Living a Life of Joy--in an Imperfect World!

      One afternoon, I was particularly determined to get all my work completed by the end of the day. I drove downtown toward a quiet hotel, with a secluded lobby, where I would be free to write without any interruptions. I had to stop on the way because my gas tank was on empty. (Someone had borrowed my car and left it without gas!)

      Next, I stopped at a coffee shop. Before I ordered, I saw a mug on sale and thought, I would much rather drink out of a real mug so I bought it. I turned to walk away from the counter—and promptly dropped my new purchase. It shattered into hundreds of pieces. I bent down to clean it up and saw that the coffee had spilled on my new shirt. Finally after I cleaned up the mess and fixed my shirt as best as I could, I got on the road again—and was promptly halted by a long, unexpected construction detour. It wasn't dire circumstances, but every moment was a new irritation. I suppose we all have days like this. 

      I could feel my frustration mounting, my stomach slowly turning in knots. Tempted to become irritated at how my day was going, I realized that I was wasting my time, fretting and that it wasn't going to do any good. It's as though a little angel pricked my heart to remind me that God had not lost control. Slowly, I decided to give this book I was working on and its deadline over to the Lord. I  chose not to pay attention to the broken mug and my dirty shirt. After so many years of living in the throes of life, I breathed and remembered that this chaos is just part of normal life. So I put on some quiet instrumental music, sat back in my seat, and slowly began to enjoy the peace as I waited to move through the congested traffic.

       A commitment to living a life of joy involves a one-time decision in our heart: "Lord, I want to know your joy every day of my life, and I will seek to find out what it means to dwell in your presence in joy."

Choosing to cultivate joy through challenging circumstances requires us to look for God’s fingerprints along the way. 

      Experiencing joy, though, is a long-term process and it takes a lifetime to slowly move from stress mode to living into the peace God wants us to know through all the moments of life—a journey toward maturity as we begin to be aware of those thoughts and worries that would steal our joy.

        The more we practice taking all of our troubled thoughts captive, the more easily we will recognize them before they take hold in our heart. Practice and discipline provide strength training for our mental muscles and heart responses. So walking in the reality of joy is a road we truly find only as we mature and become stronger. The more consistently we follow that path—believing in God's goodness and turning away from Satan's taunts—the more the habit to submit to the Lord and trust him becomes second nature.

        We can make a commitment to take every situation, every feeling, every fear to God as it happens. We don't have to remain in a state of emotional separation from the Lord every time we get out of step. We simply have to practice walking each step with him and allow his presence to bring us the joy that comes from resting in the arms of our capable dance partner through each measure of life's song.

Paul wrote, "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). What does it mean to take every thought in your head "captive" to the obedience of Christ?

Are there any specific patterns of thought (fear, jealousy, irritation, impatience) that you struggle with? How does this rob your joy?

What do you need to do to change that pattern?

I've written more about intentionally living a life of joy in Dancing With My Father. You can find it here!

A Wholehearted Booklist

One of the requests we get most frequently here at Storyformed is for book lists. We love to give recommendations and, while we are always working behind the scenes to curate the very best books for you and your family, today we thought that we would point you to a list that our lovely founder, Sarah Clarkson, compiled.

Storyformed is an arm of Whole Heart Ministries, founded by Clay and Sally Clarkson. The mission of Whole Heart is "to encourage and equip Christian parents to raise wholehearted children for Christ." As part of that mission, Sarah has frequently spoken at conferences about the impact of story in the discipleship process. She created this list of recommended children's literature in response to requests for book recommendations from her talks. We hope that you will enjoy this resource and then take some time to look around at all of the other resources that Whole Heart Ministries has to offer as you and your family live a story worth telling.

Click HERE to view Sarah Clarkson's list of recommended children's literature. 

The Importance of Humility-Sowing Love At Home

Jesus once told story of a wealthy man who forgave the debt of a man to whom he had loaned money. Later, the man whose debt had been erased went out and showed no mercy to a man who owed him money. When the wealthy man found out about the man's ungrateful, vindictive deeds, he went back to the man who had been released from the debt and threw him in prison to be tortured until he had personally repaid all the debt. Jesus gives us a powerful warning: "My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart." (Matthew 18:21-35)

This story is about our relationship with the Lord. If He has forgiven us and humbled himself to the point of death to bring about our debt being paid, then we owe everyone we meet the grace, love, mercy and forgiveness that we have received. If we do not forgive others, no matter how unjust their actions were, our hearts will be damaged and we will feel far from God.

