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

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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!

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

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!

A Tradition for the New Year--Decluttering my Soul

Lately I have been falling in bed, exhausted, at around 11:00 and then I awaken several times a week between 3 and 5. My mind is filled with the impossible tasks of my life the next few weeks, big issues on the hearts of my children, health issues with one close and dear and the piles of tasks that call my name.

Even as Pilgrim carried a great weight on his shoulders in Pilgrim's Progress, sometimes, I pile things on my own soul that God never intended me to carry. Yet, if I don't take stock, I pile more onto my burden and begin dragging through my days, unaware what I am carrying that God wants to carry for me.

It's become a tradition for me to share about a habit I have at the end of each year, taking time to declutter my soul.  I take some quiet time to focus on planning my priorities, commitments and goals. I hope it will encourage you to do the same!

As Anne of Green Gables says, (paraphrase) "This is a new year with no mistakes in it yet!"

There is something uniquely good about January 1. It marks a new year, a new beginning, a new possibility. It also marks, for me, the reentry into simplicity.

I don’t know if there is a more satisfying feeling for me during the year than when we put all of our Christmas things away, the decorations, the remnant of cookies, the clutter.

Every year for the past few years, I have pondered and written about de-cluttering my soul. I hope you will be blessed by these thoughts. I am pulling away for a few days, once again, to see what needs to stay and what needs to be cut.

Soon, Thomas and Sarah will be in Oxford, Joy in Scotland, the tasks of conferences, a book deadline and a book launch will be upon me- let alone, keeping on top of my family and marriage. And so I am deliciously excited to take time alone to get back to my soul.

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, there is something deeply satisfying to me about getting it all put away and getting back to normal.

All of us carry so much responsibility, the normal days are burdensome enough, but holidays put on that extra load. And I know that many of you have the added burden of caring for the needs of little ones, some of you homeschool, some of you work like I do, and we have to tame our busyness to make life sustainable. Routines go by the wayside and so the clutter and demolishing of the house, slowly takes over.

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—throw away unnecessary stuff--especially the stuff that lingers inside.

Even as we declutter our closets and drawers, so we must lighten the load we carry in our hearts or we will become overwhelmed.

Today, I was out and about and came home to a decluttered home. Sarah worked her magic and straightened some of the lingering messes. I felt different about life all evening because it was all so orderly. 

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.

It is what awakened me at 4:00 a.m. this morning-soul clutter and worry.

It is another reason I like January. It gives me an opportunity to make a new plan, to simplify the mind messes and to start off a whole new year well. In the same way that throwing away stuff and clearing out closets brings me relief, even more, soul and mind cleaning and decluttering brings me rest.

Every January, 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.

I come to my Father and ask Him to help me, His child, to show me 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.

It was in writing my book, Dancing with My Father, that I have learned so much about finding joy--and peace. In Him, with Him, by Him all the moments of my busy day. His voice leads me to what I long for--but I must get rid of all that causes me to fret, worry, criticize, control. There is a way....

A verse that has ministered to me greatly this year, as I mentioned last week, is "He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul. " Psalm 23

God does not want me to carry and live in stress and pressure. He wants to lead me to places of stillness and peace, to restore what has been taken away. 

I look at several specific areas:

1. Unnecessary Guilt We all fail in many ways, and will do so until we are with Jesus. Confess your failures, your sin attitudes, your bitterness, jealousy, anger to God and ask Him to take it away from you, to restore you to freedom and peace.

2. Fear Are there areas where I am trying to carry the burdens in my life that I can't solve by fretting about them or worrying about the outcome? Financial, immoral issues of a loved one, fear of the future for my children, worry about what I cannot change? God reminds us, "Fear not, for I am with you, do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God." Identifying the things that I am fearful about and giving them into His hands lifts so much weight.

3. Hurt or Bitterness from someone who has hurt me or will continue to hurt me. There are things I cannot change, people I cannot make be strong and healthy. But I can decide not to be a victim. I can change me. I can walk in peace and set boundaries, but refuse to take in their hurt.

4. Exhaustion and stress from too much in life. I will speak of many things in my new book, Different, and about the mysterious broken places that surround each of us. Breathing in God's peace and love every day, not trying to change or solve what cannot be changed, but trusting God that He is at work help me to walk in peace amidst the constant pressures of my day. But I have to name what drains me, ask if I have accepted the limitations of my life, been sure to extend forgiveness, to breathe in His peace.

These are just a few. But then begin my prayers over what He tells me in His word:

“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

I listed all of my issues this morning 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 me dry and my 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.

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

Focus on resting in Me—sit in My lap, so to speak, 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 my 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 yielded 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.

I will be hosting a book club through my podcasts for 6 Mondays about Parenting in a Different sort of way to reach the hearts of all of your children. Order Different so you can join us in this book study. It will be a an inspiration for your new year.

I will be hosting a book club through my podcasts for 6 Mondays about Parenting in a Different sort of way to reach the hearts of all of your children. Order Different so you can join us in this book study. It will be a an inspiration for your new year.

