this into their work. Yet, I know now that it came from the ways we lived the rhythms of life in our home. Discipleship and mentoring took place daily at our table, because of our intentional commitment to inform their values, to reach their hearts with truth and messages from the heart of God. (Refer to The Lifegiving Table below.) 

. Devotions were a part of life. Prayers and blessings were expected each night. Christ was present through out the moments of our days so that they were shaped not by one aspect of Him but by bringing Him into all the moments of our natural life. Join me with one such example that has caused us to remember and laugh for many years hence.

This particular Sunday evening was no exception. All the troops had just returned from a meeting and were congregating in the kitchen to prepare their own snack dinners. The boys opted for cereal—no messes or pots and pans to wash! The girls opted for a more elaborate meal—nachos. As everyone munched on his or her concoction, someone innocently asked whether we thought a certain Disney cartoon was evolutionary or creationist or neutral in its story line. You would have thought we were discussing the deity of Christ!

Immediately, vastly differing opinions began to fly in all directions. For some reason this discussion followed gender lines. The boys thought the movie reflected an evolutionary mind-set and cited the comparisons of humans to animals. The girls fought for the concept that innocent words may have been mistaken as evolutionary but were intended as a joke. Dad piped in with his two cents' worth, and the topic heated up. I finally said, "I don't know if it really matters. Besides, I need to put Joy to bed! It's late!"

As I picked up Joy and started downstairs toward her bedroom, the other four followed hard on my heels. "Mom, you and Dad are always telling us we need to evaluate the world-view of authors and producers and performers." This was a perfect invitation for Dad to throw in a few more cents. The discussion continued to heat up along party lines, and each voice got louder. The tension of feeling misunderstood began to change the pitch of the voices.

By this time I had four-year-old Joy standing on her bed, putting her gown on over her head, with the rest of us still fulfilling our obligation to announce our opinion to the world.

Joy suddenly dug her heels into the bed and stood as tall as she could with her hands punched firmly out, as though to stop an oncoming truck.

She said loudly and firmly, like a drill sergeant, "EVERYONE STOP! TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND THINK ABOUT JESUS!"

Her directive sent everyone rolling on the floor in laughter, and finally the discussion came to a close.

This story depicts our everyday lives—opinions stated, issues debated, top- ics taught and learned, questions asked, books and experts quoted, and heartfelt convictions passionately shared while washing dishes, eating meals, or sitting around the living room drinking tea. And even though they may occasionally get out of hand, these discussions, perhaps more than any other family activity, have shaped our children's lives for the better.

Why are such discussions so important? Because they do exactly what Joy said. They teach our children to think about Jesus—and to think biblically about every aspect of their lives! They are part of an ongoing process of sharpening minds, focusing thoughts, and allowing biblical truth to shape our mental processes as well as fill our hearts.

Discussion, discussion, discussion; an integral part of walking with our children!

You will find these ideas fleshed out in our new book, The Lifegiving Parent and the study guide. We pray it will inspire and instruct you on your own journey of parenting.

Find our newest book, The Lifegiving Parent, and The Lifegiving Parent Experience Study Guide here~! (Clay and I will be doing a podcast series on these books, so order them now and join us after the launch, May 1)

Storyformed Podcast, Episode #26 - Stories from the Farm

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In this episode, Holly Packiam talks with her husband, Glenn Packiam, and their daughter, Sophia Packiam about farm life. Glenn shares his first experience of going to the farm, and Sophia talks about what visiting the farm has meant for her childhood. Holly discusses how reading Wendell Berry helped realize the gift she was given by growing up on a farm and having a poet-farmer for a father. Sophia contributes to the conversation by talking about the various farm stories and books set on farms that she’s read and what she’s gained from them.

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Topics Include:

  • How farm life can teach us to see beauty in the ordinary and to have patience and persistence through difficulty;

  • What Sophia would tell young people who find farm stories uninteresting;

  • Why reading farm stories are not about nostalgia or idealizing a certain way of life, but rather about learning a new perspective and gaining new virtues.