I was talking with a godly, older, wiser friend of mine the other day, and she said, "You know, I have lost so many friends over the years because of issues with my children."

She was referring to a situation in which one of her children had been immature and offended one of her friends, and the friend held it against her personally. What a travesty! To lose a friendship over a silly incident is a waste of a good friendship. If we expect our friends and their children to always be mature, we will surely become disappointed and disillusioned. Yet I see it happen all the time. No wonder so many people are suspicious of Christians, if they act just like all other normal, self-centered people, rather than like those who have been redeemed!

There is so much potential for broken relationships--hurt feelings, different values, different philosophies, immaturity, insensitivity, harsh or careless words, bitterness, and irritation. 

The reason for broken relationships  today is because there is so little glue--no commitment--no covenant that says,

No matter what, I will be loyal to you. I will commit to loving you, not with feelings, but with my heart, because God has loved me.

Our children need to see this kind of loyal love demonstrated so that they will stay faithful, strong and true in the difficult relationships they will encounter. They need to know that loving unconditionally is a choice, an obedience.

So many people are brokenhearted because of the actions of others.

But our hearts don't have to stay broken. We can always choose to love, even when we are not loved by people--because God is absolutely, forever committed to loving us.

"I will never leave you or forsake you." Hebrews 13

"Nothing can separate us from the love of God." Romans 8  

"I pray that you may know the Father's love, with which he has loved me from the foundations of the world." John 17

The Role of Humility

I have found that I have had to humble myself so many times in relationships--sometimes when I was wrong, but many times when I thought the other person was wrong. Do you know what I've learned? The more you practice humility, the easier it becomes. We are the most like God when we love and "cover a multitude of sin" with our words and compassion than at any other time. He has not called us to judge, but to love. 

In reality, we all sin, fall short, come up short in some way or another. And so we must understand that everyone we meet comes up short, too. Humility says, "I will never be perfect. I will not condemn myself for being perfect. I will not condemn you for not being perfect."

Does it hurt to be ignored or mistreated? Of course, but if we love Jesus, we are called to love and forgive, not because the person deserves it, but because He wants us to! We love out of our commitment to Him. Loyal love, humble love, "I don't care what you have done--I will always be your friend" sort of love is what makes us, as Christians, a picture of His reality in this world. 

There will be times when relationships are beyond repair. There are so many things in a fallen world that are broken or damaged from generations of sin. Many people are emotionally fragile and scarred, and beyond the ability of being healthy in their responses. These broken friendships break our hearts and the hearts of our children. I wish I had obtained more training earlier in my life or had tools to access those who were incapable of having healthy relationships,  sometimes toxic relationships. But, scripture tells us,

"As far as it is possible, be at peace with all men." Romans 12:18

Proverbs tells us not to relate to fools, (unhealthy, immature,  or destructive people). So we can see that there was some provision for the possibility of being in relationships that we cannot mend or control because we do not control the behavior of others. 

Yet, if we want to be free from the prison of emotional chaos, we have to forgive, we move in the direction of sowing love whenever possible. We grow in humility and giving grace because of our love and obedience to Jesus. Growing in love in relationships takes a lifetime, but Jesus teaches us how to pursue love one lesson at a time and extends His grace as we grow.

And sowing love will produce a wonderful crop of love--eventually! I was talking with Nathan the other day and he said, "You know, Joel is one of the people in the world I most admire. He is a great big brother to follow. I think he is one of my favorite people in all the world." 

Victory! Amazement! They love each other and prefer each other! And it only took over twenty years! Little by little, we sow and water and in time, the seeds will bear fruit. 

Are you a committed believer? Then choose to love! It is your spiritual service of worship to Jesus because of how He loved us.

We love because He first loved us. May God give us the grace today to love. 

"But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men." Luke 6:35

A Heart for Taking Initiative Changes History and Destinies


An Invitation

Many years ago, I was embroiled in the details of life, caring for my young family. Washing 2 loads of clothes, promising a song and rocking chair time to my little toddler, emptying the dishwasher with my blooming pre-teen son who wanted to talk and yelling out the door to my "wild man" that the sun would soon be down and he needed to come in and set the table. 

The phone rang and jarred me out of my whipping around the house.

"Hi, is this Sally Clarkson? You don't know me but my name is Beth Martinez and I live in California. I wondered if you would consider coming to California and doing a mom's conference if I made the arrangements, gathered helpers and found a suitable hotel?"

