Nurturing Love Around your Table & Spaghetti Pie

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After a long, taxing week, I know the nerves of my own 4 still at home are frayed. All of us are a bit weary from cold days outside and long, hard hours of work inside as we prepare for conferences, and as Joel and Joy work on their various projects. What is needed is for me to craft an atmosphere that says, “Relax, come sit a while, feast with me and we shall restore.”

Sitting down to a hot meal together is a tradition and center of Clarkson family life—no matter how many of us are home! So this weekend, I will make bread, (this always speaks love and comfort) and serve up a warm favorite meal. This recipe is a family favorite (Nathan’s “especial” favorite!) and I’m sure your family will love it, too. Happy Weekend to you.

Spaghetti Pie

Ingredients:

2 tsp olive oil

1/2 cup onion - diced

8 oz baby portabella mushrooms - diced

1 pound ground beef (or 1/2 pound Italian sausage 1/2 pound ground beef)

1/2 tsp garlic salt (or 1 clove fresh minced garlic)

1 tsp dried oregano (or Italian seasoning)

1 tsp dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

6 - 8 oz. spaghetti noodles (depending on your pie dish)

2 Tbsp butter (optional)

3/4 cup parmesan cheese

2 eggs - well beaten

1 cup cottage cheese - blended

1 8 oz can of diced tomatoes

1 6 oz can of tomato paste OR 1 small can of tomato sauce

1 tsp sugar

1 - 2 cups fresh mozzarella cheese - grated

*Optional: pinch of Italian seasoning to finish on top of mozzarella

 Directions: In your skillet, over medium high heat, saute onions in olive oil until translucent. Add the mushrooms and saute until cooked through. If using fresh garlic, add garlic and stir into the onion and mushroom mixture for 1 minute. Add ground beef to the skillet and stir until completely cooked. Add dried herbs, salt & pepper to taste. In a colander, carefully drain off any excess oil. Return the meat mixture to the skillet and return to a medium heat. Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and garlic salt if not using fresh garlic. Turn off heat and set aside. You can also use immersion blender for sauce if your kids are not fond of a more rustic style sauce with diced tomatoes. This will make your sauce a smoother spaghetti meat sauce.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook spaghetti per instructions on package. Drain. Then stir in butter, parmesan, and eggs into the warm spaghetti. Pour spaghetti mixture into a 10 inch pie dish and press in to form a spaghetti crust. Spread the cottage cheese on top of the crust. Add meat sauce mixture. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes then remove from oven and top with shredded mozzarella cheese and return to oven to bake for 5 minutes longer to melt cheese.

Easy peasy, and your house will smell like an Italian restaurant. Enjoy!

Win a Trip to Oxford to visit us Girls! & Podcast

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Dearest Friends,

The girls and I find ourselves in a golden year where all of us reside in Oxford. It is a gift of all gifts to wander the streets where great people have studied, thought, written, led, lived history. Every cobbled street is filled with stories that inspire you to the depths of your own soul to seek to live a life that counts.

We wanted to write a book that would also inspire you to your toes—to live into your capacity as a women, mother, friend who cultivates a great heart, fills her soul with beauty and truth, who uses her time, skills and love to bring light and beauty everywhere she goes. Oxford has been a place where each of us has found our own souls fed and challenged.

So, with our very generous publishers, we conspired to send a winner and anyone else the winner chooses to come have tea with us in Oxford, to spend hours in conversation, and to tromp the same streets we have loved. We can’t wait to see who will join us there.

Here’s more:

Our publisher Tyndale Momentum has generously provided the opportunity for one of you to win this amazing gift so that you can have a holiday in Oxford, and enjoy high tea with us at a lovely and celebrated old hotel in the historical center of town. We will have our own girls club time together, and will have a heart-to-heart conversation with you to encourage you. We will also provide insider’s input on how best to enjoy Oxford, and all the best places to visit. Enjoy the dreaming spires and ancient streets of this beautiful university town, and walk the same paths as people like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

To enter:

- Share about it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or through a bible study or support group

- Comment (and tag a friend!) on our special giveaway entry posts (every Tuesday or Wednesday in the next weeks until launch on February 5) on any social media platform. You'll know which posts these are because they will be titled "OXFORD GIVEAWAY!" The more times you share and tag friends, the more entries you will receive.

- It would mean so much to us and we’d be tickled pink if you would pre-order one of our books for yourself and a friend, so we can all celebrate the community of great women together. But, to win, officially, there is no purchase necessary.

We will show you the cheapest ways to get here and where to stay and give you some amazing places to visit, even if you just come for a few days.

(If you win and are not able to come to Oxford, you may use the $1000 to take a trip to Monument, Co. where you can have tea with me, (Sally) and whatever girl is home, but money must be used for a trip to see us.)

Go to my launch page @http://sallyclarkson.com/girls-club/ to find out more and to find the invitation to send to your friends for our launch party, February 5.

If we were going to take a tour of Oxford or show you the way, this is what we'd do.

Friends, this post is one of pure Oxfordian revelry, a bit of a treat to get you dreaming about a ramble round this dreamy old city.We have all lived here different amounts of time, (Sarah the longest) and when we pound the cobbles at dusk or in the early, autumn mornings, we often still feel the same in-drawn breath of joy. This city, with its cobbled lanes and golden-stoned nooks is a wonder of a place on earth (to use a Wendell Berryan term). It livens the sight and sparks the imagination. Sarah originally wrote this for friends far and wide, but Joy and I have now developed our own favorite places, all of which are in this list.

I know that a delight in this city is something I share with many of you, and in the past couple of years I have received countless emails asking for details of my favorite Oxford activities and haunts as you planned your own adventures. So, I thought that on this freezing Tuesday I'd have a little fun and dream up the tour I'd take you on if we had two days in Oxford.