To listen to the podcast and to view show notes, Click HERE.

The Heart: The Place Discipline Truly Begins

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Well-meaning parents all over the world have tried throughout the centuries to figure out the right formula or wisdom to use in raising up a godly, responsible, emotionally and spiritually healthy child. It is right to desire to find a way to love, educate, train and discipline a child to help him become mature.

However, in our culture, so many young couples do not live around their parents and do not have good models of what a healthy family looks like, so they look to "authorities" to find their answers--usually people who speak or write books. (Scary thought, since that is what Clay and I do!)

Yet, here's an important truth: Formulas do not work!

Most parents seem to be looking for a formula--a one-easy-step guide to instantly raising up an obedient child; a one size fits all answer to every discipline question.

Over the years, I have heard so many extreme talks about child training. I have also seen many young parents follow rigid, formulaic parenting philosophies. Consequently, I have lived to see many of the children of those parents rebel, leave all the training of their parents, and even turn their hearts away from God.

The parents wring their hands, saying, "I don't understand. I followed all the books and did it just like they said!"

Thinking Biblically

We must learn to live by faith and in wisdom in the raising of our children. If God had wanted us to follow a formula, He would have given one and made it clear so we could use the ten easy rules to pop out perfect children. But He made each person with a different personality, different maturity level, and different ability!

Scripture is much more about long-term maturity than we usually want to understand and accept. God's word says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not fall away."

"The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until the full day." This indicates a path of life in parenting that allows for more and more light to show forth with each passing year.

In Hebrews, we read about the mature and immature--about babes who are still drinking milk and not yet ready for solid food. There, the context is of a young Christian and a mature one, with Paul allowing for growth in both instances. This is the pattern we should expect!

I tend to look at my children's growth through this lens: "It is the kindness and mercy of the Lord that leads to repentance." Romans 2:4

So where do we begin when we consider how to train a child? First, we must understand that all discipline should be focused on the heart--not behavior. Over 800 times in scripture, God talks about the heart--Love the Lord with all of your heart. God searches to and fro for a heart that is completely his. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. and so on. And yet ...  I see many extroverted children being disciplined for being louder and more talkative, even though this is not rebellion but a personality issue--or boys for being boys--sometimes with moms who want them to behave like a little lady.

God is concerned with our desire to love and obey Him. He already knows we are immature and that we take time to understand His ways. Jesus was patient with Peter and said, "Satan has desired to sift you like wheat." He predicted that Peter would fall, yet Jesus was completely supportive of His disobedient, immature disciple, assuring him "I have prayed for you, and after you have returned, strengthen the brethren." In other words, "I know you will blow it, but I will be with you, I will pray for you, and I will still use you."

And so, when we discipline our children, we must learn to look at their hearts. Is their heart rebellious? Are they being willful? Am I expecting too much from them, consideriing their age, their level of over-stimulation, the circumstances, their maturity level, or their abilities? A child should not be punished for being exhausted, immature, a boy, or for making a mistake. I make mistakes all the time, again and again. And yet scripture teaches in both the new testament and the old that maturity is as a result of training, time, growth, heart and will.

The Lifegiving Parent is our newest book, and goes further into the idea of living a life of discipleship with our children. It is available for preorder, here!

Order your books now so you can join Clay and me in a podcast series covering 8 principles of parenting. 

Cultivating a Life Giving Home OYL 14 & Podcast

 Friend breakfast at my table....

Friend breakfast at my table....

Frodo was now safe in the Last Homely House east of the Sea. That house was, as Bilbo had long ago reported, ‘a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep, or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all.’ Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear and sadness.” 

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

As a lover of great literature, Rivendell, in Lord of the Rings, captivated my attention and Sarah's and Joy's attention. It happens that one of my favorite coffee shops in Oxford is adjacent to Exeter College where Tolkien attended. It has the most amazing view of the city from the tower near the student rooms. So, when I pass by, I imagine him having conversations with his friends and living in this space where God had access to his imagination.

