We must Encounter God, Look for Him in Nature

"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

Tell Me, if you have understanding,

Who set its measurements? ...

Or who laid its cornerstone,

When the morning stars sang together

And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Or who enclosed the sea with doors

When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;

When I made a cloud its garment

And thick darkness its swaddling band,

And I placed boundaries on it

And set a bolt and doors,

And I said, 'Thus far you shall come, but no farther;

And here shall your proud waves stop'?

Have you ever in your life commanded the morning,

And caused the dawn to know its place,

That it might take hold of the ends of the earth,

And the wicked be shaken out of it?...

Have you entered into the springs of the sea

Or walked in the recesses of the deep?...

Have you understood the expanse of the earth? ...

Where is the way to the dwelling of light?

And darkness, where is its place,

That you may take it to its territory

And that you may discern the paths to its home? ...

Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,

Or have you seen the storehouses of the hail ...

Where is the way that the light is divided,

Or the east wind scattered on the earth? ..."

from Job 38

There are times in our lives when each of us encounter dryness of soul, a feeling of being distant from God. As i was walking the sidewalks in London last week, I was surrounded by myriad crowds of people walking to and fro, in a crowd yet seeming alone in the sea of humanity, awash with the despair of the fire that consumed so many lives, the van that drove into a crowd of muslims to kill them, a man wielding a knife in Parliament. 

There are difficulties in each of our lives, and yet, we must do what we can to keep our souls alive. Often, I find that when i am in nature, surrounded by God's fingerprints of an artist crafting beauty for his children's pleasure, I find comfort, feel His gentle presence, understand His love even more.

I will never forget one occasion when I felt overwhelmed in nature, certain I was in the presence of a fun, dancing, delightful—and delighted—God. I was in Australia speaking to several groups. At around 5:00 a.m. I awakened to what almost seemed like a dream. Outside my window, birds were cawing, whistling, and singing to one another; insects were chirping and buzzing; and mysterious animals—I knew not what— were hooting and humming.

My daughter and I dressed quickly to walk outside and take it all in. As we stepped out onto the country road in front of our bed-and- breakfast, I was overwhelmed with the celebration of life and the symphony of sound that surrounded us. Gigantic butterflies were gently swaying in the breezes; brilliantly colored flowers and bushes were blooming and sending out sweet scents; parrots and cockatoos were flying around in the high trees. And not far away from us stood an animal leaning on its back legs.

My daughter and I sputtered as we both exclaimed, "Look at that thing in the road! It's a ... I don't know. It's too small to be a kangaroo. Isn't it sweet? And funny? What is it?" As if on cue, it jumped away. We found out later it was a wallaby.

It seemed to me that every point in sight vibrated with movement and flying and chirping, and all was ablaze with color. The warm life of the creatures and plants was almost palpable. It gave new meaning to Genesis 1, when God created the earth. Even though I had never encountered this abundance before, it didn't mean it didn't exist. It always existed like this through the centuries, but once I experienced it, it became a part of me. It awakened a place in my soul that was longing to be stirred. It gave me a hilarious sense of fun and adventure to explore such a foreign but delightfully sensual place. I had a new venue for experiencing life, for enjoying eye pleasure, ear pleasure, tactile pleasure.

Evident in this experience was the fact that there must have been a much more profound substantiation of God's handiwork in creation long, long ago, when the world was untouched by pollution, industrialization, and the forming of large cities. I am not just talking about environmental issues; I was truly astounded at this new world that always existed and yet that I had never experienced. It made me feel as if God had secret places and powers that He would exhibit throughout the universe as an expression of spontaneous creativity, just as his Artist nature demands.

It dawned on me that if this was so pleasing to me somewhere deep inside, then He must have meant for us to experience deep, gratifying delight and joy that we somehow miss out on in our contemporary world. Perhaps the more isolated we are from nature, the more isolated we will feel from God, and so we remove ourselves from one of His most personal gifts to bring us joy.

This indeed gave real meaning to God's question to Job. In other words, "Job, when you consider that My hand made the marvels of nature, which because of the grandeur called forth a spontaneous cheering and song, then you can know that I am beyond understanding. I am bigger than this isolated moment of pain on the earth. Job, in this you can know my eternal transcendence. You can know that I am the infinite, the Creator, your heavenly Father. I am above and beyond all of your finite mind's consideration of what you see in this moment. I am infinite in power, glory, beauty, and purpose. Let what you see comfort you—that I am above and beyond all of your present sufferings and limitations. Then you will be able to trust in the midst of difficulties, which you cannot yet understand."