You can find lists and links of all the places, cafes, colleges, or restaurants described below at the end of the post (with a few extras added). I hope this brings a bit of fun and brightness to your day!

The adventure begins...

Day One: Classic Oxford

Vaults & Gardens 

The morning would probably be chill, we would no doubt be scarved and booted as we began, with the sun just beginning to warm the old stone walls. We'd start with breakfast right down in the heart of Oxford at the 'Vaults and Gardens' cafe of University Church, from whose pulpit Cranmer was taken to die (the spot marked by a large black X in Broad Street) and C.S. Lewis preached his famous Weight of Glory sermon. Our official touring would begin with a climb to the top of the old church tower for a bird's eye view of the Oxford spires. But let us not start our adventure on empty stomachs! As any good hobbit knows, quests ought to open with at least a big pot of breakfast tea, some version of eggs, and I would add a big old Vaults & Gardens scone with as much cream as we could slather topped by homemade jam. Only then could we have enough energy to mount the narrow stone steps and soak in the glory of the (very possibly grey) morning.

From that splendid height, we'd look straight down upon the Radcliffe Camera, the iconic round building of the Bodleian Library (whose sea-green and sky-lighted upper galleries are my favorite study spot), and the courtyards of the further reading rooms beyond, our next destination. The Rad Cam is off limits to visitors, but the larger library gives fascinating tours of other parts of the complex maze of reading rooms and vaulted spaces. These are worth every penny. I've lived in Oxford for 4 years and I'd still go on one for the sheer historical insight, though I'd be sure to choose the one which included a glimpse of the Duke Humphrey room, one of the oldest in Oxford, with massive old manuscripts and eerie stained glass windows (the setting for the 'forbidden section' in the first Harry Potter film, if you are so interested). 

Scriptum

After a peek into the Bodleian gift shops (they have such fun, bookish treasures), we'd head up to Broad Street for a ramble round the famed Blackwell's Books, Oxford's best-beloved and immense old bookshop. From there, we'd go for a slight shopping and college detour down Turl Street, one of my favorite walkways, and I think, one of the most picturesque streets in Oxford. There, we'd pop into the Oxfam bookshop and hunt for a few used classics, we'd visit Scriptum, a stationary and curiosity shop whose leather-bound books, fountain pens, marionettes in the window, and be-wreathed British nobility always make me feel I've stumbled into a shop run by a good fairy where portals open upon small, mysterious worlds. We might visit the shoe shop where Lewis bought his shoes, or look at the 'sub fusc' in vogue (as if it ever changes) in Walter's. We'd also sit in the window of the Missing Bean for some of the best coffee in Oxford if we needed a jolt of energy.

Exeter

While on Turl St., we also might peek into Exeter College (Tolkien's college, incidentally) if we were in an academic mood. It's a compact gem of a college hidden behind a massive old oak door in the golden-walled heart of the city. It's chapel was modelled after Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, and it proudly houses a Burne-Jones tapestry of the nativity amidst a splendor of stained glass windows and soaring lines very distinct from its sister Oxford college chapels. Its quad is a model of Oxford's ivied walls, neat gardens, and passageways to...who knows where. Narnia, perhaps? The fellow's garden, if open, is splendid, a serene space with a unique outlook onto the roof of the Rad Cam (a rather good place for picnics.

Lunch, and our afternoon ramble, would take us into the Covered Market, where we'd sit down to a traditional British hot lunch of pie and mash (and probably mushy peas with gravy) at Pieminster, a little shop in the heart of a market where butchers and grocers, bakers and cheesemakers still ply their lovely trades amidst local cafes and curiosity shops. 

Thus sustained, we'd set out for our serious college touring, though we might have to choose between the mighty; Magdalene or Christ Church? Both are splendid, but let's choose Christ Church today and save Magdalene for the C.S. Lewisian morrow. Christ Church is one of the old grand dames of Oxford, the seat of the diocese' cathedral, with grounds stretching straight down to the river. It's classic Oxford college and we will take the full tour, marveling at the gigantic dining hall, the majestic quad under 'Tom Tower', the cathedral, the art galleries, and the pastoral serenity of a ramble in Christ Church meadows.

If we were dying for a pre-dinner cuppa, we might then walk out through the gardens back onto St. Aldate's St., where we'd order a nibble at Cafe Loco, an Alice in Wonderland themed tea shop with excellent scones and cakes. We might pop our heads in next door to the all-things-Alice curiosity shop as well as St. Philip's Books, a shop whose speciality stock is theology (from church fathers to the present) and Inklings studies of all kinds. We might end up with a first edition if we're not careful.

We'd have dinner either early or late, depending on our evening plans, but lets schedule in a concert at the Sheldonian, Oxford's iconic round theatre right next to the Bodleian. We might catch a programme of the Romantics, or an evening of Bach and cello, or if, like I once was, we're lucky, we might just get to see Marilynne Robinson read aloud from Lila; regardless, it will stir the soul and draw the spirit up to the very rafters. (And students can sit up near those gorgeous rafters for a mere 5 pound ticket.) As long as we're going for a formal evening, we might as well finish with a lovely meal in one of my two favorites of Oxford's finer establishments; either The Old Parsonage, a tiny inn of famed British hominess whose dining room boasts oil portraits that stare at down on the dark, velvet seats, a crackling fire, and excellent English fare, or Gee's, a glass housed restaurant that makes one feel one is dining in Lothlorien, amidst friendly trees and star-like lights hung from the rafters (Thomas said his steak there for our anniversary dinner was the best he'd ever had.)

With full stomachs and gladdened hearts, let us then wander home under the stars to collapse ino our B&B or college lodge beds to gain sleep for the morrow, on which we will retrace the steps of the Inklings...

