Patience & Love Win the Day & a New Podcast & LAUNCH WEEK! :)

My Wonderful Nathan with me on a hike in our beloved mountains.

My Wonderful Nathan with me on a hike in our beloved mountains.

Today begins Launch Week of our new book, Different. We are so very excited to share our story with you. We hope and pray it will bring courage, comfort, vision and faith to all of you precious ones who are in the trenches of life. Here is a post and video about my sweet Nathan and me, when he wrote me an email to say my love and work all mattered! Be encouraged, sweet friend, that today, your love and patience is making a difference..

Desperate was the word that captured my feelings as a young mom of three under five years old.

Becoming a mom at 31, I did absolutely adore my precious children, but I was exhausted every day, never quite on top of the messes, sleep deprived and often short tempered. For a few years, I gingerly held life together, but seemed to become more weary and exhausted each passing day.

When my third child, Nathan, was born, he appeared perfect. An easy delivery, he slept through the night immediately and I thought, “This is going to be an easy-going baby!”

That lasted for three days.

From that moment on, he was absolutely unpredictable. He did not sleep through the night until he was 4 ½. When I would try to put him to sleep at nights, even as an infant, he would arch his back and scream and yell for thirty minutes.

From time to time, he was that child in a restaurant who would throw a chicken leg across the room, lay on the floor and kick and scream.

No!” was his favorite word when Nathan was five years old. As the third child and second boy, it seemed he had to do something every day to get attention to be sure he was not overlooked.

What am I supposed to do with a child like this?” I prayed every day.

I felt torn between loving my children and feeling inadequate and frustrated most days.

One day, I sat down in total defeat, a sense of darkness hovering over my soul, and wondering what I was doing wrong, I opened my Bible and read…

“Children are a blessing from God, the fruit of the womb is a reward.

Slowly over the next days, as this verse began to capture my imagination, I began to ask God to show me my children from his eyes and to help me to know just how I was supposed to mother them.

Little by little, I fell in love with each child, and began to understand their unique personalities. Working diligently on patience, gentleness and giving them encouragement through thoughtful words, I began to see that I was changing and growing in my ability to manage and give grace to my children. But they were also changing, too. Slowly, they became more delightful, and more responsive.

God lives in my home, but sometimes I ignore Him and don’t hear the music He is playing just for me. This journey of mothering is a challenging marathon of moments, hours, days, months, years, and decades. And yet, in each moment, God has sprinkled across our paths beauty, love, and joy. We have only to cultivate eyes in our hearts to observe this Artist’s work of life.

A few years ago, I got a surprise email from Nathan, that encouraged me to the depth of my toes.  

Hey, sweet Mom,

I just wanted to take a moment and thank you from the bottom of my heart for living the kind of life you led. I realize now I really did have the best mom in the world.

I never knew how much it would mean, that in the mornings as we spent time reading the Bible together,  how much those words would guide me as an adult. You always believed in me and gave me a vision for living my life to the fullest. Spending time being my friend when I know you had a zillion things to do meant more than you will ever know. 

It was the feasts–every night, no matter what we ate, candle light and music and talking and talking.

Saturday night pizza and movie nights.

Bedtime rituals every night with back scratches and stories and one mama song

Washing dishes to Christian rock music to make it easier

Taking me into your room with hot chocolate and mama Nathan times to tell me how special I was.

More things than I can count, but, Mama, I always thought our home was the best in all the world place to be and you made it that way be being an artist of life.  

As I am here in Hollywood, I see so many prodigals, searching, lost and hurting, because most of them have little support or love from home. I can’t tell you how honored I am to call you my mom. The work of moms really makes a difference!

But honestly the most amazing thing to me is the 30+ years you have given your life to serving God, by taking the time to serve all of us. I am so blessed to have you, and the work of your hands will pay off forever in HUGE ways. 

Thanks for choosing the hard path of raising me, and putting up with all my “things”, and loving us enough to give up your whole life.

Love you, mama, you are the best!

Nathan

I cling to this letter to remember that somehow, God took my faith and imperfect efforts to love and raise Nathan to be strong and healthy, and by His grace, He worked beyond what I could ask or think. Stay faithful, sweet mama. Your labor is not in vain. 

Being an intentional mom has stretched me and challenged me more than I ever imagined, but the deep rewards of seeing my adult children become my best friends and watching them flourish, has been more fulfilling than I could possibly have ever known. I pray you will find companionship with us as you read our book.

There are three ways you can join us on Tuesday, our official launch day.

1. Buy the book and buy one for your friends. :) 

2. Join me and Nathan, live, on the Today Show with Kathy Lee and Hoda.

3. Join Nathan and me on Facebook live on Tuesday evening at 9 Eastern, 8 Central, 7 Mountain, 6 Pacific. Leave your questions in the comments below to tell us what you would like us to talk about. And we will tell you all about our experience of being on the Today Show. Gather your friends, make it a party!

All of you wonderful friends have greatly encouraged us on this journey. Thanks so very much for sharing our book, our story, for leaving comments. You are our heroes. Much love and appreciation to all of you!

 

 

 

Nathan Discovering His Passion & Living His Dreams in New York City

But as for me, I will hope continually, And will praise You yet more and more,My mouth shall tell of your righteousness and of your salvation all day long. Psalm 71 14-15

Often, when we have different children, we pray about their future while looking at their disabilities. And yet, often, not always, God wants us to look at His strength and ability to surprise us. 

How did I let my 19 year old boy, with all of his issues, move to New York City to attend New York Film Academy? Well, that could fill a book. But i wanted to share this article of how God allowed us to step out in faith, even with many fears, because Nathan said,

"Mama, what if a wrestler trained his whole life and was never allowed an opportunity to get into the ring to test his strength?"

Long story short, for background, Nathan prayed for 2 years to be able to do something in the acting industry. We thought it was like praying to be the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. The end of the long story, is in our book, Different, but he ended up getting a partial scholarship to New York Film Academy and begged for the opportunity to go attend. Below is part of the story:

I do not recommend anyone using our story as a model of the decisions you should make, but I do want you to know that i am watching God surprise me every day as I see how He is using Nathan in his world.

Each of us has to live by faith in the story God is working through our own lives.

But without faith, we are doomed to live a life that is dependent on our own human strength.

 I pray for all of you sweet ones who have written to me the past couple of weeks. May God give you strength, faith, perseverance and hope for all the puzzle pieces of your life. He is more trustworthy than we can imagine. This from 9 years ago when he was 19.

This is more like a chapter from a book--I will shorten my blog posts soon! :)

********

August, 2008

I just got home at midnight last night and am hitting the ground running, but just had to record a little of the story of what the Lord did. There are times in your life when you pray and pray and wonder if God has heard because you don't necessarily see the results. Then there are times when he parts the Red Sea and you see that He is listening and that He must have heard your other prayers, too, so you have to keep waiting and believe in His goodness. Well, last week was a part the Red Sea time! I will try to make a very long story short.

To start out with, I have to tell you that I had been praying every day for God to provide Nate Christian roomies in New York City. Also, he had been praying for a kindred spirit--spiritually speaking--for two years!  He said not one of his friends that he hung around with was really as idealistic and spiritually connected and artistic and he had longed for some friends who had his values--but Nathan is an extrovert, pied piper sort of guy, out of the box and his besties had all gone away to college after high school. He would always have friends, but at that moment, none who could lift him up and hold him accountable--just our family.