I realized that in our time of history, living in the throes of a technological world where everyone rides in cars with closed windows and subways that speed along, when we stay inside our enclosed boxes (houses and apartments) to watch television and to play with our machines (computers and gaming devices), the creation of God is blocked out. Often, too, this kind of living produces isolation from real people--and that is a dangerous thing, to be sure.

But we have agency to care for our souls, to invest in faith by believing in His goodness. We must seek to light a candle in all the days of darkness so that others may continue to look for and believe in His light. May you find His comfort and presence to be real in your life today. It is my prayer for you and for me.

Do you ever feel isolated from nature and people in your daily life? What will you do to overcome that, today?

More about walking with God through life here: Dancing With My Father.

10 Favorite Picture Books

Blueberries for Sal

By Robert McCloskey

A beloved children’s classic, Blueberries for Sal captured my children’s hearts as they followed the story of a little girl and a baby bear who were hunting with their respective mothers through the Maine countryside on a glorious summer day. The girl’s and the baby bear’s trails of curiosity keeps you wondering where their appetites will lead. I also love the blue-stained illustrations for their simple child-like quality.

 

Miss Rumphius

By Barbara Cooney

This one might be my favorite picture-book! Cooney, an author and illustrator, tells the story of Alice Rumphius who longed to travel the world, to live in a house by the sea, and to do something to make the world more beautiful. The ‘real’ Miss Rumphius scattered lupine seed along the coast of Maine wherever her feet carried her. We have felt inspired by this story and it has led to discussions of how we can make the world a a more beautiful place.

 

Roxaboxen

By Alice McLerran

If there’s one picture-book that has encouraged imagination and free play in my kids, it’s this one! This gem of a story is about an imaginary town called Roxaboxen. "Marian was mayor, of course; that was just the way she was. Nobody minded." The rules don't even have to be consistent, as long as they make their own kind of sense. Speeding was not allowed by car but "if you had a horse, you could go as fast as the wind”, and all you needed for a horse was “a stick and some kind of bridle”. This sweet story has stuck in our hearts and minds and is one we have read and over and over and never seem to tire of reading.

Pointing Out Beauty- The Calling Card of God

There is something in God's very nature that must express itself in beauty. We have noticed over the years, that often, when a culture adopts a godless philosophy, like communism or socialism,  beauty begins to disappear from the culture of the people. Buildings and furniture and art become either more utilitarian or abstract, concrete becomes a choice replacing craftsmanship.

However, beauty is one of those attributes of God's world that hushes us in quiet admiration. Just the other day, when we went out walking, there was the largest double rainbow in the sky that I had ever seen. We had to stop and marvel and call Clay on the phone to be sure he had a chance to see it!

The snowy winter we've experienced means there's been a lot of nutrition sent deep into roots of trees and wildflowers, and we know why this state was named Colorado--the dark blues of the sky and the greens of the trees and grass and a proliferation of wild flowers are evident of a very colorful Artist who designed this colorful state. 

Several years ago, we invited a group of mothers and daughters over for a tea in our home. Each person had to bring something they thought was beautiful and tell a story about it. One of the great ones was a beautiful stitchery that one of the mom's husbands had made for her when they were in high school! Then each mother read a quotation about beauty which had been slipped under their luncheon plate.

Finally, Sarah read a beautiful passage from The Secret Garden. When Colin, a boy crippled from birth, is wheeled into the secret garden that his two friends have been working on, he marvels breathlessly at the beauty of the garden; the roses, the robin, all the vibrant colors--and he says, "I know that now I can get well because of what I have beheld." Sarah then  talked to the girls and moms about the intrinsic beauty that God has placed in their souls, meant to reflect Him in their lives, the way they live, the way they serve, the way they dress. That beauty is also a reminder that when we subdue and create an atmosphere of beauty and creativity in our homes, we were giving one more testimony of His reality in our lives.

The end was even better than the beginning of the tea, because she had made lemon cake with raspberry filling to serve everyone! She also gave each daughter a present: a real pearl necklace on a ribbon. Jesus, the Author of beauty, was considered the pearl of great price--the only One worth giving up everything for in order to purchase it.

What a wonderful memory, made by gathering friends and celebrating life together.