Day Two: The Oxford of the Inklings

For our labours on this auspicious day, we should probably start with a full English breakfast (also, because though I prefer the tea and scone route, one should definitely experience this English tradition at least once). If our lodging was in a B&B, this would be the menu anyway. If not, we could head either to Brown's (a chain, but a classic English one that's been around forever and serves delicious British fare), or for a totally different vibe, The Turl Street Kitchen, an odd mix of Oxford class and organic hipster with frankly great, natural food. Full breakfasts at both would keep us going for hours. (The coffee's probably better at Turl, though.)

The Kilns

From there, let us ramble to The Kilns, Lewis' famed Oxford home, shared with his brother, nestled in a still countryish feeling corner of Headington in what used to be open countryside. We can catch a taxi or a bus, (and we'll definitely have booked our tour in advance), but once we are there, we can slow our pace to enter the workaday world of home and hearth that fed and warmed the mind behind Narnia. The presence of those famed stories lingers in every room as we explore the great old wardrobe, the kitchen still outfitted with the aga, the study with splendid collections of Lewisian books, Lewis' small bedroom and the tiny porch from which he gazed out upon the stars (and gained inspiration for his cosmic trilogy). We ask our tour guide loads of questions and finish by leaving the house for a ramble round the pond and nature reserve just behind The Kilns. Should we happen to feel like sitting in profound contemplation, or taking a space to journal, this presents an excellent opportunity. To close our Headington jaunt, we head to the local Anglican church where Lewis worshipped regularly, listening for the echoes of his voice at morning prayer as we admire the stained-glass 'Narnia window'. 

The gates to Addison's Walk

For lunch we'll head back to Oxford, only to be faced with a difficult choice. We can either wend our way to the lively Gloucester Green market (on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays), where the cuisines of the world gather in a stunning display of little booths whose lunchtime delicacies are all priced at 5 pounds or less (I highly recommend the Greek). Or, we might find a shop on High Street where we can stock up for a little picnic (we still have afternoon tea to face!); a baguette, some cheese, a bit of fresh fruit, some cider, just enough to sustain us for the next adventure: our ramble round Magdalene College, Lewis' own academic haunt where he hammered wisdom into the heads of students and had long talks with Tolkien and the other brilliant fellows of the Inklings. This is probably my favorite Oxford college; every corner is rich in carved beauty, the cloisters are dappled with quiet light, the chapel is both awe-full and intimate. We would note the red geraniums in the windows of 'New Building', marking the rooms Lewis used for tutorials and friends. And we'd got for a matchless wander down Addison's Walk, the old path shaded by great trees under whose windy boughs Lewis and Tolkien had the talk about myth shifted Lewis' heart toward the possibility of Christ as the living, 'true myth' behind all our great stories. If we turn to the left as we go in the gate, we'll see a little bridge and stone wall before the first turn with a round plaque inscribed with the words of Lewis' poem What the Bird Said Early in the Year. We would definitely stop to savor it and see what the birds were saying then. 

Having walked off lunch in the dappled realms of Magdalene, we would go in search of high tea; though this is not particularly Lewisian, it is very English (which Lewis decidedly was), so I would include it as a necessary element to an Oxford visit. The Randolph is always a possibility though I've never tried it myself. It is a splurge of a thing, with miles of food and a price to match, but it is the classic Oxford high tea, and you are served in high wingback chairs under tall windows, with roses leaning gracefully over your china teacup. The Old Parsonage perhaps my best beloved, the elegant, intimate spot (with excellent sandwiches and tea in pewter pots) to which one I have taken many friends to before. For this moment though, we'll wander across the street from the Randolph and seat ourselves at the rooftop cafe of the Ashmolean Museum. With a bird's eye view of the city and the near blue hills and a decent high tea, we can savor the scones and sandwiches, then head down for a wander through Oxford's art and history (the museum is free). 

Sated with tea, let us set off for that splendid Oxford tradition, not to be missed, a college evensong. Magdalene and Merton are my favorites, though New College and Keble (whose side chapel houses William Holman Hunt's magnificent painting The Light of the World) are splendid as well. New and Magdalene boast their own famed boy's choirs, while Merton has a matching marvel of a girl's choir. The music, the Magnifcants and anthems, the chanted psalms by candlelight, are an experience integral to life in Oxford, something still precious to me however many times I've attended. 

We'll finish just in time to high tail it to The Eagle and Child pub, better known as 'The Bird 'n Baby', famed as the gathering place of the Inklings. I'd recommend the fish 'n chips, and we could even eat in The Rabbit Room, the actual space in which the Inklings met, nicely outfitted with Lewisian portraits and quotes lest you miss the fact. In keeping with tradition, we shall debate some aspect of Norse mythology, or one of us might also be forced to read aloud from his or her latest written work. 

If its a Tuesday (and if I'm planning, it will be), we'll then head next door to the beautiful Pusey House, (whose chapel, history, and marvellous Tractarian library deserve an exploration of their own) whose upper Hood Room hosts the weekly meeting of the Oxford University C.S. Lewis Society. Here, we will be treated to a paper or contemplation on some aspect of literature, history, art, or philosophy connected with the work of the evenings. There will be time for questions, and a good bit of lively discussion, and the conversation might move just across the street to the Lamb and Flag pub, whose selection of drinks is, I am told, quite excellent, and which some of the Inklings actually preferred. There, we can chat imagination into the wee sma's.

Or, if we feel contemplative and quiet in heart after a day of such beauty, we can just head down the steps from the Hood Room into the hushed, shadowed corridors of the Pusey Chapel where a candlelit, chanted compline is waiting to ready us for grateful, sated sleep. 