After talking with her, I prayed about it with Clay, and we decided to do it. 

Wonderful, dear Beth and me!

Wonderful, dear Beth and me!


The next 12 years, thousands and thousands of women attended our Mom Heart conference in California simply because one woman had an idea, took initiative to call me, and helped launch a conference that transformed women all over the west coast.

On a fun helicopter ride in Kona, fast friends forever because of our time together in ministry. 

On a fun helicopter ride in Kona, fast friends forever because of our time together in ministry. 

And another story below was another time my life was changed by someone taking initiative.

Just reaching out, making one little phone call, an email, a card, a plate of cookies or a fb message can change another person's day, giving them hope for this day in their lives. Just a few invitations from friends have changed my life forever.

That's how it has all started for me--these friends I have and don't deserve. One person took initiative to reach out to me, to share Christ with me 45 years ago, and through following events, thousands of lives influenced, family foundations changed for eternity, because of her faithfulness to reach out to me.

No one else saw my silent prayers to know if God existed, but God saw. He put it on the heart of a woman to give me the time of day.

Someone knocked on my dorm door and asked if she could talk to me. She took a risk.....

She graciously showed interest in me and then told me how much God loved me and then invited me to a student meeting.

That's how it all started--finding love, finding friends, purpose, adventure, meaning, friends, fellowship.

Starting a ministry, writing books, creating a blog, hosting intensives, creating conferences.

She changed the course of my life, my marriage, my children's lives, my very destiny--all by one knock on my door and an invitation.

It just takes one person saying, "You want to go out to lunch or coffee?" Or "Would you like to come to my house for a cup of tea?"  "Do you want to talk?"or "Do you want to go with me to a Bible study for moms? It sounds interesting."

By training our children to reach out to others in love by modeling it through our lives and our home life, may mean our children will learn how to be life-changers. 

I am amazed at how much has happened in my life because one sweet, shy woman, boldly took initiative to knock on my door and talk to me.


Through the years, others would volunteer to work at our mom's conferences and we became fast friends because they asked if they could help.  I have been on the phone talking with different friends from all over the United States recently, and realized that we could never have hosted our conferences without their help. 

 I, in no way, deserve these sweet women but they are now in my life because 40 years ago, someone took the initiative to share a life-changing message with me. And so now, though I sin and make mistakes and do things I am embarrassed of, I learned to live by faith, believe in His miracles, invest in ideals and then share this with those He brought into my pathway. And now, I am over blessed with connection to women I never deserved to have as friends, but who willingly move into my heart, all because we are connected by this invisible, creative and loving Life--called Jesus.

I sit in my home and marvel what God has let me be a part of--a movement of like-minded women world-wide who want to make a difference in their own personal worlds. I am blessed with them because

 just  one woman

encouraged me to reach out and to call some friends to tell them about the good news that had changed my life.

So today, I am sitting in the adventure of my little den and seeing miracles take place.

One  friend, just called to pray with me about our family and ministry and health. Others wrote to offer to  are organize  the teas at the different conferences and to offer great ideas about food, talks, devotionals. Some are going to search out our traditional  hearts and chocolates that will grace the tables at the tables of each conference, as always in the past.

Talking to Sarah Mae in Penn. about our chapters in the new book we are writing. Talking with Kristen Kill in New York who is helping design a new ministry. Talking to Lynn Custer in North Carolina who called to say she found some favors. Emailing Misty in Florida about a new book club she is working on. Emailing with Courtney in Ohio about her ministry to women and spreading gentleness amongst the moms from her blog. Talking with Sandra Maddox in California who is providing a ride to the airport and an adventure and a poem. Getting emails from sweet friends saying they will organize the speakers, make meals, buy chocolates, ........

Feeling quite blessed to be associated with precious, servant leader women--they are amazing and we are all connected because of

One Invitation that someone took the initiative to give me to know Him, just 40 years ago

Is someone waiting for an invitation from you, that just might, beyond your imagination, change the course of history?


Episode #90

Do you ever feel that you are victim of circumstance? That there is nothing you can possibly do to flourish or cultivate a meaningful life because of all that has happened to you? In this episode Sally and Kristen discuss how its vital that we learn how to grow in initiative. They share about the importance of choosing to cultivate responsibility into all areas of our lives, and how we can impart a heart for initiative into the lives our children as well, so that they can lead, serve, work and live faithfully into their own callings as victors and over comers. Then, Sally shares a special story about her son, Nathan, and the unlikely way that God is currently using his initiative to bring forth Kingdom messages in Hollywood. 