It took lots of planning and creativity to make this afternoon happen, but it was also a precious learning opportunity for my girls, and a memory we'll all share for years to come! What sort of gathering and celebrating might you create, in your own home?

An observation I have made again this season is that wherever there is a garden that is blooming beautifully or a meal that draws us to table, there is someone behind both that had to invest in planting a seed, tilling the ground, gathering the food, cooking, setting the table. Beauty comes about from someone who took the time to craft it, and the crafting adds dimension and pleasure to our lives, even as God did when He created the world in all its splendor. 

How will you make the effort this summer to intentionally plant beauty and creativity through your life?

A Heart for Character

"Mom, can we plant my new flower seeds in my little garden?"

My sweet girl's brown eyes pooled as she looked up at me with longing and a shaky sort of hope. The past year's difficult transitions of moving across the country and trying to make new friends all seemed to show on her face. I knew immediately that this was one of those moments when I needed to stop all my own tasks and attend to her heart. 

As we sat together in the backyard with her little trowel and a packet of seeds, we began to talk about the way we would need to turn up the dirt so that flowers would have a healthy place to grow. Beneath a dry crust we removed little pebbles and surrounding weeds. 

"This is what Mary had to do too isn't, Mom? After she and Dicken found the door?"

She was recalling the narrative from one of our most beloved stories- The Secret Garden. 

"Yes, it is!" Everything was dry and tangled and probably full of weeks when they found the garden. They had to be very patient while they prepared the earth so that things could grow." I paused and then felt led to continue...." You know the real work in the garden was softening all the soil and all that pruning. Remember how in the story everything began to bloom as Mary's heart heal?"

Mary Lennox, the protagonist of the famous children's book, was just like the garden. Grieving and neglected, the little girl's heart was hard like ground that had gone un-tended.  She had closed herself off just like the garden wall had sealed off its beauty, but as she began to see to the care of beauty, she herself became beautiful. 

My sweet daughter, only 9 years old, was feeling the pangs of loss and not sure how to fit in to her surroundings. I feared she might close herself off to the possibility and beauty of something new. But here we were, talking about how hearts gently unfurl, and as we planted the tiny seeds we prayed together for hope to grow just like the flowers. It was a moment recently when I realized the power of story in her life. The way a literary example had stirred both my child's imagination and her faith. Her character was being shaped in the moments that we shared in the dirt together, but a seed had been planted long before that connected her heart to that moment, and to the possibility of what God could do in her young life when she brought her dry and hurting places into the presence of the Master Gardener.

Character, we are told, is often caught, more than taught, and so it is so important for us to provide our children with examples in literature, in history and of course, in Scripture. What we pour into their hearts in this way are like small seeds, watered by our love and attention, activating an imagination that take root in their heart. These seeds will be tended over time by our instruction and correction, by opportunities for weeding and pruning in the garden of their hearts. And over time, we begin to see beauty in the garden as their character grows and develops.

One of my favorite quotes on the matter of character is from Abraham Lincoln. He famously said,

"Character is like a tree, and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing."

Behavior is shadow. It is the tree that is the real thing. That is healthy or unhealthy.

The tree is the heart.

What seeds are being planted that will grow into the real thing in your child's life right now? Is it the kind of tree that when it is fully grown will cast pleasant shadows on hot days, and go before them as a reputation that glorifies God? A regal oak begins as small acorn. Great things often start very small. And the small work, little by little that you put your hands to today, are a valuable work of creating a great forest.

Developing character can often feel like a mysterious charge, and so in today's podcast Sally and I are talking more about this, why character is a gift of heart that we must give to our children before they leave home, and we are sharing some of the ways we have found to awaken a moral imagination in our children and reach their hearts. All of the favorite books we discuss are even linked up below in this post (yeah for books!)

We are praying for you as you tend to the hearts of your families today. You are dear to us!

Much love,

Kristen Kill

Episode #86

"He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much." -Luke 16:10

" I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man."

-George Washington

In this episode, Sally and Kristen get at the heart of godly character, and how it is cultivated, inspired and tended to in the lives of our children. They discuss how to really reach the hearts of our children when they fail (not in the heat of the moment!) and how to create opportunities in your home that invite confession and repentance. They also share some of their favorite literary examples that have helped them along the way. Their favorites are here for you to see below (if you are on itunes or receiving this via RSS feed in your email, click over to sallyclarkson.com to see them all prettied up) 

Then Kristen is joined by Misty Krasawski who shares how she walks side by side with her children each day, providing organic opportunities for training them and inspiring their imagination through story. 