Eight days ago, on Sunday morning, after I had spoken all weekend in Montreal, and was already exhausted, I caught a plane to NY City to meet Clay and Nathan who had flown overnight on the cheap flight and met me so we could ride in a cab together. We had 2 nights in a Holiday Inn Express with free points from our travels. After checking into the hotel, (kinda a less than beautiful area--industrial looking--in a part of Brooklyn). We immediately went, on foot and subway, to meet Nate's new roommate and look at his apartment. When we arrived at his street, I thought, "Wow, this looks desolate, can't imagine Nate coming home to this every day tired from school and feeling ok." But, didn't want to be a wet blanket, so put a positive spin on it. There were bars on all the windows. He was OCD and this was not the cleanest place on the outside.

His room mate was looking out the window for us and waved us in. The apartment inside was surprisingly nice--newly repainted and clean looking. Though small, it looked like it might work. Then when his friend showed us around, we realized it was a three bedroom--each room small but with their own closet. The fourth room--which was supposed to be Nate's, had no closet, had two walls of windows--one into the living room and one into the street--(it was really a porch) and no closet and no light. It was about 6'by 8'. Nate couldn't even lay down on the floor-- as the room was too short for him. (He is almost 6-4) So, the guy immediately said, "Hey, dude, we will charge you$100 less for taking this room." ???????

Clay and I glanced at each other, and didn't say anything, but we knew we would have plenty to say in privacy. (Nathan had a mini-piano and recording-computer set up that he had to have a desk for for his writing and composing and desk work--but they said he could just hang his clothes in the living room and put his desk by the kitchen.

We left the apartment and all of us knew that it wouldn't work for him.  Here we were, New York, 15 million people and no place for Nathan to live. So began the search, on foot--no car. We spent hours and hours traipsing all overthe broader New York city. Wemet with people at his school and used their computers to search out leads, we walked miles and miles and saw places that were in ghettos and dangerous places--but these were in our price range. By Tuesday night, Clay and I were quickly coming to the conclusion that we would just have to bring Nate back home and let him start back in January to give us time to help him. That was when it occurred to me that we had not enlisted prayer support about this. So we contacted our children and told them to pray and I emailed some others and sent out the SOS on this blog.

It was amazing to me to again realize that much of the love we feel from God will be through the body of Christ and if we are cut off from them, we will feel less of His love. Now the next part is difficult to explain, but I will try.

We started receiving emails from people from all over and several said to look at the Redeemer church bulletin board for an apartment or a roommate. We were all three on our computers and cell phones following up every lead. Clay called a number for one of the apartments and a girl answered the phone and said, "Hi, Mark." Clay said, "I am not Mark."

The girl then responded and said, "Oh, my friend Mark has your same area code and he just moved here, too." So she told us his name and that he was also looking for a roommate. I thought, maybe this guy is it! So we got his number and made a lunch appointment with him the next day. At dinner that night, Clay told me the man's whole name and I said, "that sounds so familiar, but I can't figure out why. Then, I remembered that a sweet friend who had been in a small Bible study I was teaching on Mission of Motherhood to some pastor's wives, had texted me on my phone the weekend before. I looked at my text and saw that it was the same man, and she had said, "He is a wonderful Christian leader and you should look him up in New York City. Sweet man, but not the guy for Nate as his plans were indefinite--another closed door, I thought.

So by early Wednesday morning, I was a little blue and thought to myself and to the Lord, "It always seems like we have to do things the hard way. I am tired, Lord, and I know you want me to believe in your goodness, but it would be so wonderful if you would work on our behalf to show Nathan as he enters this city and this era of His life that you are in control.

So I read in my quiet time and was greatly encouraged by several passages which I will share in the next letter. But I was impressed by the Lord to tell Him what I wish we could find for Nathan even if everyone else told us it was impossible.

(I had hoped he could live in Manhattan where it seemed a little safer, and was closer by subway to his school, I also asked that it be esthetically pleasing--a nice looking neighborhood and a nice looking place to go as I already knew that the culture and the noise and the lines and the busy-ness would slowly deplete Nathan and I just wanted him to have a little haven to come home to--even if it was small.  Finally, I wanted him to have godly roommates and support systems.) We had met many nay-sayers who told us Manhattan was absolutely out because of the price, and we should expect to pay at least 900-1000 a month for a room and not to be discouraged by what it looked like.

So, I met with Nate and told him that "Daddy and I can't just leave you here without seeing God work and provide you with some stability." He was open to us but said he hoped in His heart to see God open doors because He had done so much to get him this far.

Meanwhile,  Markhad talked to theother girl who was trying to gather a group of believers to all live in an apartment house together, and told the girl that Nate was a great guy--to be trusted--and so the next morningafter we prayed and had begun to get encouraging emails from people from all over, Nate received a short text from the girl and she said, just thought of something that might help--look at this website and see if you find something. I had just read to Nate the passage about not hiding the lamp on the hill, but letting it shine for all to see and that I thought he should put out an advertisement on these boards for Christian roomates, not just a roommate. When he looked at the bulletin board, there was a standout advertisement, "Two Chritian roomates looking for a third."

We called him immediately and he told Nate all about the place to look up the pictures online--the apartment looked almost too good to be true--newly painted, tile entrance, three bedrooms with windows, a living room and separate small kitchen--now these were things that not all apartments had! And it was pretty from the outside on a normal block that looked out over a beautiful park--now these were all just pictures--and he said the rent would be $500 for each guy--we couldn't believe it--sounded too good to be true--and it was in Manhattan! Then the guy said, "Hope you don't mind, but I need to meet you since we don't really know each other--I need to tell you a little about us and be sure we all fit together!"

So, Nathan went to meet the guy by himself in Central Park. I wondered if a young man could get mugged in the middle of the day--of course my imagination went to the worst place. About thirty minutes later, we got an excited call from Nathan. He said, "You won't believe it, but, not only is this guy a strong Christian, he also attended Masterworks festival this summer (a 4 week Christian arts symposium to encourage musicians, actors, in their Christian faith) and he knows Joel! (Our 21 year old son who had just returned from there!) And he wanted to meet because he and his roommate had standards--no drinking, smoking and no girls overnight--he said they had a commitment to Christ he wanted to uphold and that if I couldn't agree to that, maybe we wouldn't be a good fit!"

Now, we are talking about a needle in the haystack--out of millions of people, the chances that these two would become roommates, find such a great apartment and end up exactly where we had been praying for, was beyond amazing for us! But it doesn't end there.

Even though the boys didn't have the apartment totally secured, (they had to meet with a board from the apartment building Thursday night to be approved), we had to go find Nate furniture and stuff to fill an unfurnished apartment. Nate needed a cheap place, a place to shop where we could put together an apartment for him on a budget and all on foot as we couldn't even imagine using a car there with all the crazy traffic. We walked many  miles that we had to cover finding furniture and utensils and no parking anywhere. So we took the subway to a bus which took us to an IKEA--a Swedish furniture warehouse with economic options--though it comes in kits that you have to build yourself!

We spent 7 hours there trying to find bargains and it had to be delivered the next day to his apartment if we were going to help him put it all together--as they did not deliver on a holiday weekend! So we had to pay for delivery to an apartment that we had never seen to live with boys we had never met and that was still waiting to be approved. We just made sure we could stop the delivery if it didn't go through--though we had no idea what we were going to do with a truck load of stuff and no place to put it!