Here's this week's Bible memory PDF for you to download! Click here ... Week Seven Bible Memory

We're All Different!

Some of the very best stories of my life have been the Nathan stories. My sweet little boy who towers over me now was the source of so much angst and joy all at the same time! I learned so much about the love of my own heavenly Father as I walked as a mama to Nathan. When we wrote Different together, it helped me know both of them even better.

Many people have said to me, "I have a Nathan, too!" I think they usually mean they have a child who always makes them push a little harder than they ever expected as a parent! Some children are just naturally more gregarious and loud, or perhaps extremely timid and afraid. Some have truly diagnosis-worthy differences.

But we've come to realize over the years that all of us are different, in some way.

And of course, because of our own personality, our children can drive us crazy if they are very different than us--or at least push our buttons on a regular basis! Some of these differences are personality driven and sometimes they are issue driven. But what I learned with Nathan is that some of his differences actually were a reflection of the role God had called him to in his life. He is a debater, cares about truth, is unabashedly bold in helping others, sharing his life and goods with down and out people. As an immature little boy, his arguing felt like disrespect when I learned to understand it was a little boy learning to argue for justice, righteousness. So, of course, I wish I had understood more about his heart and not judged him through so many little boy days.  

Nathan writes ...

"I’ve always known I was different. It wasn’t something I chose or an identity I one day decided to wear. Being different is woven into the very fabric of who I am. Part of it comes from the various 'disorders' that have challenged me and my family, and part of it simply comes from the outside-the-box personality God decided to give me.

Being different has made itself evident in every corner of my life, peeking out and reminding me whenever I start to think I might be normal.

I know I’m different because when other children were content with walking on the sidewalk, I felt the need to climb the rails. Because when others’ questions would stop, mine seemed to go on without end, often frustrating those who ran out of answers.

I know I’m different because when I was fifteen I began taking six showers a day and washing my hands until they bled.

I know I’m different because my mind seems to change channels at will, making it nearly impossible to focus on any one thing for more than a few minutes.

I know I’m different because no matter how hard I looked at the math problem or how many times my tutor explained it, my mind simply couldn’t grasp the simple numerical basics that seemed to come so easy to my friends and siblings.

I know I’m different because while I long for affection, I am often scared to touch the ones I love for fear of contaminating them.

I know I’m different because even now as a twenty-seven- year-old adult, there are times when the weight of the world seems so heavy I don’t feel able to leave my apartment.

I know I’m different because I’ve been told so by every important person in my life."

There are an infinite number of ways to be different and to feel like one doesn’t fit in. The difference can be personality driven. It can involve physiological issues, mental illness, or emotional issues, and can be shaped by experience. (Nathan’s case, it turned out, did involve several clinical disorders as well as a number of personality quirks that set him apart from the crowd.)

In writing the book, I realized that I had felt different my whole life--

I am passionate, outspoken, engaged in ways that most of my friends and acquaintances are not. But what if God made me this way because he had shaped me for the very ministry I have been in for most of my adult life? What if my differences equipped me to speak to thousands and to be driven to write messages? All of us have a story to tell, a place to be faithful that will fit in with our own design.

And feeling different—being different—is something our culture, especially our Christian culture, does not talk about much. People often turn their heads away from people and situations they don’t understand and pretend they do not exist. And the words “mental illness” can make them positively squirm.

But the truth is, all of us are a little bit quirky in some way or another.

All of us have Achilles’ heels, uniquely vulnerable areas of our bodies, minds, and personalities. And some of us, to be honest, are a little quirkier than others—which is why we struggle so much and why other people—especially parents, teachers, and authority figures—have a hard time dealing with us. We are not convenient to their expectations of how life ought to play itself out.

But these personality differences, these outside-the-box preferences and approaches to life, don’t have to be liabilities. Or they don’t have to be only liabilities. They can actually be a gift to us and to others who are willing to look at life through our unique lenses.

Nathan and I are overwhelmed by the many letters we receive every day from people all over the world who love this book, for all their children--the way it encourages all of us to find the foundation of love and acceptance from which to influence our children. We are so very grateful for your letters and pray God will encourage all of you every day.

 How are you or your children different?  Have you learned--or are you, like me, still learning?!--to accept and see those differences as blessings?

We hope our book, Different, can be a blessing to moms and children of all ages and stages of life. Find it here ...