This week's Bible Memory pdf is available here: Week Three Bible Memory

Misty Krasawski is wife to Rob and mama to eight precious children plus two beautiful daughters-in-law. She spends her free time (!) trying to avoid the laundry by reading classic books, painting watercolors, lighting too many candles, baking copious amounts of cookies, and studying as much theology as she can lay her hands on. She loves encouraging people to chase the dreams God has placed in their hearts, preferably over steaming cups of tea and coffee and probably something chocolate. You can find her writing (when the laundry's done) at It's A Beautiful Life .

Misty Krasawski is wife to Rob and mama to eight precious children plus two beautiful daughters-in-law. She spends her free time (!) trying to avoid the laundry by reading classic books, painting watercolors, lighting too many candles, baking copious amounts of cookies, and studying as much theology as she can lay her hands on. She loves encouraging people to chase the dreams God has placed in their hearts, preferably over steaming cups of tea and coffee and probably something chocolate. You can find her writing (when the laundry's done) at It's A Beautiful Life .

Find some of the books we've discussed this week here ...

All Children Are Different In Some Way! Focus On the Heart

Every person born has a unique DNA, unique fingerprints, and is individual in personality, looks, capacity, in every way. Because we are so oriented to ourselves, we often tend to judge ourselves as the true standard of how a person behaves, what choices they make, what preferences they have.

The truth is, God created each of us with our own unique capacity to make choices in life, to respond from our very own point of view within the structure of our creation--by His hand. Psalm 139 tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and consequently, every adult and child is *different* in some way.

When Nathan and I wrote Different, our heart was to offer grace and hope as we told a bit of our story of walking through his out of the box issues in our own home. However, it wasn't only written for those with diagnoses.  Personality quirks, interests, circumstances, and life situations all affect our children and shape them into the particular gift God has sent to each family. We wanted the stories in Different to encourage mamas to not give up as they approached all the potential differences in their own children--as well as the differences they might encounter in others.

Because we respond to people from our own point of view, sometimes we are guilty of attributing wrong motives because of the external behavior of others. We judge them by what their behavior might mean if we made the same choices. Yet, we must look below the surface and understand that often, people work from their own opinions, and make conclusions based on the information they have--and not from an evil or rebellious heart. 

Nathan used to argue at the dinner table most evenings when we would discuss different issues. Yet, now I know that God made him a thinker-debater who cares deeply about truth, right thinking, great ideas. And so, his immature little self was exercising his opinions in an immature way as he stretched and grew toward maturity. I had to help train him to say things in a peace-making or considerate way---that was my role as a mama. But if I had constantly judge his motives--"He is intent on being argumentative and therefore rebellious!" then I would have crushed his spirit and given him a mantle of guilt for just being himself. Have you ever felt guilty for being different--as though you were too much for people when you were only being yourself? It is because you were judged by a limited perception of what personality behavior is acceptable.

As I prayed for Nathan and pondered him over the early years of his life, I gradually began to understand more fully that he was not a problem to be addressed, not the sum of his behavioral performance. His worth to God was not about his ability to fulfill other people’s expectations or act according to accepted norms. Instead he was a beloved child of the Father with a specific role to play in God’s ongoing story of redemption.

Again, this was a lesson long in coming. It hurt my feelings when people made no effort to understand what we were going through as we responded to his "differences" and bigness of life on a daily basis. I often felt humbled, discouraged, angry, lonely, and so very tired of dealing with these issues day in and day out, especially with three other children who needed me and other responsibilities mounting in my life. Daily I sought for wisdom, understanding, and insight into what would make our lives a bit easier and help all my children grow into their potential. But my other children had issues as well--moodiness, mouthiness, fear, anxiety at times, all sorts of behavioral immaturity. All are sinful and limited in some way. And gradually I began to focus on two scriptural principles that helped me immensely.

Because of my many years in ministry, I had studied and written a lot about Jesus’ relationship with His disciples. And I had noticed that one of the Master’s relational strengths was His constantly speaking positive things into the lives of His followers:

  • “Peter, you are the rock” (see Matthew 16:18).

  • “Mary, you chose the good part” and (later)

  • “Mary, your story will be told through generations because you have done this beautiful thing for Me” (see Luke 10:42 and Matthew 26:6-13).
  • “Centurion, I have never seen greater faith in all of Israel” (see Matthew 8:10).