Because he was a soldier in WWI and lost so many friends, I can imagine that sadness as a backdrop for why he wrote the part about Rivendell--knowing how important it was to preserve all that was beautiful after a war that tore the world apart. 

And so from his lovely description of "the last homely house," I garnered even more ideas of what my home would be.  Picturing our home as a place that remembers all the great life from eras gone by and that captures its beauty, has been one of our goals, that has given us hours and years of collecting and crafting and nurturing over the years.

A library that holds all the great books of children's literature and classics and great thinkers, biographies and writers is a must. And now, due to Clay's kindness to move his office to the basement, I have our library as a tea room of sorts. With comfy chairs, a tea set, art and paintings from my background all over the walls, with candle light and music--it is a lovely getaway where I can share heart-to-heart with all in my wake.

A well-stocked kitchen with all sorts of home-made recipes crafted over years of testing, with all the holiday food; food for those who are ill; birthday fare; winter-cold-night soups and breads and all sorts of healthy variety in between.

Fireplaces where stories are told and ideas discussed and children are cuddled.

Bedrooms with comfy chairs and piles of books in baskets to encourage reading and quiet times and of course candles galore.

Piano, guitars, drums, flute, dulcimer--all collected over the years--some more used than others, but all for practicing producing music of all sorts.

Games and book baskets and art books and cd's and Pandora and dvd's from all imaginings to instruct, inspire, soothe, comfort and to stoke the imagination.

Clusters of chairs, grouped together to encourage great and close conversations--rockers on the front porch; setees and big chairs on the back deck; gatherings of chairs in 2's all over the house to make a close meeting and discipleship time for all who are there.

And of course a bookshelf in every room, with each child collecting his own library.

A suitable place for traditions celebrated and momentous occasions retold and the Bible read, over and over and over again--to remember Him and stories of faith and heroes and courage and holiness.

This is what I have had in my heart to shape--a home that breathes life and truth and love into all who would enter--

To make sure my home, for my family and friends, is indeed the last homely house and that all that has been excellent and worthwhile over the ages is celebrated in its walls--

because everyone needs a place to belong and a home where welcome is always fresh with all who cross the doorway.

But now, I am in a far off land, in a tiny flat without my "things", but with space to bring the life of God's artistry and love into every space. The lifegiving home must start with a heart that says, "I will be the hostess of life here within these walls to serve all who come here so that they may taste and see that the Lord is good by being here with me."

Please listen to the  podcast today, I think it will encourage you. It is about having a heart for  your home to give life in the middle of a real life of busyness, unexpecteds, weariness and sinful people. I pray you will be encouraged. 

Be sure to get your copies of the Lifegiving Parent and the Experience Bible Study. Clay and I will be doing a podcast series on the 8 Lifegiving principles you need as a foundation in your home. Can't wait.

More Than We Bargained For: The Mom Walk (Part Two!)


If you didn't read the first part of this adventure, be sure to go back and find it here: Mom Walk, Part One!

... Four hours later found us a pitiful, dirty, exhausted, and emotionally worn group of wanderers. We had walked for hours in different terrains: through a forest, over rough rocks, passing a deep cave, foraging through brush, and walking in a dry, dusty path that covered us with reddish sand. Thinking of myself as a resourceful woman, I had pulled out my trusty cell phone several times and attempted to call Clay for help. How was Ito know that there wasn't cell reception this high in the mountains?

We had passed through multiple stages of kids whining and complaining, of sore feet, a series of "I can't go any further" tears, and fears of "What if we die on this mountain and get eaten up by a bear?" Accompanying this were accusations: "Why didn't you bring more water, Mom? Why didn't you find out exactly where we were supposed to go? Why did you bring us this far? How do you know we are going in the right direction? When are we ever going to make it home?"