Music As Story (An Interview With Terri Moon) - A New Podcast


In this episode, Holly Packiam and Jaime Showmaker interview classical violinist and violin teacher, Terri Moon. We were both inspired by Terri's stories of how she became interested in music and how she shared this passion with others.

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words, and that which cannot remain silent.” — Victor Hugo

Here are a few more thoughts from Terri Moon.

A love for music is an amazing gift you can give your child, a gift that will last a lifetime! Classical music is like a palace you are inviting your child into, one with many different rooms. Whether you find old favorites, or discover new places, you and your children will make memories together. Music is also the confluence of art, literature, and history because it reveals the culture of the time and place in which it was written. 

It might be helpful to know that most music can be divided into two categories — music that tells a story or paints a picture (called ‘program music’) and music that stands alone (called ‘absolute music’). As an entryway into classical music, you might find it easiest to start with ‘program music’ because you can easily tie it to a story. The musical examples I suggested are all ‘program music’ except the ones by Mozart, Haydn, and Bach -- those are ‘absolute’ music examples. However, once you begin the journey you will discover the ways that ‘absolute’ music touches your soul and creates feelings, images, and stories that are unique for each listener. 

Most of all, don’t feel that you have to understand everything about classical music in order to listen. Just let it speak to you, and share the experience of enjoying wonderful music with your child! 

CLICK HERE to listen to this new podcast.

What are your felt needs as a Mom? Listen to this wonderful story....

Leaders gathered from all over the UK when I visited London to encourage one another in Mum Heart Ministry.  

Leaders gathered from all over the UK when I visited London to encourage one another in Mum Heart Ministry.  


Hear from my friends. Listen to their hearts. God is drawing women from all over the world to a common calling--to walk with Him and to build a godly legacy. Watch and feel the bond of these precious mamas. (Or Mums!)

Read the amazing story of how God is on the move in England and Europe.

Oxford was a far off place of high-brow academic professors and aged halls of history in my mind. I never thought or dreamed that my children would walk its streets, become engaged in great ideas, get their degrees from such auspicious universities. Yet, God often has stories for us to live that are very different than we imagined. 

Our first exposure to Oxford came in 2003 when Sarah found a C.S. Lewis conference for us to attend. We saved our money for a year and Clay blessed me by sending Sarah and me to our very first conference together as adults, while he took care of the others. Celebrating 2 weeks of glorious days listening to inspiring lecturers, sipping tea in the shadows of ornate buildings from hundreds of years gone by and having our souls and minds stretched and inspired created a spark in Sarah that enflamed a larger fire later in her life. She dreamed of attending school in Oxford. 

Fast forward many years and eventually, Sarah and Joy would attend classes there the same year. As their mama, I wanted to visit, so I planned a trip. But, I also wondered if there were other women there wanting to hear the same messages we had been teaching in America and other international venues for many years. Because of our association with the C.S. Lewis society through all these years, we had become familiar with his home and those who lived there. They graciously allowed me to use his library and on facebook, I put a post that said I would be there and could host 40 women for a morning out. 

In less that a week, I had over 40 women respond and so we all stuffed into Lewis's library and I spoke for 2 or 3 hours. What fun to meet women from all over England, Scotland, Austria, Germany, and places beyond. I was so surprised, humbled and so very grateful.

As a young woman, I was challenged to invite people into my arenas--whether home or ministry venues--and then expect the Lord to show up. And He really showed up in Oxford. At one of these meetings, (i held 3 over the last few years), I met Jacqui, a sweet friend that I believe God had prepared to head up our ministry in the UK. 

Jacqui and me!

Jacqui and me!


To make a long interesting story a little bit shorter, after becoming friends, having her in my home for a leadership intensive with her sweet friend, Amy, we planned and dreamed about doing a conference in London to begin spreading the training and inspiration with other sweet women.

Amy and her husband generously offered their church for us to host a conference without charge. We planned, they worked hard, and we had a sell out and could not take any more women in their fellowship hall where they had a wonderful English Tea.  One hundred 25 women from all over the UK and Europe showed up--we had 6 countries represented. The conference was so inspiring to me as I saw women from all over, different walks of life, different ages, different cultural backgrounds, but all enthusiastic to learn more about becoming strategic with their family's, children and ministry in building godly children for the next generation. I love these precious ones. 

While in London, I was able to spend several hours with Jacqui. Then, I had the privilege of spending a whole morning with these others who are willing to try to start a ministry in their country where motherhood, children and marriage have been a battleground for many years. 