  • “Nathanael, you are a man in whom there is no deceit” (see John 1:47).

     

That was one principle. The other emerged as I studied God’s priority for His children throughout Scripture. I noticed a consistent theme: the importance of the heart.

 

  • “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT).

  • “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Matthew 22:37).

  • “The eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

    There are many, many verses like these throughout the Old and New Testaments. In fact, the heart is mentioned as a priority to God more than eight hundred times in Scripture. The overall implication is that God values the inner person—will, imagination, values, purpose, attitude—more than behavior or even beliefs.

That’s not to say behavior and beliefs are unimportant. They are. But God seems to care most about who we are on the inside. He looks for a heart that is devoted to trusting Him and then strongly supports this person’s life, work, and relationships, accomplishing far beyond what that person could do naturally.

Those two scriptural principles—speaking positive words into a life and focusing on heart issues—became my essential strategy for raising Nathan. We prayed regularly that God would help us figure out how to reach Nathan’s heart with a vision for how God might use him. We wanted to build a world in Nathan’s mind where he was not always the odd man out, the kid who could not perform to the expectations of others. He needed a sense of himself that was not based on math scores or behaving correctly inside four walls, but on integrity, moral character, and courageous action. He needed to find a way to be fully himself and yet be strong in ways that God would use.

This kind of affirmation is important for all children, of course, but it's especially crucial for the "Nathans" of the world, who tend to push buttons and provoke negative feedback from others and who can easily lose heart as a result.

A constant feeling of just not measuring up can build a lifelong legacy of insecurity and even despair. Feeling like a disappointment on a regular basis can actually shape the brain patterns of a growing child. Failure and helplessness can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

So how can the parents of a different child counter that tendency while still giving the child necessary guidance? Partly by choosing our battles, as I have already mentioned. (Not everything is worth a confrontation or even a correction.) But also by deliberately speaking forward, by faith, into the heart of the child.

 
 

How can you speak faith into your own child's heart today?

You can find a copy of Different here!

Storyformed Q & A - A New Podcast

david-beale-170559.jpg

In this Storyformed episode, Holly Packiam and Jaime Showmaker answer listener questions. 

Topics include:

  • Whether to borrow or buy children's books;
  • Whether to follow a book list or use intuition when choosing books;
  • Reading aloud;
  • How to turn our kids into readers; and
  • Whether or not to read the same books over and over. 

CLICK HERE to listen to the podcast and to view the Show Notes. 

Sometimes It Takes a Star To Remind Me How Big God Is

When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy? Job 38:7

Some years ago, our family was sharing delectable hamburgers and sizzling steaks outside on the mountain deck of close friends. They had borrowed a high powered telescope from a relative to give all of our children an opportunity to celebrate the night sky on a clear summer's night. Having never had this experience, I had no idea  how deeply beguiled my soul would become from viewing the intricate artistry of God amongst the constellations, cast out infinitely across the heavens above.

After every child had taken his turn at the amazing telescope and gasped and danced in delight, my children all said, "Mom, you have to see this--this is your star--it is bright blue (my favorite color)!"

As I peered into the scope, it took my eyes a few seconds to adjust to the picture inside the scope, and then, suddenly, I was confronted by an astonishingly bright blue, dancing star, seemingly sparkling and turning in beauty and celebration of life. I was mesmerized as I had heard all of my life of "twinkling" stars, but had never seen something so clearly beautiful with my own eyes. The telescope had revealed to me what had always been there, but what I had never been able to perceive with my own limited powers.

I was deeply changed that night, unexpectedly. Confronted once again with the "bigness" of God, the divine beauty and power beyond my understanding. A realization dawned on me that I can only see circumstances and the steps of my journey from a very limited perspective. Yet, God, my heavenly Father, who is vastly more infinite and wise than my small mind can comprehend, is above all moments and all days.

Often, as a "toddler" I can shake my fist and say, "God, don't you care that I am going under or that you are making my life or marriage or children's lives more difficult than I can imagine?"

And yet, God is not threatened by my tantrums as He has lived through the fist shaking and heart rending prayers of so many generations of children. And because He is a good Father, He does not give in to our demands, knowing that His will is far better for us and that He truly is able to turn all things together for the good for those of us who are called to His purposes and who are willing to wait upon Him to work His ways through us.