Meanwhile, Clay and I had moved for our third time. (Did I mention that each of our bags weighed 50 pounds as we had stuff in it for Nate and that it was over 100 degrees?) Our third move was into a lovely little home for people in ministry that had rooms to rent inexpensively.  But did not have air conditioning, no elevator and no internet! So, after lugging these suitcases for 6 days and walking all over the city and helping Nate, we were pretty tired.

But we all took one more breath as we had to meet the next day, if the boys were approved, at 9:30. We took the subway, found the building--and were so encouraged, met the first roommate and within 5 minutes, the door bell rang with all of Nathan's stuff. So we climbed the 5 stairwells countless times to help, I went to a local grocery store while the Clay and Nate were putting his bed furniture together and lugged 6 more bags of groceries on foot to his apartment. (I called them to help me take it up the stairs--I am not that noble!)

Clay and I went back to our rooms, left Nate to stay in the apartment alone that night as his roomies had not arrived.  We showered after sweating all day in the 100 degree weather walking for miles and went to see Mary Poppins on Broadway. This was to have been our week of having time alone as a couple for a few days to celebrate our 25th anniversary two years late--but instead we made some great memories with Nate and fell into bed exhausted each night.

Clay and I did have a lot of fun going to the show and spending most of the next day together and then a nice dinner. Sunday, we met Nate after Church (he had gone with one of his roomies.) When we sat down at a cupcake bakery to have some time alone with him, he said, "You won't believe the story of my third roommate. He grew up in Wichita Falls and knows the Clays (dear friends of ours who used to be on our ministry board.) And he was also homeschooled."

My mind started clicking and I said, "Well, Nate, then he must know this other young man, who also studied music in Boston and was homeschooled and grew up in Texas. I then told him the name of my very dear friend's son, and Nate looked at me very surprised and said, "Mom, that is his name!" Nathan was going to be a roommate with a friend who I had known for ten years and had prayed for!

I had stayed at the home of this young man ten years ago when I had been invited by his mother to speak to their support group. She then became my friend, even spoke at my conference, sent me emails to keep me posted on her children--and I had been praying for her son--and didn't realize he had moved to New York--and this young man who is a believer was going to be Nathan's roommate! Within a few minutes of him telling me this, my phone rang and my friend was on the phone with the same amazement as me! "Sally, we have been praying all week for Matt to find a great apartment at a good price and to find a really good third roommate who was a Christian!"

So I picture heaven getting all these prayer requests from different people all over the US and a prayer coordinator putting them all together to come up with a suitable miracle for all of us! To see how, out of all the millions of people that there are in New Yorkand to even end up with friends--with less than one per cent apartment availability and to see God direct us together to a good apartment at a good price truly had Clay and me in awe. The Lord must have Nate there for a reason to so validate his prayers and faith in this personal way!

We spent several hours yesterday morning reconnecting with an old friend of Clay's from high school and college who had moved to Broadway to work in the musical-acting industry with his family--a wonderful, very spiritually committed man, and he and Nate connected and now Nate will even have a family to connect with regularly!

So, we had a different week than we thought we were going to have, but to be a part of God's miracle for our son as he is building his faith was a blessing--but I have to tell you that being in my home in Monument this morning gives me new eyes to appreciate all that I have--quietness! A mansion compared to the very small housing options available in New York, a place to belong and my own bed!

I have to say, that indeed, my mouth will speak of the great things my precious Lord has done! Thanks for praying for us! When we had your support we began to see the Lord work! Now onward to life!

Sally

For more of the story, read Different.

What to do with the Child Who Doesn't Fit In & the Ones that Push Your Buttons

Family Day--We haven't missed one in 32 years! My button-pushing, out of the box kids.

Family Day--We haven't missed one in 32 years! My button-pushing, out of the box kids.

A long article, but one day I sat down and wrote my best advice to some friends who asked me to give input for out of the box kids--two years ago, before we wrote the book. Maybe my journey will encourage you. 

My 4--one adhd, ocd, odd; three compulsive ocd children, one obsessively fearful child, two introverts, two extraverts, two very driven and orderly, two out of the box, totally non-conformist. Two somewhat compliant, two who questioned everything I said and did. One actor-producer; one full time writer (books, blogs), one debater and trainer-leader; one dreamer and musical composer. (Aren't they cute?)

I am no expert, except on my own journey as a mom of such different children, who did not all fit the box of the norm--whatever that is!

Take a deep breath--it is a long journey, this motherhood call. Yet, it will be the making of your faith and character and will shape the character of the next generation.

No two alike--yet now I see that God created all of them to have different dreams, different work, different calls on their lives--yet all are so deeply connected with invisible threads that make them undeniably Clarkson's, fiercely loyal and best of friends.

There were times when I thought God had pushed me just too far

I had learning issues to deal with, differing personalities, behavioral issues and just did not think I was a natural mom. I did love my kids a lot, but often felt over my head.  Yet, now these many years later, it is easy to read back and see why the kids were so different and why God gave me out of the box kids. 

And even, in spite of some of their challenges, they were able to become healthy adults, though at least 2 still deal on a daily basis with their long term issues, and always will. Many adults have hidden medical, mental and emotional issues that are not evident on the surface because they have learned to cope in a healthy way with their own puzzles. Often they hide mental illness or learning issues because they wanted to be understood, and understanding often came from learning to fit in.

I believe it was the culture of freedom, grace, faith we engaged in through our home culture, that God must have known what He was doing to give me such children. Slowly, I came to a philosophy of believing in dreams, the unique design of God on their lives, and avoiding competition or comparison amongst my children. I searched for who they were inside where their hearts beat with passions, interests, loves in life and that helped them to become healthy adults. As a young mama, I did not know or understand all of the letters that represent problematic issues with children (Add, Adhd, odd, ocd, mental illness, etc.) and yet,  eventually, I could see that several of my children had some unusual, out of the box issues.

In a moment of frustration, my mother said, "Well, you are just getting what you deserve. What goes around comes around, because you were the child who would lay on the floor and throw fits if you didn't get your way. You threw a fit when your brothers got guns and holsters and all you got was a doll. You threw your doll across the room, wrestled down your brother and almost undressed him when you tried to confiscate his gun and holster."

That didn't help.  I just didn't know how to handle one of my children until I learned his cues, but had no helpful or informative input. But learn I did and little by little we made it all the way through childhood alive! There are some basic tenets of Biblical design that helped me free my children to be themselves.

1. I believed that God had crafted them uniquely by design to fulfill a calling on their lives.  Their very different personalities would eventually show me why they were so different and what they were made to do. Sarah was reading books hundreds of pages long when she was 6.  Joel was harmonizing when he was 3. Nathan just couldn't do math--or grammar rules but was writing stories 100 pages when he was 12, if he dictated them to me, as he couldn't spell, either.  Always, Nathan wanted to have  his own way and do things that he had thought up in his brain.  (my creative inventor). Slowly, slowly, I taught him to choose to submit his strong will to Clay and me so that we could train his character, his values, his decisions.  Then there was Joy. Talking and questioning me from the day she was born who  is ended up in college with a debate scholarship  :O)

I learned to just love the unique people God had formed inside of me,  when He crafted my children for a specific purpose.

Now, Sarah has become a writer, finishing her degree at Oxford, and she is still reading hundreds of books. Joel is a composer, still singing,  working on film and television scores, producing his own original music.. Nathan is dreamed his own way through Hollywood--launching his first film under incredibly difficult circumstances. Joy entered college at 17, is on a debate scholarship--and is still questioning all issues, but now I can see it was a gift, not a detriment. Now she is getting her masters in theology at St. Andrews--all those questions are still bubbling up, but now they are focussed on bigger issues, perhaps to fulfill her long term work.