My great mom-plans were turning into a series of bad, unprepared mom-moments of failure. The kids had indeed amazed me at their ability to persevere. Our faithful dog, Penny, had kept by our side. I felt as though we were living out a script of a Disney movie adventure about a family stranded in the wilds of a mountain looking for routes to survival. Sarah and Joel had each carried 40-pound Joy on their backs for half an hour at a time, trying to give my aching back a break. I had been carrying her most of the afternoon as she became a dead weight while napping in my arms or on my back. Every muscle in my body ached from carrying her half-stooped for a good deal of the time so that she wouldn't fall off my back in her sleep.

Nathan had pushed beyond his own penchant for complaining and had kept his strong young legs going far beyond my expectations. He even had bursts of energy from time to time as we came across an interesting scene. At one point we happened upon the wreck of an old car that looked as though it had driven off a cliff.

Joel had pushed beyond his fear about all the dangers and had decided to be the brave man of the group, encouraging us onward, telling us that the only choice we had was to keep going—as though he were trying to convince himself by saying it out loud.

I had moved through all sorts of stages of emotions: irritation, fear, tears, panic, courage, determination, and condemnation. How could I have led my children into this mess?

We had stopped and prayed several times together. I had prayed silently for God to "Please, lead us" and get us out of this mess.

The sun was setting as we finally found an old road that seemed to lead down the mountain toward the city lights below. I decided again to try to call Clay. The call went through for a few seconds. "Where are you?" he asked. I had the time to say, "I don't know exactly, but we need someone to pick us up—" at which point the phone went dead.

Little did I know that Clay went out to the car, hoping he could drive on a back road to try to find us. Deep frustration overwhelmed him when he couldn't find the keys to the only car—a friend's car— that was sitting in our driveway. Our other car was in the shop. We were later to find out that one of the kids had put the keys in a side pocket in my pack, somehow thinking we might need them! To his consternation, our neighbors were not even home. He had no means of coming to get us.

The children began to shiver in the evening mountain air and their teeth began to chatter. Of course, by this time we had been hours without food or water. All of us felt exceedingly thirsty and hungry. We stopped on the side of the road for a small rest and noticed the Air Force Academy sitting below us in the near distance. This let me know that we were quite high on the abandoned, almost impassable road. Just when I thought things couldn't get worse, a pack of coyotes nearby started howling at the moon.
"Mom, do coyotes attack people and eat them?" one of the boys fearfully questioned.

The other, more informed child answered, "They just attack small animals like Penny and Joy. They are the only ones in danger of being eaten!" Again, panic and chills of fear ran through us all as we walked in darkness, listening to the howling beasts.

At this moment, an angel, in the form of a motorcyclist in a black leather jacket, came along beside us and stopped. He pulled up his helmet so we could see his dark eyes amidst the shadows.

"Lady, it's dangerous to have four little kids out this late on the mountain. There are bears and wild cats in the area, and it's pretty cold. Are you lost? I passed you over an hour ago when I drove up the old road on my bike and here I find you still walking down the mountain:"

I was tempted to throw my arms around his neck. "We live near here, but we evidently took the wrong trail, and it has been more than seven hours since we left home. We have been walking down this road for over an hour. My cell phone doesn't work, and I can't call my husband to pick us up. Can you help us?"

The concerned man informed us that he only lived five miles from this point. "If you wait for me, I will go home and get my Jeep and come back to pick all of you up."

I didn't have long to wonder about his offer, as staying on the dark, cold, deserted mountain in the company of coyotes, bears, and mountain lions seemed far more dangerous than trusting our lives to my new, bearded friend.

"Sure," we all answered simultaneously. It was only after he left that I remembered that I should have had him call Clay to tell him we were still alive!

Thirty minutes later I sighted a small, four-passenger, all-terrain Jeep careening up the bumpy road. As he opened the passenger door gesturing for us all to climb in, the dog jumped in first, followed by the three older kids who squished into the backseat with their beloved Penny. I placed Joy on my lap in the front seat. Getting the door closed was a feat, but we managed, and everyone began to broadcast our story at the same time.