We are hoping to increase our conferences to at least 2, if not 3 or 4 next year. I am also hoping to spend significant time there in the next couple of years to help train leaders of regions and small groups to take these messages to mums who long for spiritual companionship and encouragement. We have over 325 women involved in our small groups now and hope to equip more women to start more groups so that they will not feel alone.

Please pray for these precious women as they are in a minority in their neighborhoods and churches. Pray for strength, wisdom, community and ministry through their lives. . Please pray for us as we seek to expand our ministry through Europe, Australia, China, South Africa, Asia and other countries where we have active ministries growing. 

If God puts it on your heart to help us expand our ministry around the world, please use the donate button on the sidebar and help us reach parents with the biblical messages of raising godly children who will become the adult leaders in the next generation. We hope to do some leadership training there in the coming year and need to find places for training, a place to stay and materials we can print to give to the various leaders. 

We are so very grateful for all of you who have given so generously to our ministry over the years. We wanted you to see firsthand what God is doing in this special place. 

Won't you leave a comment below to let these precious friends, who mean so much to me, know that you are praying for them and that you feel the same feelings that they feel?

A Heart for Work- The Gift of Purposeful Industry

Building a masterpiece of your own life requires hard work. Just this week, I realized that my adult children somehow miraculously learned to have a strong work ethic in our home even though I didn't think I was succeeding in building one. All four have had to work hard at jobs to afford paying for schooling, making it through challenging universities, writing books, creating projects because of lots and lots of hard work. 

Throughout the messy days of life, I could not always see what was actually being built. But perhaps just like in a building project, there is sawdust, scattered concrete, nails, glass, debri of every sort, and the finished product is not in view, so it is with our lives. We are indeed building but the building debri is in piles all around our lives, even though a great work is in progress. I will never forget these thoughts that played through my mind as I sat in West Minster Abbey. And like me, Joy was also inspired to great thoughts.

Angel voices echoed back and forth creating an heavenly atmosphere in the ancient shadowy cathedral as the sun began to set. Our eyes peered above to the shimmering lights of the stain glass saints as they seemed to come alive with the sun flowing through them at dusk. Dark shining glaze shined out on the intricate woodwork surrounding the windows, as the trilling organ wrapped its mystique of the bold bass notes around our willing hearts. For a tiny moment, we were swept up to heaven.

Joy, 15, was on her first mission trip with me. Having the opportunity to stop in London for 3 days, before we went to Europe, we took the opportunity to go to Evensong at Westminster Abby. Boys are chosen and trained in an elite private school to perform the closing of the day, evening service at the country's historical cathedral.

We walked quietly, reverently out into the night air and whispered quietly, still in awe of the vast beauty of the evening.

"Mama, I was looking at the cut stones and statues, the intricate carvings of all the wood, the stain class windows all around, the gorgeous tapestries, the brass candlesticks and crosses, and the flowers so elegantly placed throughout the hall. I was struck by how much work, planning, design, skill went into creating such a masterpiece of a historical church."

Any great work of beauty that is excellent requires a vast amount of work and constant care and attention.

"To build a home or marriage on a foundation of ideals requires sacrifice. It demands a lot of work that will never be over. These ideals don't come easily to anyone, but they come through battle. It is an illusion to think that any great work of beauty ever comes naturally.  It comes to life little by little by countless days of diligent hard work." 

(Own Your Life, Sally Clarkson)


A great life requires the same--hard work and fortitude. For a person to live well, to love deeply, to grow strong in truth, wisdom and knowledge so as to live with understanding, to become skillful at life and providing, to extend the grace of God into a ministry of outreach requires vision, planning and then lots of work and investment of energy and time. To build a godly legacy with children takes a lifetime of sacrifice. To establish a strong marriage requires years of growing selfless, giving deeply of love, compassion, forgiveness and growing in maturity. Integrity of a life that is filled with godly character and maturity requires many years of choosing to take one more faithful step in the direction of God.

To build a home of ideals means a life of sacrifice. It means a lot of work, and it’s never going to be over. These ideals don’t come easily to anyone; they come through battle. It’s an illusion to think that building a place of beauty ever happens naturally to anymore; it happens little by little…through hard work.

To build these habits and values of hard work comes slowly to our children, from young age to young adult. It is the rhythm of working every day that is the key to developing this work ethic in a child-becoming adult. When a child is used to doing chores, completing a school assignment, carrying their load, they will find it easier to take initiative in their work habits as an adult because it will be second nature.