And the others had some interesting issues--but each required unique wisdom to understand their motivations and hearts and limitations, so that I could parent them according to their own bent. Study your children and pray for insight.

DON'T NEGATIVELY JUDGE A PERSONALITY, EVEN IF IT IS DIFFERENT THAN YOURS. GOD MADE YOUR CHILD THAT WAY FOR THE WORK HE OR SHE WILL SOME DAY ACCOMPLISH.

The Whole Gang at picnic in the mountains!

The Whole Gang at picnic in the mountains!

 

Out of the box kids may be in the box of God's plans.

Six Ways that helped give me grace with my "different" children

1.  I looked for my children's unique personality traits. I tried to understand them when they struggled with our training or discipline to figure out how to speak to the heart of the personality God had given them and asked for insight into these differences that seemed to create stress in our relationship.

 I have seen so many children rebel when they were forced to live within the parameters of conformity and legalism and when their parents tried to control them as young adults instead of setting them free to exercise their own spiritual, emotional and mental muscle.

Pressure to conform turns a child away from the heart of God, because a child is made to know the acceptance God has for them--as He made them the way they are. I am not speaking of not disciplining or training your child, but of making sure  parenting is not working against the very way God made them to "tick," so to speak.

2. Don't try to train a child with learning issues or mental or emotional issues through harsh discipline or by using guilt. If a child has poor vision, you could not make him able to see by spanking him. He just needs glasses. A mentally ill child also needs medical help.

In other words, accept the limitations of their disabilities and learning issues. And children with medical or learning issues may require more of you their whole lives—it may never be easy. It is a part of the puzzle God has asked you to live by faith and grace. 

Read and inform yourself the best you can about any issues your child is exhibiting. I researched all sorts of material on OCD and educated myself on what caused it, how to recognize it, how to deal with it when it was severe, (and yes, a couple of my children struggle with it excessively, clinically and will probably forever.)

I received some very idiotic advice from some people who were uneducated and were not knowledgeable about my children's issues, and learned discernment of how to throw out the foolish input I received. (""You just need to spank your child more," was heard many times. But that would never change the brain structure of my children with learning disabilities--it would just make them angry and frustrated.)

I was advised that all children who struggled with mental illness were possibly demon possessed, from one friend. (Does that mean that children who can't hear well or see well or have an illness are also demon possessed because they have a physical weakness?! of course not.) So be careful of who you choose to advise you--there are all sorts of opinionated people who offer no wisdom or insight at all.

3. Make the issues you "stand strong on" with your children Biblical principles. (fruit of the spirit training, telling the truth, learning to respect others, practicing wisdom) and not external rules of behavior. 

In other words, focus on the heart issues, not the external issues.  Your child may choose a different style of clothing, or like different artists in music or have a different sense of humor or be quieter than you--but that does not make their personality wrong--just different.

Enforce the non-negotiables and accept the gray areas that are a matter of taste and personality, but are not an issue of righteousness. (I remember that in some circles I was surrounded by, any young man who wore a necklace was condemned outright--or a girl who wore 2 earrings on one ear, or tattoos, or rock music or clothing--how long, how modest, etc. I have found that if you are cultivating the inside standards of heart, the outside usually conforms to acceptable behavior. But parents may lose the trust of their children if they focus on external man-made rules as the Pharisees did, instead of looking at the character of their children.) 

Your children will probably be different, in some ways, than some of your values because they are of a different generation and may have differing personalities. Don't expect your children to confirm to cookie cutter proportions--no two children are alike.

4. If you have a very difficult child, or one so different than your personality that it is an issue daily, be sure to get some breaks for yourself. Fill your own heart with friends who love and accept you and understand you. Take time to have un-pressured time away from the "always problematic child" so that you can gain perspective and also so you can maintain your commitment to love the child.  Grow in patience. It is a work of life. Refueling is essential, so we can continue to be gracious mamas.  Some children are difficult for many, many years, but they will mature and respond in time. Don't feel guilty if you need a little break from your children to gain perspective and to restore.

The pieces of my personal puzzle: Joy, Sarah, Thomas, (Sarah's husband), Nathan, Joel, Clay and me.

The pieces of my personal puzzle: Joy, Sarah, Thomas, (Sarah's husband), Nathan, Joel, Clay and me.

 

5. Remember that God loves you. He has not made a mistake. He has not trusted you with more than you can handle. 

He will give grace, but it is usually one step at a time. 

My most difficult children are the ones who have given me the most relevant examples in m ministry to help other parents have wisdom in their own lives. If I had not struggled with my children and their issues, I would have never developed compassion with other normal mamas. The very problems and burdens drove me to God and to seek out more wisdom. He sees, He understands, He will lead, and he can open the hearts of our children in His time to cause them to respond to us and to help us to learn to respond in love to them.

6. Extend grace for gender. Boys have testosterone -and may be louder and more active, though that does not mean they are ADHD. But my girls are wonderful spiritual warriors, and very strong in personality and strong-minded, as well and great thinkers and teachers. Girls' hormones pre-dispose them to be mothers and nurturers—but boys can also be used by God to be gentle and practical--some male nurses are the most strategic in hospitals. 

Don’t live by limiting paradigms that are not truly Biblical. God is a God of variety and diversity. He is the one who made zebras and peacocks and mice and elephants--let us not prejudice ourselves by false standards of what our children can and cannot do, because of arbitrary cultural definitions. 

God made men who were artisans for the temple and woman who saved a battle by  cutting off the head of a king, because the men were cowards; men who were great warriors and women who influenced historical decisions--Esther.  Just use wisdom as God slowly reveals the design of your child and guide him with wisdom and faith.

Extend grace for age--don't be too hard on your first child, or micro-manage them. This can create problems in children when they are older.  Sometimes young mothers are so eager to teach their children, when the children are not able to respond to the undue pressure,  they suppose there are learning issues or behavioral issues with their children, when their children are perfectly normal, but under too much pressure to "behave a certain way" before they are able. Sometimes when young children are pushed too early, they react out of defense and then behavioral problems develop--especially in boys, who often want to run and play, as science tells us that sometimes their testosterone washed brains take a little longer to develop hand eye skills and sitting still skills . 

Don't try to force your 3 year old to sit still to homeschool, unless they are the 25 percent who love to sit and write or draw---give them room to breathe, to grow up into maturity, to play, to pretend, to develop imagination and vocabulary because you are reading great stories and talking to them.

We tend to rush our children when they are small instead of letting them be age appropriate in their behavior. Give them time and space to grow and to mature--it is a slow process for all of us. (As Clay once said to me, "How old were you when you quit sinning?!) Obviously I was expecting my children to be more perfect than I had ever been. Too much pressure and guilt creates misbehavior and rebellion.

So much more to say, but these are a few thoughts to answer some questions I have received. I pray it helps and pray for you mamas trying to figure it all out! 

It is our sanctification and our humbling to raise the children God uniquely gives to us. It is  also our gift that God uses to shape us in the direction of His love and wisdom. God will give you understanding to be able to act wisely with your out of the box kids. May God give you the ability to breathe and to find freedom and grace for each of your days, and may you know you are not alone.

Hope you and your friends will gather for a party and join Nathan and me celebrating our book launch!