It's time to Renew Your Heart & Start the Year Strong

I hope you will join me and hundreds of other women from all over the US to renew your heart, to find encouragement, to feel understood and to be affirmed in your life as a woman, a mom, a wife, a friend., 

I hope you will join me and hundreds of other women from all over the US to renew your heart, to find encouragement, to feel understood and to be affirmed in your life as a woman, a mom, a wife, a friend., 

Nine o'clock at night found me slumping into my squishy old recliner, sighing so that Clay heard me from the other room. One more bedtime routine had found me at the limit of my patience. As I looked at the landscape of the months ahead, I just felt an overwhelming feeling of, "I don't think I can make it. I am so tired, so drained, so weary. I just wish I could have a break, a rest, a time to regather my ideals."

Clay walked into the room and said, "What happened? Why the tears?"

"Motherhood is just so hard. I feel so alone and so responsible without help, affirmation or companionship in all of my ideals as a mom. Mainly, I feel so alone and unseen."

This was the context in which we decided to start our mom's conferences so many years ago. I thought if I needed encouragement as a woman, that others might, too.

Now, during this very challenging time of history, when Christian values and commitments seem to be falling apart, gathering with like-minded women is more important than ever before. I have been preparing my talks for this year's conferences and am really excited to share my heart of encouragement with as many of you as are able to attend a Renew My Heart conference.

The last 20 years, we have hosted more than 40,000 women at our conferences. But this year, I wanted to do something even more focussed, more personal, to seek to provide a mentoring weekend. I As I enter a new season of ministry to moms, perhaps the final lap in my race with God, I have an even deeper desire to mentor, teach, and encourage women in their profoundly important roles as moms and life-givers. I want to help women from every role in life understand more deeply what it means to have faith in Christ and grow in that faith as His follower.

I find my heart focused on what so many precious women I have ministered to through the years have shared with me about the challenges of motherhood and life, and their need to be constantly renewed by God. And that is what I hope to do this year, and for as many years as God allows me to continue speaking, through the new Renew My Heart GetawayIt is on my heart to renew your heart. I hope you will join me as we start a new journey with God in 2017.

Some of my launch team gathered in Colorado for our conference last year. 

Some of my launch team gathered in Colorado for our conference last year. 

 

The new Renew My Heart Getaway will be a different kind of event. Many women through the years have told me they would like more of me, more time for interaction with other moms, and more time for reflection. After the final Mom Heart Conference in February 2016, I thought and prayed about “what’s next?” and discussed it with Clay and my Mom Heart leaders. It became clear to all of us that the next season of events needs to be slower, more personal, and more interactive, focusing less on topics such as how to be a “good mother” and more on how to be “God’s mother.” We want to strengthen and renew the spiritual life of all women. After 32 years of parenting, I’m convinced that being God’s mom is the most important factor in being a good mom, spouse, and friend. And to be God’s woman means you need to continually renew your heart by His Spirit. That’s the vision and purpose of the Renew My Heart Getaway.

It has been amazing to start our podcasts and to find that thousands of women join me and Kristen Kill each week to share a space of encouragement, the same kind we will be sharing at our conference this year.

Every year, friends gather to give each other the best gift--time for developing friendship. Here Kristen Kill and I are in California last year. She will be with me at 2 or 3 conferences this year. (and bringing her sweet baby boy.)

Every year, friends gather to give each other the best gift--time for developing friendship. Here Kristen Kill and I are in California last year. She will be with me at 2 or 3 conferences this year. (and bringing her sweet baby boy.)

The theme this first year is Hope Changes Everything: Think Different. Live Different. Make a Difference. In all my years of ministering to and mentoring Christian mothers and women, a common thread of comments has been, “This is so hard. I don’t know if I can keep going. I am so discouraged.” I understand those feelings. There were many difficult years when I, too, was tempted to give up, not just on motherhood but on getting through life itself with all its challenges, changes, and choices. My faith in God was always my strong foundation, but the thing that energized my faith was hope–biblical hope, our “anchor of the soul.” Hope renewed my heart so I could move forward in faith. And that’s what I want to share with you in this first year of the Renew My Heart Getaway–that no matter where you are in life, if you have hope it will make all the difference.

 

My newest book Different (2017), co-authored with my 27 year-old Nathan, is the catalyst for my thinking about heart renewal for the 2017 messages. On the surface our book is about what it was like to be an “outside-the-box” kid, and the mother of one. Underneath, though, it is the message that no matter what curves, potholes, and speed bumps you encounter on the road of life with God, there is always redemption and hope. I will also be drawing on my other recent books, Own Your Life and The Lifegiving Home, to explore the hope that we all need as moms and women after God’s heart.

After well over two decades of ministering to Christian moms, my heart still beats with a passion to give them hope and help for their strategic role in God’s plan. My mind is alive with vision for how to reach and help more women—the Internet; Mom Heart groups; Spanish language materials; “Mum Heart” in the UK, Canada, and AUS/NZ; ministry in China; and more. Every time I’m with special friends like you it is what fuels and helps to fund that vision, but even more it is what fuels me to continue in ministry.

What can you expect from the new Renew My Heart Getaway? It will be both familiar and also new. As always, I will share my heart with you in several key messages (just me this year; the kids are all out in their worlds). Clay and I have partnered for all these years, and he will still lead us in worship. Our book table will be smaller, but we’ll still offer the best of our best personal recommendations. We’ll share a lovely meal on Saturday, and have plenty of time for warm fellowship and friendship. It will be a getaway and get-together to get renewed. I hope you can be a part of this new event as we take hold of the hope that changes everything so we can make a difference. That’s what I’m here for. That’s what we’re all here for. Join me.

In His heart,

Sally Clarkson

Register HERE!

Register HERE!