But, you may not think it is taking root in  your home.

Sarah just finished her degree at Oxford having completed papers of thousands and thousands of words. Joy is in the midst of completing her Master's Degree and pondering more school after that. Nathan is filming his second movie this summer and has just completed his second book. Joel is writing a book, going to graduate school and working on the side on several music projects.

I never thought I was doing enough to create in them a value for hard work, but we "worked" on it every day and God was doing more in their hearts than it looked like on the surface. Be encouraged!

God has created us so that each person is capable of telling a great story with their lives, if they are willing to commit to living for His glory.

You are the masterpiece in the making, truly! One day, one baby step at a time builds a beautiful  life.

Hard work





Love, wisdom and patience

All of these attributes and more are required to build the great life God designed us to live. The end result of such a life is to bring the healing light of Christ into the midst of our own sphere of influence. But, this great work also satisfies the soul.

Yet, not many become great because not many intentionally dedicate themselves to this eternal work of living and engaging in a great story that will be told throughout eternity.

Yet, all it requires is our will and our faith, as we determine to follow hard after Him every day. God delights in our vigorous engagement of life. And He is there to strongly support us each step of the way.

In 2015, how will you imagine the ways in which God created you to become excellent, holy, set apart for His purposes, by living a story that will inspire generations of your family to want to follow in your steps.

It starts with a heart of obedience, today, in the small things, the challenges, the beautiful deeds that require our best.

Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey me."  And obeying Him leads to living and exceptional, set aside holy life--available to all of us if we seek Him with all of our heart. How might our worlds be different if we lived into His amazing Spirit's design imprinted with us us to fulfill?

You might enjoy more inspiration by reading more from Own Your Life

Episode #89

This week Sally and Kristen discuss the idea of how we teach our children about the heart of work through companionship in working with us. They discuss the way that our faith and work are connected, how to give our children a kingdom vision for all they labor in, even the ordinary, and about how in a family, we can equip our children in this each day. Then, Kristen is joined by Ruth Simons, who shares about what its like to work from home with six boys, how she and her husband manage their work, their family, and celebrate each day's rewards together.

This week's Bible Memory Printable can be found here: WEEK SIX BIBLE MEMORY

Ruth is an artist, author, entrepreneur, and speaker. Ruth is most interested in how the gospel intersects her daily life, and longs to see beauty and truth together in any creative medium. She’s an unlikely mom to six young boys and wife to Troy, with whom she leads GraceLaced's small but mighty team. When not painting, writing, and casting vision for, Ruth is usually busy eating chips and salsa, sorting laundry, cooking for large crowds, not finishing her sentences, and discovering off-beaten paths in the wild with her guys. She is a devotee of pho, a recovering perfectionist, a converted four-wheeling enthusiast, and a believer in waiting upon her Redeemer through every season. Ruth, Troy and their boys call both Los Ranchos, New Mexico, and the Western slope of Colorado, near Durango, home and spend their time chasing sunsets as much as possible. Her first book, GraceLaced: Discovering Timeless Truths Through Seasons of the Heart, releases September 1, 2017.

Ruth is an artist, author, entrepreneur, and speaker. Ruth is most interested in how the gospel intersects her daily life, and longs to see beauty and truth together in any creative medium. She’s an unlikely mom to six young boys and wife to Troy, with whom she leads GraceLaced's small but mighty team. When not painting, writing, and casting vision for, Ruth is usually busy eating chips and salsa, sorting laundry, cooking for large crowds, not finishing her sentences, and discovering off-beaten paths in the wild with her guys. She is a devotee of pho, a recovering perfectionist, a converted four-wheeling enthusiast, and a believer in waiting upon her Redeemer through every season.

Ruth, Troy and their boys call both Los Ranchos, New Mexico, and the Western slope of Colorado, near Durango, home and spend their time chasing sunsets as much as possible.

Her first book, GraceLaced: Discovering Timeless Truths Through Seasons of the Heart, releases September 1, 2017.

You're the Conductor of Your Family's Symphony!

I am counting the days until all of my sweet ones will be home with me. So far in 33 years, we have not missed a "Family Day" together, (as we describe in The Lifegiving Home.)

Joy will time her return from Scotland to be home as Thomas and Sarah fly in from Oxford while Joel and Nathan will already be home to greet them. I can't wait. I am already planning meals, fun times, movies, times in a cafe and late nights to sit on their beds speaking of dreams and soul issues. But, as always, it starts with a family ritual that happens every time one of us returns home. It is a home ritual that says, "We are so glad you are here. This is where you belong to a people and a life."