Hope you and your friends will gather for a party and join Nathan and me celebrating our book launch!

Different Children Bring Difficult Days: Finding A Way Forward

"You can die early if you want to, but if you want to live strong and healthy, you have got to change your life choices," was the pronouncement I heard from my doctor.

Mid-forties, exhausted, and running at full speed for many years, it was time for a new plan! I did want to live, and live more sustainably. Naming my challenges and difficulties and figuring out ways to rule over them has helped me to find contentment in this journey with different kids, different friends, a different husband, ........!!!!

"What was the hardest issue for you with your different child?" is the question many have asked me in podcast interviews in the past few weeks when they talk to me about our new book, Different.

What are your most challenging issues? Some of my issues were not just related to my Nathan and his different issues, but the combination of personalities, issues, ages, and demands combined to challenge me on a regular basis--combined with the challenges I describe in the book, Different. 

Because we each have different personalities and different children, we might vary in details of our struggles. But I have listed five areas in which I struggled most. 

1. I do not like argument or conflict, and lots of contention happened on a daily basis. This disturbed me on a regular basis. Even just the normal personality conflict, boy-girl stuff, selfishness of kids, my lack of patience and my own selfishness--conflict, rudeness or ungraciousness, and just the constant emotional drama goes against my grain.

2. The relentlessness of housework, messes, laundry, and details can some times  overwhelm.

3. Feeling like I was in the dark and didn't know, specifically, how to help my different child move forward. Feeling guilty for all the ways I failed. Not always understanding what was going on or why things happened, and feeling helpless to change anything.

4. Bearing burdens alone, without support systems, and trying to meet everyone's needs amidst the out of the box issues.

5. Misunderstanding of others who would advise me to "fix" my issues with magic bullet formulas (spanking, eating the right things, using different expensive tests or curriculum--feeling I needed someone who knew and understood my issues and who could help me move forward intelligently was a long term desire.)

What are your issues?

In my mid-forties, I was burning the candle at both ends, taking care of all of these needs: staying up late, over-committing in projects, with the kids 24/7, and never saying "no" and it was catching up on me--taking toll on my health.

Realizing that I needed to stay relatively happy and content, healthy and filled up so that I could last the whole course came upon me slowly. Realizing that i had agency to influence the long term outcome of my journey helped me to begin to make life changes that helped me make it through the long journey. I went on a long health fast, changed my ways, planned more sleep, ate more healthily, exercised more regularly, had regular quiet times, and took Sundays off. If I can't get something finished by Saturday afternoon, I put it on my schedule for Monday and take Sunday off.

Staying strong and healthy into my 60's was a commitment I had to plan and make. I am still working on this and a perfect storm of life has placed me in the over-committed place again. Trying to tame that, again. A constant tension to walk through year by year. Life is never static for any of us.

Planning to be strong inside and excellent of faith also requires a plan. Now, at the end of 20 years of Mom conferences, I am taking time to rethink my priorities and commitments for the next few years. I love mentoring, podcasting, teaching. I am excited about the Renew My Heart Conferences this year and hope to give lots of input about ending well. Yet, I must cut lots in my life and include new things in order to live sustainably. Only as I plan my life can I become most effective. I wrote about it a lot last year in Own Your Life.

Because I have learned, through many seasons, to have anchors in my life and in my home so that we can all have work, play, education, ministry and fun in ways that will keep us growing strong as we go. I also created a planner for The Lifegiving Home so women could also plan and prioritize their ideals to live life intentionally in The Lifegiving Home Journey, hoping this book would help women think and plan according to their own family and their unique messages and ideals.

Most of all, I want to help women be able to finish well, because I knew how hard it had been for me.

As a thank you for all that you have been doing to share about our book, Different, Kristen, Misty (a friend and assistant) and I wanted to give you the gift of over 30 ways to plan ways to bring some delight and relief in your own challenging life. We all have lots more we did, but this is a partial list we hoped would be a fun encouragement. 

THIRTY + WAYS TO BRING GRACE TO YOUR LIFE--A PDF

Kristen and I had a great time talking about this today on our podcast. Hope you enjoy and hope you enjoy our pdf, here:  Investing in Things That Delight

 
 
Send us your questions! Have a party at your house. Hope you can join us!

Send us your questions! Have a party at your house. Hope you can join us!

Enjoying Beauty Amidst the Messes

Today, amidst hours of work and writing, Joy and I took time to walk and chat for a couple of miles together. Wonderful way to celebrate our moments together before she goes. 

Today, amidst hours of work and writing, Joy and I took time to walk and chat for a couple of miles together. Wonderful way to celebrate our moments together before she goes. 

Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, But much revenue comes by the strength of the ox." Prov. 14:4

My sweet, wonderful kindred spirit Joy is still home from Scotland where she is studying, but only for about a week. I enjoy her company so much. There are more messes right now because we are all working a lot, eating a lot, drinking a lot, but when we have free time, we spend a lot of friend time just enjoying each other. I don't worry so much because I know through my whole life, that at 63, the messes come and go, but my precious ones will leave soon enough--and then I will have a hole in my heart. I share some past thoughts from my quiet time chair in my second story bedroom that looks out on the mountain terrain of my 7200-foot altitude home.
Do you agree with my premise? What are you taking time for amidst your messes?

I am sitting in my little quiet time chair with a cup of strong Austrian coffee in hand. From my second story window, I look out on the tops of countless pine trees with the Rocky Mountains peeking through, and a sky full of wispy clouds slowly moving by. In every home we live in, I choose windows that look out on the most beautiful natural scene, so that I can have some of His life-stuff to bring peace and quiet to my soul each morning as I meet with Him.

In front of me is a pile of books scattered over a coffee table. There is also a couch pillow thrown onto the floor, a couple of pairs of shoes left where they were taken off, a wilting potted plant in desperate need of water, some child’s abandoned sweat shirt, and a half-eaten candy bar. And this is just the eight feet in front of my chair!

The rest of the house is much the same-- life messes in the midst of order and beauty. As the proverb says, “Where there are no oxen, the stalls are clean.” I comfort myself daily with the fact that I have six or seven oxen living in my home most of the time, and thus my stalls are not always clean, but my house is full. My world is always a mixture of beauty and mess, order and piles of things not yet subdued into order.

Sometimes the circumstances of life are like our home--messes and joys, fears and blessings all in the same breath.

But it is what we see and how we perceive what is happening that will determine our comfort or our despair.

I have purposed daily to choose to enjoy the beauty of the treasures He has placed in my path, because when I look for His fingerprints and whispers amidst the messes, my heart changes and begins often to sing with the rhythms and chords He has placed there.

This week, I am enjoying the tulips my next door neighbor’s put in a jar on my front porch in contrast to piles and piles of snow, and seeing the blossoms on the trees, amidst the ice that give a promise of the life of spring that is around the corner. This habit of changing my way of seeing came when God gently intervened one day in a moment of my own anguish and despair.

 

God interjected a life application many years ago, when I was struggling with language in a foreign country, loneliness, disappointments, and inability to control almost any area of my life--you might say I was in a life-mess.

Many years ago in the midst of another possible miscarriage, I was sitting by a window in little mountain town in Austria. I was all alone because Clay and his mom, who was visiting from America, had gone to look at some little shops. We were staying at a tiny lake-side Inn in an obscure alpine village. Unexpectedly, just after they had left me to rest by myself in the room, I had begun to bleed, again, and was about 5 months along in my pregnancy.There was no one to talk to, no one to ask for help.