Either way, under the golden lamps of the cobbled, Oxford streets, we'll ramble back to our beds, to dream of the next adventures...

Links & Lists

Cafes and Restaurants (because, obviously, this is the most important information - I've added a few extras):
Vaults and Gardens
The Missing Bean
Turl Street Kitchen
Pieminster
Cafe Loco
The Old Parsonage
Gee's
Brown's
The Natural Bread Company 
Tea at the Randolph
The Rooftop Cafe at the Ashmolean
Pierre Victoire
The Eagle & Child
The Lamb and Flag

Oxford Colleges:
Exeter College
Christ Church College
Magdalene College
Merton College
New College
Keble College

Oxford Classic Destinations:
The Bodleian Library
University Church
Blackwell's Bookshop
The Covered Market
Christ Church Meadows
The Sheldonian
The Ashmolean
The Natural History Museum

Oxford Inklings Destinations:
The Kilns
Magdalene College
Pusey House
C.S. Lewis Society
Holy Trinity, Headington
The Eagle & Child
Tolkien's Grave at Wolvercote Cemetery

Shopping:
Scriptum
St. Philip's Books
Oxfam Bookshops
Walter's of Turl Street
Aspire
Covered Market
Blackwell's Art and Poster Shop

And of course there are the canals behind our houses where we walk amidst the river and house boats every evening. There are the parks where we speak of great books, thoughts, writers, stories. There are new cafe’s and private gardens near our home, cakes, fish and chips, French soups and entrees to be had. Oh, why don’t all of you come!

Why stay faithful? & Podcast

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Playing in the snow with Darcy Dog. She brings me delight.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;they are new every morning;great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

One of the luxuries of having grown children is that sometimes, not very often, but sometimes, I awaken without an alarm and can snuggle under the covers on a Colorado morning and enjoy quiet. I have had such a full schedule of work every day the past few weeks that I can tend to feel a little bit weighty (carrying the world’s weight on my shoulders) the moment I awaken. But this snowy morning, I slept in (7:45) and took life slowly and my body seemed to say, “Ahhh! I think we can make it a few more days now that you have treated me well for a few hours.”

Recently, I have been reading a great book that reminds me of God’s constant love through all the disasters, difficulties and challenges of life. It follows scripture through His gracious willingness to provide, His compassion and mercy when we are hurt, His very nature to provide and respond to us. Yet, in a world where accidents happen, and people are unfaithful and cause great damage to us, we can tend to blame God or wonder if He still loves us, or feel that He is not answering prayer. Yet, all along the way, we are subject to people who have refused to choose to make good and healthy choices or have acted foolishly and harmed us or others we know in the process.

John 14: 15 "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

Hebrews 10: 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;

God gives us choices to obey Him, to tender our hearts to His ways. Our service of worship is, because we love Him, to seek to obey Him day after day. Our faithfulness will be a testimony of our love and faith in Him through out eternity.

But in a fallen world, where people have the agency to rebel, we are subject to the battle of good and evil which comes in the form or consequences of someone else’s choice to sin. And so in this world, the same one that crucified Jesus, all things are not yet made right. We all know that all consequences are not fair, yet!.

But we also know that in eternity, all wrongs will be righted, all tears wiped from our eyes, all or our hard work will have its reward.

Oddly enough, this morning caught me pondering how grateful I am that Jesus forgives me every day, that He has compassion for me every day, that He is working in my life every day, and that when difficulty comes to my life and I carry heavy loads because of someone else’s sin or immaturity, He is there to whisper in my ear, “Keep going, I see you, your faithfulness matters because Jesus faithfulness mattered. He endured the cross. He despised the shame of crucifixion—yet, I will honor Him, that before Him in eternity, every knee will bow. And when you are faithful now, every minute of faithfulness and walking by faith through one more day, will be a glory to your life story, that you endured, that you loved, that you kept going for the sake of my message and for your love of Jesus.

I have lived long enough to see that, in spite of very dark times when I felt like quitting or that I would never get out of my “hole,” God kept me going one day at a time, sometimes even one moment at a time. Yet, as I look at my grown children, I realize that my enduring faithfulness helped them to learn to be faithful in dark times, through marriage stress, through financial difficulties, through broken relationships, through challenges with their siblings, (my very out of the box children.) As a matter of fact, I think our difficulties even stretched all of them more so that they could be stronger, more humble, more prepared for life.

.Don’t get me wrong, though I love God with all of my heart, pettiness still fills my heart at times, being self-absorbed and more about myself than others, holding on to small offenses. And these become distractions to what is really important.

Yet, He sees me and still loves me.His love never ceases towards me—I am like a toddler, growing and learning, but I am learning through many years, that when I make a decision in the direction of believing in His love and care for me, eventually I can turn around and survey my life and see that following Him was, in the end, always the right choice.

How can I who dwell in His unending forgiveness and count on his unconditional love, ever think that I have a right to criticize or condemn another? If I can judge someone else's sin, forgetting my own, then I do not understand Jesus love.

As I reflect, He brings this to mind,

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

"I will never leave you or forsake you."Deut. 31:6

"As far as the east is from the west, so far have I removed your sin from you." Psalm 103

"Go do likewise." Luke 10: 37 (having mercy on our neighbor)

So why do I exercise patience and keep faithful to my husband? Because it is my spiritual service of worship to Jesus, to my God.

Why be patient to a child? Because He has been so patient with me.

Why give mercy, forgiveness to one who has hurt me? Because my Jesus has extended mercy to me over and over again.

When the world can see that we extend the amazing, beyond understanding faithfulness to each other and those who offend us, to those who are lost and broken, to those who are less than perfect as we are, then they will see our good works and glorify the One, our Father in heaven,  who is the source of our worship to Him, who is always, always faithful.