Turning around on the narrow road that hung tight on the edge of a cliff, though, caused all of us to hold our breath and quiet down. I noticed that the girls had closed their eyes. Finally, we bumped our way down the old road, avoiding as many potholes as possible, and then slowly moved in the direction of our home.

Twenty-five minutes later, as we pulled up to the door of our house, Clay ran outside with a look of worry and informed us that he had called the mountain rescue squad. With every muscle aching and parched throats, we tumbled out of the car and all began talking at once.

We thanked our hero profusely, still supposing he really was an angel sent from God. How very tired we were, but also renewed in our adrenalin-filled joy at having been rescued and finally being safely back home!

Everyone told Daddy about a different part of the great adventure. Nathan called out above the others, "Hey, Mom, that was so much fun.When can we do it again?" to which all the kids said, "Yeah! Let's take Daddy next time. He'd have a lot of fun."

And doesn't it feel like our lives as moms are this way, more often than not? We begin with high hopes and a lot of vim and vigor and then ... the walk is longer than we imagined, dark comes on sooner, the food runs out, and ... there are coyotes! 

Our newest book, The Lifegiving Parent, is all about the ways we walk along the path of life with our children, encouraging them to find life in God. Available now for preorder!

The Mom Walk ... So Much More Than We Anticipate! (Part One)


The rugged Rocky Mountains fairly beckoned to us to come outside to celebrate each morning as we awakened and sipped coffee on our deck. We had recently moved into a home situated at 7500 feet in the hills of Monument, Colorado, and it also backed up to 25,000 acres of national forest. Pike's Peak was just down the ridge. We were only beginning to discover wonderful trails and vistas that were open to us literally out our back door.

One day, as we were out for a walk, a casual acquaintance, riding a mountain bike near our home, stopped to talk about his recent ride in the mountains.

"There is a spectacular vista in the mountain just above your house where you can see hundreds of miles in all directions. I think it's at 9000 feet—about a 1500-foot climb for you. It would probably only take you an hour or so to make the hike, and I think you and your kids would absolutely love the area."

He quickly told me how to get to the trailhead and wished me well before riding away.

I had been waiting for the right day, and today the calendar was free and the weather was inviting, with crisp, cool air and sunshine. I announced to my four children (Sarah, 15; Joel, 12; Nathan, 10; and Joy, 4) that we would be taking a hike and picnic up in the high mountain behind us. Packing a light lunch with egg salad finger sandwiches, bottles of water, grapes, and a couple of chocolate chip cookies for each of us finished my preparation. I didn't want our pack to be too heavy because I knew I would have to carry Joy on my back part of the way.

After smearing sunscreen on all of us and finding Nathan's tennis shoes and zipping up alight jacket on Joy, we opened the back door and began our adventure. Penny, our loyal golden retriever, trotted along behind us. I yelled goodbye to Clay, my husband, who was working on a deadline for our ministry. "We might be up there for several hours because I hear it is a great place to play," I said to him as I closed the back door.

I have to admit, I was feeling a little proud of being such a great mom—making an unforgettable memory, providing an adventure for my children, and supplying all we would need for our trip.

We found the trailhead within ten minutes and began the steep climb to the lookout. Sarah yelled a challenge to the boys, "Hey, let's run up the mountain and see who can beat to the top!" The three older kids energetically left at a run while I held Joy's hand and started a slower ascent. After about 20 minutes, we caught up with the more energetic group, who were all sitting on the side of the pathway out of breath and panting from the thin mountain air

"How much further to the top?" questioned one of my boys. "I'm already tired and hungry!"

"Don't worry! My friend said we could probably make the whole hike in one hour, so in another 15 minutes we should reach the top of the hill where there is a vista, and we will picnic there," I confidently assured him.

About 20 minutes later, panting and sweating, we all pulled up to a lovely vista that we supposed was the top of the mountain. I was so relieved because carrying Joy the last 15 minutes had been quite taxing. Surely I had just finished the most arduous climb.