Fear gripped my heart, as I knew we were hours away from a hospital and my German was not good enough to explain what was happening to me! Tears flowed from an invisible inner spring, and I begged God, from the anguish of my heart to please, please let me carry this child to full term. All of the struggles of the last few months seemed to flood through my anguished soul.

Just then, a little sparrow hopped up on my window sill  where I was looking out as I prayed, and began to chirp, as though it was singing directly to me. I was not more than a foot away from the tiny creature.  It stayed there for several minutes and hopped closer and closer to the edge where I was looking out, an it appeared the fledgling birdie was  staring at my heart through the shiny brown glass eyes and literally chirping and singing wildly to encourage me.

What a sweet, delicate fuzzy ball of delight—singing its heart out with no one to applaud or respond, except for me. It was as though God was saying to me, “I am listening. I see the birds on a thousand hills, not one falls to the ground without my full attention. This little one is here to remind you that I see you and hear your heart's cry.I love you and am with you! Do not fear. Leave your broken heart with me.”

I didn’t know what would happen, but suddenly, a peace blanketed my sore heart. I knew that God, who is love, was with me and would be with me in whatever happened. It was as though an angel, in the form of a tiny bird,  had visited and given me His deep, soothing comfort.

It was the last time, in that pregnancy, that I bled. The pregnancy delightfully turned out to be Sarah, my first born, and now best of friends and a bigger blessing to my whole life than I ever could have imagined then.

From that moment, I decided to take notice of birds who sing—to believe that they are especially praising God, agents of his hope for me. I see them also as a personal reminder from God that He is present, every day, all the time--here with me. Often on my walks when I am pouring out my dark heart to God, a bird hops or sings along my trail and I am reminded that God is there— with me!

Now, I have birds sprinkled throughout my home--amidst the messes and art of my life--there to remind me of the song so many years ago from God's feather messenger.

We all have our own particular life and real messes, but even in the mess, God is there to redeem, to send His love, to show beauty around every corner. But, our eyes must be attuned to the beauty instead of focussing on the life-clutter--looking with faith and not with doubt, fear or despair.

My birds that sit with me every morning in my room, with my cup of tea and  Bible.

My birds that sit with me every morning in my room, with my cup of tea and  Bible.

Today, my prayer for you--and for me-- is that He bring the reality of His joy to you today in the midst of your order … and your messes, because He is with us to give us hope and comfort, always.

Be sure to preorder these books, so you can join us in our upcoming book study: Different!  We'll be discussing the book on my podcast every Monday. And A Different Kind of Hero, too!

Teaching Your Children How to Walk, at Every Age

He who walks with the wise is wise,

A companion of fools suffers harm. 

Proverbs 15:20

As I look back through the years of my life, I see over and over again how often I was tempted to waste my time, my efforts, my worry by stressing out on the things that didn't matter--test scores, messes, immaturity that comes with all children--and stressing over the normal reality of family life, trying to correct little issues that irritated me, but sometimes missing the heart issues that were truly the most important issues--ones that would carry my sweet children through all the difficulties of life. 

Through raising 3 out of the box kids, God relieved me from the pressure of trying to perform according to other's standards. I had to accept each child with their weaknesses, strengths and personalities. Then my heart was more open to seeing what mattered for eternity--preparing the soil of my children's hearts so that seeds of faith would grow there and that they would want to love God for themselves. Giving them wisdom, insight and truth so that they would know how to make wise decisions in life was a daily investment that took years to complete. I wrote down some of my thoughts in The Mom Walk that are just as relevant to me today. I pray that all who watch me/follow me--will observe me walking with God and growing all the time. 

"By walking in integrity at home, my children received from my life, training for battles that were ahead of them. By walking through the obstacles and curves of our lives, trusting God, living by faith, choosing to endure, our children became familiar with what it looked like to walk with God in the midst of their own challenges." -Sally Clarkson, The Mom Walk

When your children walk with you, are they walking with a wise person?  

Can they look at your seasoned responses, your insightful understanding of people, your fortitude in difficult times as they walk the moments of your daily life? Children watch us, listen to us when we are talking to others, hear us behind closed doors as we talk to our husband, see us in public. Our lives are the walk that our children will imitate.

We are in a generation and culture that has turned our children's training grounds into a battlefield. With relative morality, confusing voices, compromise of ideals, secular media values and opposing opinions, where will our children find clarity and strong, secure values to embrace?

As mothers, we must be ready and equipped with steady feet and strong souls to lead the way for our kids with integrity. We will give them confidence as we walk, staying close to them, holding their hand, and showing them sure footsteps to follow.

"O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart." -Psalm 15:1-2

No matter how old your children become, you are the example for them. They will always be looking at you to see integrity, ideals, and how you interact with God. And the longer you provide your children with wisdom based on truth, the more they will quickly consider your advice as they walk their own adult journey.Still, on a daily basis, I am walking with my adult children. They learned to trust their "path guide" on the trail of life we walked together, day by day.

We must lead the way and set a solid foundation for the paths our children will follow. Teaching our children to walk truly never ends.

Are you walking in wisdom today? Is your life one you want your children to follow? Is your pathway in your life with God getting brighter and brighter? May God lead us on His path with integrity in each step.

What are some of the ways you make each day a focussed moment of a loving relationship as you walk the days with your children?

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day

Proverbs 4: 18

************

I am getting so excited to see many of you at the Renew My Heart conferences soon. We shall speak of those matters that are dear to all of our hearts. You will have time for friendship, encouragement--and time to breathe in peace and grace. Hope you can join me. You can find out how to register HERE.

Hope, Encouragement, Love for the Imperfect

Do you have to find a hiding place in your home? Or at least a place where occasionally you can have a few minutes by yourself to ponder life? This has become my new place to work, escape, hide--hoping that maybe no one will make the extra effort to climb the stairs to our second floor to find me. We all need some alone time. This was Sarah's bedroom until she moved to Oxford full time,  when she married Thomas. There is something about being here in the place where we spent so many wonderful hours as friends that feels like sweet memories still linger. But she took one of her bunny statues back to her home with Thomas, and so I found a new one on half-price at a little nook store.

"It has a little crack," said the clerk, "so I will sell it to you at half price!"

Then I knew is was to be mine!

Somehow his little crack along his neck makes me feel like we are friends. I have a passionate heart. I want to be good, always loving, faithful, patient, unselfish. But then there is the crack and flaws in my life, you see, that make me just the slightest bit wonky. I have hidden imperfections, too. 

One of my adult children told me over the holidays, "You know what, mama? Sometimes when I awaken in the mornings the first thing that hovers over my mind like a cloud is this unspecific feeling that i have disappointed someone or that I have failed at something. it's just there under the surface."

I so sympathized with this statement. Many of us carry the burden on our backs of weariness and a sense of inadequacy. Sometimes we carry difficult marriages, past scars, tension of hard relationships that will never end, financial burdens, guilt for our failures.

Lately, I have received various notes and comments from women all over the world who are weary or sad or losing hope.

Just this week, in my quiet time, I was drawn to the sermon on the mount. As I read His words in Matt. 6, I was so gently touched by the kind, merciful heart of Christ. In a world where the Pharisees were measuring spirituality by external performance, getting it all right--saying right prayers, giving the right offerings, I remembered what Jesus had said about them, "They tie up heavy, burdensome loads and lay on men's shoulders, they they themselves are not willing to life a finger to help them. All their deeds are done for men to see. 