Great is His faithfulness.

Praying faithfulness for you today.

That the steadfast love of yours towards your people doesn't cease, that your mercy doesn’t come to an end, that every morning, you may renew yourself in His love and then be an agent of bringing His love, one more day, into your world.

Beware the Roaring Lion!

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“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." I Peter 5:8

January is a time when so many people I know are tempted to be discouraged, and feel like giving up--on something! I think that it is true that what goes up, must come down. Adrenalin, energy and ideals are up in early December, and then in January it is cold, bills from Christmas come in, the celebrations are over, and so often, people feel the weight of those things causing their adrenalin, emotional, and spiritual tanks to be low.

There is an enemy who hates for us to keep faithful to our ideals for our families and for the Lord. Satan, Peter tells us, is our adversary. He prowls through the earth, like he did when he asked God if he could seek to destroy Job. Like he did when Jesus said to Peter, "Satan desires to sift you like wheat." Peter, who was so personally experienced at this, because of Satan tempting him to deny Christ at the crucifixion, warns us to be on the alert. He is seeking, Peter tells us, to devour us!

We are, after all, in a battle, that rages in this world--a battle for the hearts and souls giving allegiance to the one true God, to believe in His goodness, to give the gift of our faith in the darkness--to choose to believe and praise and worship and live for His reality yet to be revealed.

We are getting slowly used to stepping beyond our difficulties and seeing who is really at war with us. I have learned to ask myself questions in the midst of my own dark times, as well as sharing them with other women.

Who would like for you to remain bitter and discouraged?

Who would like for you to give up on your ideals--to say, "I can't do this anymore"?

Who wants you to be angry at your spouse? To be resentful of your children? Your family? Your in-laws?

Who wants you to worry and fret and stew and hold on to pet fears?

Who is trying to separate you from your friends?

Who is tempting you to think that God does not hear prayer, that He doesn't really care about you?

Who wants you to doubt God’s goodness?

I think that it is at this very moment--when the darkness comes in--that faith is of most value and pleases God the most and absolutely frustrates Satan. Satan doesn't think we will believe and be strong. God is already waiting to lead and provide and help. But we have this honorable moment, when we can say, "I love You. I believe You. I will choose to trust You."

David reminds us in the Psalm 139: 7,

"Where can I go from thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from thy presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in Sheol, (hell)  behold you are there.

If I take the wings of the dawn and dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there your hand will lead me and your right hand will take hold of me.

If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night," Even the darkness is not dark to you and the night is as bright as teh day. Darkness and light are alike to you."

And so, we who are the children of the light, can be comforted by Him, who sees all, is over all, is with us through it all, and He will use it for our good and for His glory. May He give you encouragement today!

Waiting For Life to Bloom & Podcast

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"Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness."

Hosea 10:12

January comes upon us sometimes with a little darkness and weariness. Christmas promised to be delightful but sometimes the anticipation of family delight, celebratory days has not quite lived up to what we expected. We hoped to be spiritual but sometimes we feel guilty that we were so busy, we were not quite able to be still and worship as we had hoped.

Add to that, the many days staying inside because of cold, the messes we are still cleaning up and amidst it all, our people still want to eat and wear relatively clean clothes.

Learning that January is a season of waiting on God, learning to be content even through the sometimes monotonous days, is a part of life in which some of the greatest fruit will be formed. Growth takes time, muscle has to be built over many days of being stretched. And so I have learned not to despise the Januaries of my life.

I have always loved fields of wildflowers. Seems to me when I see fields and fields of the beauty, (and blue is my favorite color), I almost feel like it is evidence of the invisible hands of God still planting flowers in His gardens to remind us that He is still creating and perpetuating life, even when we are not aware.

When looking at a tiny seed, it is impossible to see what will bloom from this minute speck of nothing, -the color it will produce, the bloom or fruit, or how large the plant will be. There is vast potential locked within, that under the right circumstances--planted in good soil, watered and covered in sunshine, a miracle will happen. The seed transforms into something more than itself--it gives birth to a plant that blooms and brings beauty, life, color and a fruit--and this is a miracle-almost something out of nothing.

And so, during the waiting times, the slow times, God calls us to sow--to sow broadly, generously, diligently.

Sometimes the seeds that He requires us to sow, do not obviously promise anything--yet, we are asked to believe in the potential--the latent miracles inside of these small life-seeds.

We are to sow with a view to righteousness--not seeing or knowing totally the vast potential of what is in our hands. But ours is to be faithful to sow, by faith, the seeds of promise given to us--

to cast the seed of promise into the soil of life, generously, diligently, faithfully--

And His is to do the miracle-

To take all of the planting of faith seeds, and love seeds, and integrity seeds, and faithfulness seeds, into the moments of our lives when no one else is looking;

faithfulness to the gospel and spreading the good news;

serving our children, and loving and helping our spouses;

praying and believing when no sprout of answer is in sight.

And yet, in time, in His hands,

there will be such a bounty of beauty, a harvest from the seeds planted in life, that we will finally see, that

He was creating the miracle right beside us--the seeds will indeed sprout into a harvest of righteousness and redemption that will be beyond what we could have imagined.

But, the harvest of such sowing is only for those who plant, and water and cultivate and wait, by faith, believing in the promise of what lays ahead.

So, dear God, let us look at the flowers you have planted and see the potential beautiful harvest of our lives, if we will only believe in the seed potential in our lives right now,

which by faith will become a harvest of righteousness beyond measure.

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While you are waiting, …, be sure to purchase your copy of The Girls’ Club. I think it will encourage you, give you some things to do during this season and help you to cultivate ways to develop community, closer relationships, (even with those in. your home!) It is our hope that it will fill your heart and delight your soul.