Usually serving God requires endless waiting on His timing and His ways. And yet, if we could remember the lesson of the Capella star--there are things going on that are truer than the present issues and circumstances that we perceive. God is suiting our soul, building our character, stretching our spiritual and mental and emotional muscles to become Holy, to truly be able to reflect Christ back through us to a world so desperately in need of light. If we obediently trust Him and wait for Him and rest in the knowledge that He is good, even though we live in a fallen place, we will live to see His goodness and His blessing abundantly in His time. He redeems all, He restores all, He is the resurrection power.

Yet, all things may not be obvious until we are with Him, in His place in eternity.

Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world." If we are living for satisfaction and glory in this world, we will not find ultimate satisfaction. I wish I had not fought against God so many times in the years of my family's journey. God allowed so much, but He was also there to walk with me through all of the harsh realities of life and in the midst of it, He forged faith and depth and character in the lives of my children that they would otherwise not have had.

When we pray, "God, make my children holy!", we must understand that it means their road and ours will be challenging and stretching, as all of our faith muscles will have to be stretched in order for us to become strong. I see that in spite of the ways my mother heart would have over-protected my children, God was having His way and building my children into strong adults. His ways trumped my ways because He heard my prayer to make them strong.

I love this quote by David Adam, from the Edge of Glory:

"He forever goes before us to prepare a place for us. He is on the road we tread. Wherever life is leading us, He has gone before. Perhaps we have no clue about what lies ahead; we know who is ahead of us, so the future is not quite unknown." 

I hope something will make you feel small today, and remind you of being in the powerful hands of God!

Have you taken a look at our calendar for June? You can download it here: Lifegiving June

A Heart for Friendship

 
 

Cultivating a heart for friendship lays a foundation that will serve your children, (and you!) the rest of your life. One of the deepest blessings of my life at this stage is the very close, intimate, inspiring, fun friendships I have with my now adult children. But, of course, as with everything else, it took years of heart-work. After all, we invested years and years in one another's lives. Kristen and I hope this podcast and post will be of help to you this summer as you invest in friendships with your own children and friends.

1.   Time and Availability Whatever the age, children develop better when they know we will make our time together a priority. People grow close not through monitoring one another’s behavior but by working together, playing together, talking together, celebrating together, weeping together. Relationships develop when people are there for each other—and that’s as true for parents and children as it is for anyone else.

2. Acceptance and Unconditional Love In building meaningful relationships with my children, I must learn to accept unconditionally the person God made each of them to be—even with personality traits that differ from mine or that make me uncomfortable. I need to accept the “warts” and irritating characteristics that may never change. I have to love my children with a mature commitment that reaches past my feelings for them, which can change from circumstance to circumstance.

3. Affirmation and Encouragement I believe most children, (and adults) are acutely aware of their limitations and their failures. While they might need correction for their mistakes and or even confrontation for their sinful selfishness, they also need recognition for their real efforts and accomplishments and positive reminders of who they can be with God’s help. And sometimes we need to remember, "It is to a man's honor to overlook a sin."

4. Grace Our children need us to give them the grace to grow. If we make them think that we expect perfection, then eventually they may give up trying to please us, because they know they will always fail, or they may spend their whole lives feeling guilty for their failures. And sometimes when life has too many rules, as teens, our children will quit telling us the truth of what they are doing for fear we won't understand or will condemn them. (We cannot live by fear.)

5. Relationship Training We need to consciously train our children in the skills and attitudes that will enable them to sustain positive relationships. A person can only experience true intimacy when his heart has been deepened and exercised in real love and commitment. Practice in manners and speech and gracious behavior comes over a lifetime of cultivating this day in and day out). This is taken from  Mission of Motherhood by me!)

Episode #85 A Heart for Friendship

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." -John 15:13

"You are the first example of friendship to your children." - Sally Clarkson

" True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less." C.S. Lewis

You were never meant, or expected, to do life alone. In this episode, Sally and Kristen discuss how to impart a love of community and friendship to our children. They encourage moms to model how to serve in friendship themselves, as the first model their families will see, and explain what it looks like to serve in friendship through trust, loyalty, empathy and encouragement. They share how to become an invitation to others in everyday life, and how to teach your children to be a friend through:

-Trusting the Holy Spirit

-Training them how to share and live generously

-Teaching them HOW to create community

Ultimately, Sally and Kristen encourage and equip moms to cultivate their own hearts for service and love, while becoming a living example of how to put others first.