Our world does so often focus on the external behavior.

But when I read the words of Jesus, I find hope for my imperfections, my failures, my crazy personality. 

I was imagining what it was like: Crowds were gathering as Jesus climbed to the top of a mountain to teach. Women holding crying babes were struggling to get their children settled. Men with scowling faces amongst the crowd with looks of defeat, spouses glancing with hurt feelings, cripples, teens smiling, giggling and flirting with  friends they had known their whole life, children running playing tag--a whole host of people from the slice of life were gathering to hear this man speak to them. Jesus was looking inside their hearts to prepare to teach about what these who were gathering needed to hear so that they would truly understand God better.

His message was one of comfort, sympathy for the pressures they were feeling, the tension stored up in their hearts. Jesus gave a message they longed to hear but didn't even know they needed it until He spoke.

3 [b]Blessed are the [c]poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the [d]gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

These are what we need in our own lives: mercy, comfort, justice, understanding, truth, peace, forgiveness, a right relationship with God. 

And so, for those of us who feel the burdens that a fallen, broken world brings, Jesus offers us love, kindness and understanding. 

As I wrote the book Different with Nathan, I realized all over again, that in the places I felt alone, different from others, alienated by my feelings of sadness, aloneness or failure from those around me, He was there loving me, reaching out as my loving Father, feeling compassion for me in every moment.

The unconditional love of Christ means more each day.

 He sees us with compassion, he loves us as we are, he speaks to us with encouragement, he offers us hope,

He extends His help because He is the Father who loves us. His love changes everything. It is as we offer to others who feel imperfect the unconditional love of God, that their lives will be transformed. 

And it is His love, through us, that will transform the lives of our children.

God, we believe you live in our home. Do a miracle with our small, imperfect work of parenting our children the best we can. Please prepare them to be yours for your kingdom work. We know that you will do exceedingly above what we ask or think, because you are capable of engaging generously in our lives. Please be the life, the light, the wisdom in our homes, and give us the strength to be faithful. Sally Clarkson, Different: The Story of an Outside the Box Boy and the Mama who Loved Him

Be sure to join me on facebook live, Tuesday, 7:00 mountain time, for a short time of sharing. Ask questions below if you want me to talk about something specific. We shall have fun.

 

Winter, A Season To Be Still & Wait

snowyspruce.jpg

Today, it is -4 degrees outside, our roads are icy, the house is cold and I have piles and piles of work and house tasks to tackle--some day. This is one of those days I wish I had servants to clean, cook, and lots of family and friends to occupy my family so that I could sleep or just do something for myself, to care for myself.

After the holidays, the adrenalin can come down and we are a bit tired and still have people in our homes who make messes every day and want to eat and talk to us. :)

I called a friend who works with me in my ministry and I could tell her voice was down. I probed, and I was right--a down day. I began to tell her about some of the tensions, issues, difficulties and challenges that we faced over the holidays--not the least of which is just irritating--the fridge stopped working just before all of our kids came home and we had to go out to find one, and the messes of ice melting, meat thawing, well you get the picture.  Then there was the garage door opener that will never work again--which makes it interesting to leave the house....

A medical emergency happened in the middle of our days together. And I could go on. But somehow my normal, out of control life encouraged her. Knowing that she was not alone, that each of our stresses was probably, in some ways, common, helped her to giggle at her own stresses and strains. The garage door broke amidst all the other expenses. 

In my 60's now, I have learned not to dwell in the land of worry, down and sad thoughts, challenges, because I have learned a little bit more of the art of gracious endurance. Putting one step in front of the other, choosing to create beauty amidst the down days, (tea times, candles, music are essential--not just decor in my life.) But, I have also developed a grid that says, "I believe God is good. I know He will be faithful. He will fill in the cracks that I cannot manage. He will work on my behalf because He is a compassionate Father."

And so I move from my pesky thoughts to a place of faith I have learned to practice--from toddlerhood to teens to young adults. Breathe. Believe. Rest in me. Celebrate and create joy amidst your days, and you will hear the echoes of my music and feel the touch of my invisible fingerprints in your life.

As I reflect on having Nathan as my different child, I am so grateful to have made it through. So many dark and questioning days as his mama. And yet, even though many of the issues he had as a child still plague him, and will till he sees Jesus, I have seen him flourish within the context of his own life, and grow beyond what I thought was possible. All the fear and fretting didn't change anything.

 Are you the resolution-making type?  My idealistic spirit is more tuned to reflection and dreaming visions for the next year than setting new rules for myself. Since it's a time many of us are thinking about what's coming next, I thought I'd share a bit about winter from Seasons of a Mother's Heart, a book I wrote many years ago because I have found that it is in the winter seasons when my roots have gone deep. (find it here) ...

Winter is a season for reflection, a time we are waiting amidst snow and storms for the coming of spring. But still we must wait for a long season ahead.  For all the darkness I may associate with winter, I have discovered that the winter seasons of my life can also be times of peace and even quiet rest, if I will let them be. A winter season can force me to slow down, reflect on life, wait on God, and trust him. It can seem that everything is dead in winter, that nothing is happening, but that is never true. Under the surface of the winter snows there is always the continuation of life— roots are growing deeper, sap is being stored, energy is being conserved. Winter is not an end but a transition. The abundant and unstoppable life of spring is due to break forth; a new beginning is coming.

In the same way, my roots are growing deeper in the winter seasons of motherhood, the Holy Spirit is within me, and my energy is being conserved, all with one goal in view—that I will bear new life and new fruit. Winter is a time to diligently and faithfully store up his word in my spirit, drink deeply of his goodness and mercy, and keep the fires of hope alive in my heart. It is a time to stop and reflect on how my life is different because I am God's child, to consider what is most important in my life with him—my husband, my children, my family, my friends. It is a time to look for signs of life.

Winter is a good time to reflect on Romans 8:28, to see how "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." It is a good time to reflect on Jesus' encouragement that "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). It is a good time to recall, with Jeremiah:

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those who hope in him, to the one who seeks him (Lamentations 3:22-25).

Winter is a good time to reflect on what you know is true.

On the final leg of our long journey from the southeast back to Colorado, we passed through a winter season. Everything was gray, it was difficult, and we were tired. But even when we could not see the road before us, still we kept our hearts focused on the hope of home. Even when we saw other cars abandoned in the snow drifts, still we knew our safe, warm home was waiting. And when we finally made it home, we reflected on God's faithfulness and goodness to us. Motherhood is a long journey along an uncertain road of life, but take heart, God is with you.

He will never leave you or forsake you. He's with you all the way home.

May God grant you the courage to take heart in the midst of your winter seasons, to reflect on what you know is true, to wait on Him, and to hope in the power of the resurrection promised in the season ahead. May He quiet your spirit with his peace as you reflect upon the winter landscape of your life and anticipate the promise of new life with the coming of spring.

 

We also want to announce the winner of our conference giveaway from a couple of weeks ago: Jennifer Williams!  Please email misty@wholeheart.org with your contact information as soon as possible!

Thanks so all of you who have been helping Nathan and me get the news of our book out. We had over 35,000 shares on the video in the past few days--amazing. Perhaps more of us are different or feel different or have different children than we have talked about. It is my hope that many will feel they are not alone, that they will feel understood.                   

We're so excited about the upcoming release of this new book, Different! You can read more about it at and even order a copy at www.thedifferentbook.com !