Girls' Club: Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World
By Sally Clarkson, Joy Clarkson, Sarah Clarkson

Why We Wrote Girls Club! & Podcast

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JOIN OUR LAUNCH TEAM FOR GIRLS’ CLUB TODAY!

WE WOULD BE SO HONORED IF YOU WOULD HELP US GET THE WORD OUT TO THE WHOLE WORLD ABOUT OUR NEW BOOK, GIRLS’ CLUB. WE ARE HOPING FOR A MOVEMENT OF WOMEN JOINING IN FRIENDSHIP AND FELLOWSHIP ALL OVER THE WORLD AFTER THEY READ OUR STORY. GO TO: GIRLS’ CLUB BOOK LAUNCH COMMUNITY ON FACEBOOK TO JOIN!

GO TO OUR PAGE ON MY BLOG TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE BOOK, THE AMAZING GIVEAWAY FOR A TRIP TO OXFORD TO JOIN THE THREE OF US, AND THE FUN EVENING LAUNCH PARTY WHERE YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS CAN JOIN US LIVE! (LAUNCH PAGE: http://sallyclarkson.com/girls-club/)

Fellowship, deep connection, and kinship among women has been a rich reality throughout all cultures and centuries. No matter the difficult circumstances that may have surrounded them, women came to appreciate their God-given heritage and to understand the legacy of love, wisdom, and skill they could live into by seeing it played out before them organically, day in and day out, with a community of women who lived close by.

It is not so easy for us to see that pattern anymore. It seems to me that women in the twenty- first century have either forgotten the intrinsic potential they have as human beings and as women sharing in friendship and community, or they are just too distracted, overwhelmed, and busy to access the glory and beauty of their femininity and how it blooms more fully in the context of loving relationships. And of course, we are the most connected generation technologically and the most isolated from our neighbors. In our day, everything about womanhood and gender has been called into question, so that many are afraid or reticent to embrace the delight and joy contained in female friendships, the strength that is gathered in communities of women living harmoniously in support of one another, and the encouragement of affirmation that comes from mutual commitment.

I am so grateful that excellent women have been sprinkled along my life path who have invested deeply in my own emotional and spiritual health. I never could have written books, had a national and local ministry, finished the course as an intentional mother in my home, and stayed faithful to my marriage without the help, support, comfort, and strength I received from other women. Differing in age, personality, educational background, and life experience, they each added a grace to the treasure chest of wisdom stowed inside my heart. Each has helped me to flourish when otherwise I would have floundered.

As I began to grasp and appreciate this kind of intentional mentoring, love, and encouragement in my own life, it became a poignant focus of relationship that I wanted to pass on to my daughters. Understanding that influence is best cultivated through love and friendship, I sought to deepen my sympathy for what was going on in their hearts, to understand their personalities, to affirm their intrinsic worth to me and to God and to others, and to encourage them on a daily basis.

This book is our story as well as a gathering of convictions that each of us holds about the importance of cultivating female friendships that not only provide emotional affirmation and acceptance but also inspire, educate, train, and stretch us to live into our God-given potential. As we seek to invest our lives for God’s glory—and satisfy our longing for meaningful and intimate companionship—we are held firm by the friendships we have invested in over time. Cultivating such friendships may take years of making memories, sharing seasons, and initiating, but these friendships become the backbone of holding lives together.

I am a different person because of the faithfulness, encouragement, and inspiration I have received from my friends and my daughters. It is our hope that this book will encourage you to take the initiative to seek out women with whom to share and shape life. We pray that some of our ideas might spawn other meaningful groups and friendships. We hope you will discover anew the gift of intimate companionship with women who support each other to live deeply into the amazing potential God intended us to experience.

Girls' Club: Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World
By Sally Clarkson, Joy Clarkson, Sarah Clarkson

Is There Oil In Your Lamp?

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January is usually a challenging time in the lives of many people. The anticipation of the holidays is over, there are messes to be cleaned, and lots of cold weather and dark days ahead.

From times past, I know that it helps me every year to refocus and get a new perspective in order to make it through the long winter months with more grace. I wish you were here today, the flurries of snow are  so lovely as it peacefully dances through the air and  falls softly.   It is so white, so pure, so wonderful.  It reminds me of the gentleness of God's word and the beauty of it as it fills our soul.  That is exactly the way I feel now as I ponder our morning devotions where we discussed the virgins that didn't bring enough oil for their lamps.

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.” (Mathew 25: 1-3)

Some of the virgins were called wise and some were called foolish.  Why?

Because they had oil?  Well, partially … but more because they had thought ahead to the priorities in life.  They didn't let things in life distract them from the truly pressing, the truly important, the true priorities. The wise virgins took the time to put oil in their lamps--to be ready to meet the bridegroom.

What does it mean for us to be ready to meet Him? To see Him face to face? How does that play itself out in the warp and woof of our home life? There are times in our lives when we definitely get distracted by dirty rooms, meals to prepare and oh yes, definitely laundry!  But, are these the things that put oil into our souls?  Likely not.

However, focusing on the Savior that is in the manger and on the cross will definitely fill our soul and guide our hands to the priorities of a time to visit with God every day, a time to talk to our children about why they are created in God's image and maybe some help in how they can walk that out today.  Maybe it is time in prayer for the neighbor, friend who is mourning, or family member that feels so alone and misunderstood.

All of our busy-ness will be in vain if it is not in preparation to see Him, to celebrate Him in our homes, to ready all of our children to put Him as the highest priority as we await that wonderful day when He will come back to the earth. God wants us to be ready and anticipating His coming.

The wise virgins were ready--they had faithfully prepared to see their Savior face to face.   When we are in readiness the priorities are a lot more clear and our steps are so much more sure.  So, as this new year unfolds, evaluate your life in light of this wonderful little story. Take some time today to make sure you have the oil you need for your lamp and you too will be wise.