Then, they are joined by special guest and friend, Elizabeth Foss who shares her own testimony of trusting God even when we feel weary. Reflecting on her cancer journey and the community knit in her own family mothering nine children, Elizabeth reminds us all that there is nothing that we face that Christ has not also endured. She's also sharing about a special new project that we are excited to share with you called Take Up and Read 

Episode #85 A Heart for Friendship

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." -John 15:13

"You are the first example of friendship to your children." - Sally Clarkson

" True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less." C.S. Lewis

You were never meant, or expected, to do life alone. In this episode, Sally and Kristen discuss how to impart a love of community and friendship to our children. They encourage moms to model how to serve in friendship themselves, as the first model their families will see, and explain what it looks like to serve in friendship through trust, loyalty, empathy and encouragement. They share how to become an invitation to others in everyday life, and how to teach your children to be a friend through:

-Trusting the Holy Spirit

-Training them how to share and live generously

-Teaching them HOW to create community

Ultimately, Sally and Kristen encourage and equip moms to cultivate their own hearts for service and love, while becoming a living example of how to put others first.

Then, they are joined by special guest and friend, Elizabeth Foss who shares her own testimony of trusting God even when we feel weary. Reflecting on her cancer journey and the community knit in her own family mothering nine children, Elizabeth reminds us all that there is nothing that we face that Christ has not also endured. She's also sharing about a special new project that we are excited to share with you called Take Up and Read, a place that invites women to read, to ponder, and to respond to the word of God and provides a gorgeous journal that can aid you in pouring out your own heart to Jesus, to embrace him in any area where you may be suffering, or to learn how to come alongside and be a friend to another person in your life who is walking a road of consolation.

We pray today will be a gift to your hearts as you listen along with us!

Elizabeth Foss is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She’s happy curled up with a good book or tinkering with a turn of phrase. Long walks make her heart sing and occasionally cause her to break into a run. Though she travels frequently, it’s usually only between northern Virginia and her beloved Charlottesville, or to the weekend’s dictated soccer or dance destination. You can find her personal blog at www.elizabethfoss.com

Elizabeth Foss is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She’s happy curled up with a good book or tinkering with a turn of phrase. Long walks make her heart sing and occasionally cause her to break into a run. Though she travels frequently, it’s usually only between northern Virginia and her beloved Charlottesville, or to the weekend’s dictated soccer or dance destination. You can find her personal blog at www.elizabethfoss.com

Find this week's Bible Memory Printable by clicking here!

And if you're looking for our June Calendar full of things to do, books to read, art to view etc. etc. you can find that here!

This week, try teaching your children one of your favorite childhood games--chess, jacks, hopscotch ... whatever you enjoy! Have a wonderful time just being friends.

I WILL BE DOING A SHORT FACEBOOK LIVE ABOUT SOME ASPECTS OF CULTIVATING A LOVE FOR YOUR CHILDREN THROUGH RELATIONSHIP MONDAY, 7:30 Mountain TIME AT THEREALSALLYCLARKSON ON FACEBOOK. HOPE YOU CAN JOIN ME. I WILL ADDRESS A LITTLE BIT OF HOW TO LOVE YOUR CHILDREN WHEN IT IS HARD TO DO.

The Importance of Bedtime Routines

Some years ago I was speaking at the Military Regional Women’s Conference in Hawaii, and I took my youngest, Joy, as my travel companion. Someone asked Joy, then sixteen, to share how to reach the heart of your child or teenager. I had no idea what she would say in response because she and I had recently experienced some conflict in our relationship.

Joy tossed her long, red-streaked brown hair and commented without hesitation, “Every night, no matter what, I knew my mom would come to my bed and spend time with me and talk with me and pray with me before I went to bed. It was our time, when I could pour out my fears, my secrets, my confessions, and my dreams. If you want to win your teen, you need to give them time to talk to you, and bedtime is a great time to do that.”

I was a little surprised to hear that out of all the things we had done together, our bedtime routines came to her mind first. But it made sense when I thought about it. Early in our marriage, Clay and I had heard someone speak about bedtime being an important moment for children, and I had taken that to heart. When each of our children was born, I determined that I would spend an extended time with him or her every night, and I would try to not let them go to bed without a special word of blessing.

Blessing children each night before they go to bed gives them the gift of a peaceful, restful, loved heart. No matter what a day has held—fussing, conflict, excitement, drudgery, joy, celebration, hard work—it’s a way of ending the day well. A bedtime blessing ties all those loose ends together with unconditional love and helps put to rest all the burdens of the day by placing them into the hands of God.