We discovered a lovely meadow a little bit beyond the cliff where we had been looking out over the valley and city below. Running through the grassy field, we discovered a tiny, weather-worn cabin, half blown down. Sitting on the old logs and pulling out our lunch pleased us all. Amid the giggles and chattering, we decided to pretend that we were pioneers on the Oregon Trail. The kids ran around whooping and amusing themselves while I enjoyed the beauty and rested under the shade of an old pine. One of my children even found a small cross in the middle of a circle of stones that looked like an old tombstone. What an adventure as we imagined the story of the lives of people who had built a home so high in the mountains, who must have known deep joys and sorrows.

Feeling well pleased with myself at the sweet memories we were making, we gathered around and thanked the Lord for our adventure and for giving us such a beautiful day. After packing up the litter from our picnic, we decided we were rested enough to complete the rest of the hike to the end of the trail. Off we went on our journey with a renewed sense of adventure. Within ten minutes, our path led to gigantic boulders and a small stream that led southward along the back of the mountain we had just climbed. The older three fearlessly began to climb the rocks that were 12 to 20 feet in height.

"Be careful! If you fall, I would have a hard time helping you because Joy and I can't climb up there."

A tiny sense of irritation began to bubble up in my heart, which often surprises me in taxing moments of caring for my children's needs. I recognized my emotions beginning to go a bit sour from being fatigued.

Making progress on the trail among the rocks was a bit slow. After about an hour, the kids rejoined Joy and me and asked for a drink. Each water bottle had just an inch of water left, but since we were certainly close to the end of the trail, I let everyone drink their last sip.

Why have we been hiking well over two hours and have not come to the end of the trail? It must be because of the slower pace we are walking and from having young children with me. After all, my friend had been on a mountain bike. I can't imagine how he could have ridden his bike on these rough trails. Some people are just tougher than others.

The beauty and views of seemingly untouched wilderness awed and amazed us as we quietly walked forward on a now scarcely visible path. We wondered if it was a pathway made by deer leading to the stream. Picnicking and hiking need to become a regular activity, we unanimously agreed. "Aren't we happy we all moved to Colorado?" Sarah asked.

Gingerly we continued to walk forward along the faint trail, which by now had left the stream and led into the dark shadows of an overgrown pine forest. The path moved into the shadows along a very narrow trail on the side of the mountain. I began to perceive that everyone was becoming exhausted. The food was gone and it was time for Joy's nap. What had been a playful, rousing adventure at the start, when everyone was excited and filled with wonder, was slowly dissipating into a silent march, as each of us focused on putting one foot in front of the other.

After a quiet 15 minutes, Joel verbalized what we had all secretly been thinking. "Are we on the right trail? I thought we were supposed to be home by now. What if we are lost? Maybe we should go back. We might be in danger if we don't start back home soon."

Reflecting on the difficult time I had already had bringing Joy through the rough wall of rocks, I couldn't even imagine taking her back the same way without even greater effort. At least this trail was straight and not on a steep ascent, as the previous trail had been. Though I didn't know where it led, I was unwilling to go back on the more difficult part. We seemed to be heading toward the other end of our mountain. Surely we would come to the turning point soon.

"I think we will be okay, Joel, if we just keep going. It would take us almost two and a half hours to backtrack, and I am sure we will find the end of this trail soon. It probably leads around to the other part of the road, which leads right to our house. I think you kids have done amazingly well. What troopers you are and such amazing hikers! Daddy will be so proud of you when he finds out how well you have done."

I hoped my enthusiastic voice would not betray my hidden feelings of fear, exhaustion, and irritation at myself for not getting a map of the mountain. I had never really been on a primitive trail like this and was only beginning to realize how unprepared I had been for such a trek. I had heard of the "wildness" of the wilderness. It seemed that we were indeed in wilderness, as we had not passed another human being in our path for the last three hours...

For the rest of the story, you'll have to come back Friday!

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