“Good Boys & Girls need Good stories to become Great Men & Women” & Podcast with Nathan Clarkson

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This past few weeks, I have been watching and listening to my adult children: the discussions, hearing the values embraced and been aware of the world view and morality they hold. I honestly marvel sometimes because in a normal day, I probably would not have felt like they were necessarily listening to me closely. Yet, now, they are holding fast to what we taught and discussed day in and day out. Nathan and I had some sweet conversations about it when he was home.

As a boy Nathan’s favorite time of our homeschooling day was when we would sit down in our living room: mom on the couch, him spread out on the floor, head propped up by hands. I would read out loud through classic stories, fiction, biographies, and Bible stories. . I read to him often and for long hours at a time. As a young rambunctious boy who struggled with learning disabilities like dyslexia, and a diagnosis of ADHD, his little body constantly was constantly wriggling, reading by himself was hard for him. But there was something in him that craved good stories about heroes. I would give him a piece of paper and some colored pencils and tell him to draw and color what we read. And here we would stay for hours.

Now decades later I see that those stories weren’t random, but instead meaningful in his young heart. Nathan took all the tales of heroes I read to him and decided he wanted to be a hero in his own story. Nathan now works as an actor, author, and filmmaker bring to life his own stories, the ones he is passionate about, all inspired by this e precious countless hours we spent reading. Very soon he will be launching another movie with a great story—I will keep you posted.

Stories are important. Humans have been hard wired to love and see all of life in the context of arc and narrative. God created us to connect to stories, which is why much of scripture is told through the art of story, and much of Jesus teaching was shared through them. 

Stories have the power to change, inspire, teach, and show us things that nothing else has the power to do. And in the hearts of our children they are a invaluable tool to giving them a vision for the story their lives can tell and the heroes God has made them to be.

Many of us have heard this before, but I have seen that it was true in Nathan’s life because he is an adult and can verbalize what it meant to him. Good stories combat the modern mentality that everything is random and doesn’t really matter. Good stories say that our choices are eternally important and we have been written into a story and have the opportunity to play an important part in it.

In our home we have a library (that really needs to be sorted—literally thousands of books!)) filled to the brim with books about heroes, historical, figure, and inspiring tales, so that all of our children growing up would have consistent access to great stories in our home. We did this with the belief that if they were exposed to great figures existing in great stories they themselves would be given a vision for being heroes in the story in which God has placed them. 

Today in my podcast, I sat down with Nathan and talked about why good stories were so important to him as a boy and how they helped him find a vision for growing into a good man. 

Also, you can read Nathan’s and my best selling memoir about Nathan growing up as an “outside-the-box” kid and how God guided me to love him. It’s called Different and you can pick up a copy here. 

Podcast with Nathan Clarkson (http://www.nathanclarkson.me) was so much fun to do. The Bible study guide is great for your children’s devotionals. We cover different heroes in the Bible and how God used them within the framework of their unique personalities and skills. Enjoy!

Every New Year, I Declutter My Soul! & Podcast

By this time each year, I am exhausted to the bone, have spent all of my emotional cash, given beyond my physical self and likely can be found early mornings stretched out on the couch wondering how I am going to make it through one more day.

I start out well, with good intentions, but sometimes life just happens, actually all the time life just happens and takes us in a direction with demands we didn’t even imagine or count on. This year, I geared up for having jet lag for several days, for having 9 people in my home who would want attention, meals, fun, with expectations of having a wonderful Christmas together—(with me in charge of it all.) I knew it would be lots of giving, serving, loving with lots of cooking and dish washing.

What I did not count on was Lilian, my 9 month old granddaughter, being at the Emergency care 3 times, an ambulance ride with concerned paramedics, a hospital stay 24 miles from my house, with limited cars, and over a week of sleepless nights where everyone was called on to change their plans to help.

And so, another Christmas season has come to an end in its own spectacular way. It is always such a joy with all the people I love at home. ! I love the celebration of life and the traditions and the fun and the beauty of special times spent with my children, husband and friends. But, every year, there is something deeply satisfying to me about getting it all put away and getting back to normal. And every year, I review this habit of mine and rework this blog post because it is one of my favorite things to do to recenter my life. I hope you enjoy my thoughts. 

Perhaps it is because my normal everyday responsibilities of caring for my family’s needs demand so much of me—cooking nutritious meals, organizing our schedules, cleaning and organizing on a daily basis, used to be homeschooling and add to that ministry--writing books, doing podcasts, keeping blogs going, preparing for 3 national conferences—these are enough, but holidays put on that extra load. Routines go by the wayside and so the clutter and demolishing of the house, slowly takes over.

Recognize your limitations!

All of us have limitations. If we spend all of the energy, love and serving that we are capable of giving, we must refuel or there will be consequences. Just as a car cannot fun without gasoline, so we cannot get very far on fumes.

I am not a person gifted in handling details—too much mail, too many catalogues, too many emails, too many options, too many things. The more there is, the more I become responsible for, the more work there is to be done, and so, the more anxious I become. Same with activities. The more I commit to, the more I say yes, the more I have to drive, the more my house gets into a mess, and the more anxious I become, the more hurried we feel, and the more weary I become.

When I am not at peace, nothing in our home is at peace.

We can all see how too much clutter and too many piles causes us to feel overwhelmed with life. Consequently, slowly, I have learned to declutter as often as I can—to throw away unnecessary stuff. Clay is really the master at this. He helps me get rid of, organize, and put away things. Yesterday, he decluttered our pantry—threw away chip bags that held little but took up space, cleared out empty water bottles, tossed the last of the junky Christmas candy that would never eaten; fixed baskets that had fallen off their nails, arranged groceries that had never been put in their place. Now if someone came into my pantry, they would mistakenly think that I am an organized person! Thank goodness for Clay! It made me feel good just to open the door and to see that all was manageable again.