No matter what has transpired throughout the day, we can close it by speaking to our children’s hearts with something like “I love you no matter what. Please forgive me for my impatience today” or “I forgive you for your disobedience today” or “You are very precious to me. I am blessed to have you. You may go to sleep without bearing anger or a guilty conscience or fear because I love you and God loves you, and He will be with you. Sleep in peace, my precious.”

It’s not always easy to manage this, of course. Bedtime can be a burden for an exhausted parent, and it’s not always possible to spend extended time with each child.

Sometimes it’s all but impossible to keep from losing our patience! Please do not imagine our own family bedtimes were without struggle. Not all bedtimes go as we hope, but making a regular rhythm of the closing of the day helps everyone learn to know what to expect. 

But I think when one is intentional about making a bedtime blessing an anchor of the day and guiding and leading your children, friends, and guests to expect that the end of the day will be relational, bedtime can become a grace to all that has transpired throughout the day. A bedtime blessing gives children one last impression of their whole day, and it is a redeeming time of bringing and restoring and offering peace. Best of all, the same principle works with a spouse or roommate.

Clay and I had elaborate bedtime routines for our children when they were young so that they knew what was coming and more easily submitted to the routine. As Nathan had some OCD tendencies about bedtime, we knew that if he could not remember the prayer and the kiss, he would not be able to go to sleep. So often I would repeat a short prayer and say, “Now this time I want you to remember how much I love you and God loves you.”

For many years in our house, baths marked the beginning of the bedtime routine. We would put the kids in our big old bathtub with every imaginable toy—whatever it took to keep them there and to give them a place to expend one last surge of energy. While they splashed, I would sit down to rest and read or have a cup of something just for me, even if the dishes were still in the sink and the house was a wreck. I would spend those few minutes restoring myself because I wanted to be available to extend a nighttime blessing to each of the kids. (If you want to try this, please remember to do it only with age- appropriate children. Babies and toddlers should never be left alone in a tub.)

Once bath time was over, Clay and I would take turns making sure pajamas were on and teeth were brushed. Finally we would gather in the living room or a child’s bedroom for a short read-aloud from a children’s storybook. This expected routine helped them to understand that bedtime and sleep time were coming.

After we read, we would send the kids to the bathroom one last time, then tuck them into bed personally, touch or stroke their foreheads, pray for them, and kiss them. Every night we gave an “I love you” or “I am so very blessed to have you” or other intentional words of acceptance and encouragement.

The more positive and predictable the bedtime routine, we found, the more our children went to bed willingly. “Now it is bedtime,” we would say. “We have bathed, read, and prayed, and now you get such a privilege—you get to snuggle in your lovely bed with your soft, cuddly stuffed animals and go into dreamland.” We always talked sweetly of their beds and tried to make them seem as delightful as possible. We also made good use of positive peer pressure—when all the children worked in routines together, the younger ones tended to follow the routine without much of a fuss. And we made a point to praise them: “You are growing so strong inside. You go to bed like a big boy or girl.”

Children do grow up, eventually, even though we might think that there will never be a time they will go to bed easily. But, now, I am at the place where I would love to have those cuddly, giggly, innocent, affectionate children running around in my own home. 

Do you have a bedtime routine with your own children? Take a few extra minutes tonight to hear their hearts and connect.

Read more about some of our natural family routines here: The Lifegiving Home!

The Mysterious Power of Fairy Stories

Some of my children’s favorite stories are the ones my husband or I make up and share with them at bedtime. Now, it’s a delight to hear my older kids making up stories to share with their younger siblings in hopes of helping them to drift off to sleep when mine can’t seem to do the trick. They frequently ask for us tell them the same stories we’ve made up over and over again. Thus the beginning of our own collection of made-up and passed-along stories.

The most well-known collection of made-up and passed-along stories are what may be called fairy tales, or fairy stories. I’m using the term, ‘fairy stories’ rather loosely to refer to stories that present various forms of supernatural beings, imaginative situations, and worlds. This is a broad field of literature which includes nursery tales, legends, myths, and ancient tales. 

There is incredible value in reading stories to our children in many different genres, but there is something mysteriously powerful about fairy stories. Why are children especially drawn to stories that don’t resemble their everyday life? 

And perhaps more importantly, are fairy stories shaping a child’s moral imagination or damaging it?

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