 

 

January Wishes For You & An Invitation!

I took a hot bath at 4:30 in the afternoon, and put on my flannel gown and pulled in from the coming snow. Just before this, three of my sweet ones were on their way to the airport to fly to the UK and to New York with the other two driving them. I think it was my first moment alone in 18 days and I was beat.

But, my sweet children are my best friends, truly. So there is a happiness for them that all have roads ahead with purpose and life, but I do so miss the precious but short time we have together with them all over the world. As I pondered the sweetness, Sarah texted me a warm goodbye. She also said to read her New Year's blog. I loved it so much, I wanted to share it with you. So it is my (and Sarah's) wish for you this year. Enjoy!

On New Year’s eve, my friends, under a freshened, star-swept sky with a sliver of a golden moon, midst the echoes of my siblings crooning ‘the parting glass’, and a whole new turn of time’s wheel at our doorstep, this is my new year’s wish for you:

I wish you joy. Simple, river-deep and just as swift.

I wish you an attentive eye. I wish you wonder. I wish you the clear, wakened sight that sits down to the rainbow dance of the ordinary as to a feast. I wish you a child’s swift engagement, the revel of discovery that comes when the whole world arrives afresh as gift; raindrop and bread and star and stone all treasures discovered anew each morning.

I wish you strength. I wish you the grit to attempt the hard things you dream, the difficult things you know are right but demand the whole of your body and self and hope. I wish you defiance when despair and doubt would steal your joy. I wish you endurance, even the flint-faced will to take the next step when joy is gone and only what is right remains.

I wish you ferocity in love. I wish you faithfulness in every vow you have taken and love you have chosen. I wish you the grace beyond human comprehension to hold those whose brokenness makes them unable to hold. I wish you the gift of those to hold you in return when your hands grow too frail to grip love or faith alone.

I wish you the aching joy that is a sadness better than any merriment in the world. I wish you moments of clear, clean hunger for things beyond your touch or sight. I wish you homesickness for a face you’ve never yet seen, and a native land you’ve never yet known. I wish you pellucid moments of beauty, or happiness, or forgiveness, in which eternity wells up and grips you for an instant with a joy whose taste is wild like love. And I wish you the restless heart that follows, and the waiting you will learn through a lifetime of sweet, hungering hope.

I wish you roots. I wish you the capacity to recognise that while the great good ending broods and builds on the horizon, it also springs up now in your very being. Eternity is a taut, threaded energy that can join hands with your creativity, enfleshing itself in time by what you make and touch and grow. I wish you the patient, humble grace to not grow weary of waiting but to plant – life, heart, love, work – in the soil of the broken world so that your own life begins to turn the brokenness backwards.

I wish you hush. I wish you the grace to attend to the moments of quiet that bubble up in your busyness, when silence comes as the companion of prayer, and with it, the deepened breath of peace. I wish you a quiet of mind in which you may notice the starlight, the sunlight veining a leaf, the contours of a face so familiar you’ve forgotten to marvel at its beauty. I wish you an inner world. A room of heart in which you can withdraw from the noise and furor of this war-torn earth. I wish you an inner self that is held by the Lover who dwells in the core room of your being. I wish you the strength to seek that refuge even when fear sets your heart afire.

I wish you clarity. Not the easy certainty by which doubt can be dismissed, but the calm, sweet surety that comes from clinging to Christ, moment by moment, day by day. I wish you a road lighted by wisdom. I wish you a journey led by truth.

I wish you laughter. Saints, I am convinced, are the jolliest folk in the world. They may be the gravest at prayer or compassion, but they glimpse the life beyond our sorrow and when it comes to wonder, they are children. For they take the beauty of the world as a gift and sign and they meet it with a child’s shouted delight. May you find joy in the world as the saints do, may its humour strike you as well as its grief, for as Chesterton said, he is a sane man who can hold both in his heart.

And last, I wish you courage. I wish you the strong-heartedness of ‘Lucy the brave of Narnia’, who danced with Aslan, and listened to his whisper of ‘courage, dear heart’. We need it in this wild and grieved old world. But with all my heart, I believe the great Lion walks with us, into the winterlands of the fallen earth, with springtime in his breath.

The new year begins. And the story of the coming kingdom runs ever on. May your new year be radiant with its beauty.

Happy new year, my friends!

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Are you in need of a shot in the arm? Fun? Inspiration? A break designed just for you? Some time away from the mundane everyday?

I invite you to join me at one of my conferences this year.  Register soon and save your place and come with your friends to make a memory and companion-building weekend!

Finding the Hero in the Heart of Your Child

Frustration, a sense of helplessness, and weariness were my companions almost every day when my little boy, Nathan, was 5 years old. "No!"was his favorite answer to my requests. There seemed to be no natural grid for social situations.

Arguing was often a daily practice at the dinner table. When the other kids walked on the sidewalks, he ran on the borders of the gardens, he was loud, active, wiggly and somehow always caused trouble. 

Yet, God whispered to me in my times alone, as I would seek Him for answers. "Trust me. Be patient. Love him. Look inside to see his heart, to understand who I made him to be."

And so little by little, I sought to give life, to pursue him, to sit with him and listen to him talk and talk and talk.

Eventually, I would find out that there were letters that helped to define some of his issues: Clinical OCD and Anxiety; Learning issues; ODD, ADHD and a couple more. But I did not understand all of that back then.

One day, as we sat on the front porch of our country house in Texas, I squished close to him on a porch swing. 

"What have you been thinking about in that smart little head of yours, Nathan?"

"Mama, I think I am going to be like superman when I grow up. He came from a far off place to help people. That's what Jesus did--he came from a far off place to help people who needed him. I am going to be a superman when I grow up."

Through the years, Nathan continued to nurture his imagination of becoming one who would become a redeemer when he was an adult. We read countless hero tales, I read him biographies, slowly trained his character, and lived through ups and downs of his out of the box life. 

Always, it was a journey of faith, one day at a time, accepting his limitations daily. Forgiving myself for imperfectly responding to him when my own limitations spilled into my relationship with him.

He needed a lifegiving home more than anyone--a place where he could be himself without constant condemnation and correction; a place where rhythms of life gave some stability--meal times, devotions, training all of my children to love over and over again, helping him grow strong little by little into his abilities, his strengths, while seeking to shore up his vulnerabilities. And so the years passed, we lived through years of challenges, love, made memories and became a family who learned to grow daily by ending each day living in love, commitment, and forgiveness amidst the moments of life.

As a young adult, he moved into pursued acting. Eventually, after writing, producing and acting in a movie, it was picked up and Walmart, Netflix and was played in many other places. 

"Mom, I keep getting letters from kids who are out of the box, wondering how I ever made it this far. I think we can write a book about our journey that will give "different, out of the box people hope. And you can encourage moms who have out of the box kids hope for how we made it through."

And so, now I see him, finally, beginning to become a superhero--by becoming a super hero, coming to help to redeem others who need help.

Nathan joins Kristen Kill and me today to tell you a little about our journey. I hope you will all be encouraged and inspired by God's faithfulness through our years. No matter what circumstance you find yourself in, there is hope. I know because there were so many times in all the years of my life where I struggled, doubted, wondered, but kept learning to trust God one day, one struggle at a time. 

To find out more about Nathan, go to Nathanclarkson.me

I hope our book will be of great help and encouragement to moms who felt like me.

 
 
The Different Ones!

The Different Ones!