Declutter Your Soul

But, I have also come to realize that my brain and heart can be the same way---cluttered with worries, responsibilities, duties, children’s future, finances, time constraints, expectations, disappointments, critical attitudes, resentment.

All of these added together, can tend to create soul piles and mind clutter. If I don’t take the time to sort the piles of mind clutter, my spirit becomes a mess and my heart becomes overwhelmed and weary.

This is what awakened me at 4:00 a.m. this morning--soul clutter and worry. Another reason I like January is the way it gives me an opportunity to make a new plan, to simplify the mind messes and start off a whole new year well. In the same way that throwing stuff away and clearing out closets brings me relief--even more so--soul and mind decluttering brings me rest.

So, as I begin a new year, I resolve to deal with my soul-clutter, so that I may have strength to face each day in peace. I come to the place where I know I will find the help that I need: the feet of my Father. I ask Him to help me, His child, know how to make get rid of the junk that is unnecessary, and to help me clean out and organize my soul.

He speaks to me gently.

*I must get rid of all that causes me to fret, worry, criticize, and control. There is a way....

“In quietness and rest shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15 You need to come to me and give me all those things that are weighing on your heart. Resolve to seek rest and peace.

“Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

  1. List what is troubling you!

*I list all of my issues in my journal (and there seem to be multitudes of clutter piles in my soul--worries, attitudes, bitterness, weariness, fear, sin and a few more!) These are issues that will suck my heart and energy dry if I do not notice them in order to clean out my soul!

The Lord prompted, "List all of your issues, give them over to me, don’t hold on to them. I am capable of taking them from you and being responsible so that you will not be weary or carry what you are not capable of carrying."

Focus on breathing in rest and peace.

"Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. “ Psalm 37:7

Focus on resting in Me—sit in My lap, rest in My arms. Let Me carry you. I love you. Wait for My timing. Don’t force things or beg Me to hurry up. I am in control.

“Be still (cease striving) and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Psalm 131:2

Give Me your attention and get control of your spirit. Be quiet. Be still. Recognize My sovereignty and transcendence. Remember what Jesus said, “Our Father who art in heaven, holy is your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus modeled His understanding that My will is what you need to rest in. I am in heaven and I see all things—the future, the past, your children, your relationships--all your clutter. Give them to Me. Quiet your soul and rest in My strength and power.

“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one little child like this receives me.” Matthew 18:3-5

Come to Me as a child—even as your children, in their innocence and sweetness of heart, know that you will care for them and meet their needs because you are a loving parent who cares for them, so I am your Father who will take care of you. Leave the burdens to your Father and take your rightful place as a child. Humble yourself and trust Me. Enjoy Me. Delight in the beautiful moments of this day. Notice the little miracles. Live as an unfettered child. Accept your little and big children and receive them as a gift from Me, and your will indeed receive Me into your midst.

“ ... a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” I Peter 3:4

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about so many things. But really one is needed and Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10 41-42

Don’t worry and fret and stew and stir up unnecessary dust.

Choose simplicity

—just one thing I require—that you give it all to Me and love Me. I will take over. Even as I gave and provided a Sabbath in which all of My children should have rest from their work, so I want you to live in My Sabbath rest for your soul. Rest from your striving and labor. Take time for naps, for pleasure, for joy. This day you have to receive as a gift--I can't promise what tomorrow will hold. But today you can love, give peace, speak kind and wise words, dance in your soul with secret pleasure that comes from knowing that I love you. Simplify your life; don’t make choices that will complicate or add unnecessary pressure or cause you to sin or grumble. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life,” as Paul said.

So, as I yield my lists into God’s hands and de-cluttered my troubled soul, I left feeling that even as my house has been coming to order, after we cleaned and straightened it yesterday, now my soul is moving in the direction of order.

Rest, rest, rest—in quietness and rest will be your strength every day, every year, until you see me face to face. I love you, my sweet girl. Don’t forget that I am with you each moment of today. ~Your doting and loving Father.

Artists, Writers, Musicians, Wordsmiths: This suits the Clarksons & Podcast

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In the old days, farmers taught their sons and daughters how to farm and to make a living from the gardens, the livestock. Those who ran the general store did so with the help of their children. Our family seem to all do the same thing—write books, speak, do music and craft messages. It is what the Clarksons do. You would never ask us to be your accountant or physician, but we all seem to have the same basic make-up—artist, writers, musicians, message makers.

And we are hobbits and eat and drink all the time. And we talk endlessly.

I thought it would be fun, before everyone started to head back to their homes, to share a little bit of this community we share together with you.

One of the most consistent messages we spoke to our children’s heart was, “God has created you with a place in His kingdom story. He gave you a personality, skills, desires so that you can use the uniqueness of who you are to serve Him and bring His light to bear through you.”

A desire to know that our lives matter, that we have meaning through the days we live is a deep desire of all of us. We tried to draw that longing for purpose out from our children’s hearts.

It is so fun to hear their ideas, see their passions and to know that all have a desire to use their gifts to honor God in some way.

Clay, who was a major inspirer in our home, was at the office working today, so he did not get to throw in his two cents worth. But the rest of us gathered around the mic before we sent Nathan on his way. Hope you enjoy our podcast. Maybe one of our ideas or projects will inspire you to imagine some unique ways

God might use you in 2019. May He show you that all of your days have great meaning.

If you would like to follow all the projects, movies, daily happenings in our lives, you can follow us on Instagram @clarksonfamilyofficial

I hope you will follow us there.

Happy New 2019.