And so I remember other times in the past that hail to the times we are soon to have once again....

Just left the freeway. Home in minutes.”

Nathan’s text set off a familiar flurry of activity as I hurried through the house, eager to complete every preparation before the car headlights bounced off the front windows.

Candles lit.
Favorite acoustic music playing.
House straightened.
Dinner on the stove, cookies in the oven.
Check. (It smelled wonderful!)

Joy, our youngest, was coming home from a semester abroad, her first stint to be overseas by herself for four months. Joel and Nate had been dispatched to travel the familiar hour of highway to the Denver airport and had sent the text as soon as they exited on County Line Road, two miles from our home. I had just enough time to light the lantern at the front door and write “Welcome Home, Joy!” on the small slate board in chalk colors of red and blue.

Standing just inside the door, I paused and looked behind me at the waiting house, my appreciation refreshed by seeing it through the eyes of someone who has been away. I so love this place that my family calls home, that embodies so much of what we have come to think of as “the Clarkson ways.”

Each piece of furniture, each architectural detail, each tradition and ritual sings to us of beauty, safety, and growth—and of the vision, planning, thought, and artistry that went into fleshing out the vision of home that captivated me from the very beginning.

Even as an orchestra needs a conductor to choose the music, lead rehearsals, and unite all of the instruments into a harmonious sound, so every home needs someone who conducts what I call the life music of a home—its atmosphere. The one who conducts is responsible for bringing out the swelling themes, the steady bass notes, the drama of percussion kept in its place, the soaring melodies and intricate counterparts—all the instruments sounding together in a symphony of grace.

In our home, for the most point, the conductor of life within its walls is me. This is the role I have chosen, the role that suits me best, though my husband, Clay, adds his own unique rhythms and melodies and the whole family helps perform the ultimate creation of our shared life. And even as an orchestra must practice the music—with mistakes and interruptions scattered along the way—so our home building has been a process that will take a lifetime to perfect.

From the beginning, the vision Clay and I had for our home was to reflect the reality of the living God—to embody His sparkle, pleasure, artistry, fun, and intimacy. God’s truth was to be taught, cherished, obeyed daily within the boundaries of our home. His love was to be the oxygen that each one of us breathed. Observing the words and life of Christ, I began to understand that a servant’s heart would be required to adequately meet the needs of those who stepped through our doors—whether those needs involved friendship, a place to rest, forgiveness and grace, guidance and instruction, a safe haven from the stresses of the world, or just a place to retreat from the mundane or the burdens of life. And this task began with a heart commitment to make home a holding place for all that is sacred, beautiful, valuable, and reflective of His reality.

Do you see yourself as the conductor of your family's symphony--your own magnum opus? How would envision yourself in that role change your life?

Read more about composing your family symphony in The Lifegiving Home!

Planting Shade Trees Through Story

It's funny that I don't even remember the man's name.  It was a Sunday night, and my husband and I had gone to church for an evening program with a Christian comedian.  Really, it was a rather ordinary day, ending with our regular Sunday evening church attendance. When we walked through the doors that evening,  I had expected to laugh.  What I did not expect, however, was to be hit to the heart with a vision that would become the mission of the rest of my life.

In between the jokes about choir bus tours and fellowship meals, the comedian became suddenly serious.  He began to tell a tale of his family history--immigrant great-grandparents who had to make their way in this vast, new land called America by the sweat of their brow.  And, considering that they settled in Texas, they sweat A LOT.  He spoke about the bush trees in West Texas, how they don't provide much relief from the sweltering Texas sun.  One day, when his great-grandfather was still a very young man, a neighboring farmer saw him out in front of the family home, meticulously burying dozens of acorns.  The farmer approached the grandfather, laughing, and asked, "what in the WORLD are you doing?"

"I'm planting shade trees," the grandfather quietly replied as he continued dropping seeds into the warm soil.

"Shade trees?" the farmer exclaimed, "Don't you know it will take YEARS before these things are big enough to provide any shade? You'll be long gone before then!" he stated smugly.  The grandfather continued planting--determined.

"I'm not planting them for me," he said patiently, "I'm planting them for my grandchildren."

That's when my heart skipped a beat, and God took the words of a comedian I don't even remember and began to reveal to me His plan for the rest of my life: PLANT SHADE TREES.

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