Tools To Cultivate Deep Friendship & Sarah, Joy and Sally Podcast

It’s what we do! We read! And have tea and talk and create adventure together. We are the original “Girls’ Club.”

It’s what we do! We read! And have tea and talk and create adventure together. We are the original “Girls’ Club.”

If I have a friend with whom to share life, I will hold fast to my ideals.

Pimen Nikitich Orlov 1845

In the past couple of weeks, I have met on a couple of different occasions with sweet women who have opened their hearts. Both, mature, loving, committed to ideals and holding fast to investing their lives in their children and marriage, but both experiencing such isolation and loneliness.

In our culture at this time in history, it is very easy to feel alone, especially when one feels called to focus her time and life on raising godly children, making a home that is the center of life and cultivating spirituality intentionally.

The pressures that come with 24 hour a day children in the home, the housework, the messes, the education of each child and the load of work associated with these ideals can deplete a woman constantly.

It is why Clay and I sought to develop small groups of women based around common ideals and why we are hoping to build a network of these women. It is why the girls and I wrote Girls’ Club, to try to foster strong female friendships and to build community so that women can join arm in arm across life, ideals and great causes. We need time to laugh and love and have fun and share our deepest struggles and challenge each other to ideals--and to feel that someone in the world "gets" you, loves you and will pray for you.

I have been working so much lately on our conferences, book launch, podcasts and keeping up with packing for 4 cities and then Oxford, leaving in a couple of days. I was feeling a bit lonely and dry—all work and no play makes Sally a cull girl.

I quickly called one of my friends I speak of in our Girls’ Club book. She is truly one of the most devoted women I know and always, always encourages me, prays for me and helps me feel loved. She is 14 years older than me.

“Come over for a quick cuppa! I would love to see you.”

Predictably, when I arrived, she had a cup of coffee waiting, a little dish of ginger cookies, a candle lit and said, “Now, let’s be friends.”

Though I stayed only an hour. She encouraged me, prayed for me, asked about my welfare and when I left, I was restored. My heart was at least partially filled and I felt I could make it through my week.

All women, especially mamas who are at home with tiny, demanding wee ones, need the regular encouragement, love, fun, sympathy and support of other like-minded women to make it through their days with strength and grace to make it through their days.

It is why we wrote our book, to help women understand the profound importance of being intentional to cultivate that few inner circle women who will link arm in arm to be the kind of friends we all need for life.

I have been accused of using this word often—cultivate—because it is what needs to be done in relationships.

Webster’s dictionary describes the word “cultivate” as this:

“to promote or improve the growth of by labor and attention”, “to devote oneself to”, “to seek to promote or foster” and “to seek the acquaintance or friendship of”. All of these definitions are very clear.

To cultivate is not a passive activity. It is one that takes work and attention and care.

I have never seemed to have very much pause in life. The demands of my children, husband, friends, work, ministry, life have drained me on a regular basis. It is quite exhausting sometimes to be responsible!

Cultivate insinuates you have to slow down, pause, water what needs to grow, care for it—and so it is with friendship—it must be planted, watered, receive nourishment and have time to grow. And all of us need to remember that unless we plant, we will not reap.

Sarah, Joy and I talk about how to Cultivate Deep friendships

1.Take initiative and reach out. . Remember; cultivate means “to devote oneself to”. Ask the Lord to show you ways to cultivate a friendship with someone.

2. Encourage—look at the friend’s eyes—what do they tell you? How might you give words of encouragement to lift the other up.

2. Listen. Be someone who listens, not just talks. Make sure you know you are available to listen. People are not mind readers. You must tell them.

3. Support and do acts of kindness. Ask the Lord ways in which you can show love in action to friends.

4. Pray. Pray for your friends. Tell them you are praying for them. Ask them how you can pray for them. Ask them to pray for you.

5. Be dependable—through all seasons of life. Be a safe friend who can be trusted not to judge or criticize, but to love—Remember: love covers a multitude of sin.

We talk about more ways we have found to be friends to one another today.

Be sure to order your copy of the Girl’s Club Series. We know you will be glad you did. Stories to help keep all of us faithful to God and our ideals He has called us too.

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

Greta Eskridge Podcast: Girls' Club Book Series!

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What fun we’re having as we prepare to launch the new book, Girls’ Club! Today I had the joy of recording a discussion with Greta Eskridge, a delightful mom who loves to encourage others. I hope you’ll love our conversation.

I had the privilege of meeting Greta when we were both speaking at Wild and Free. I love her full engagement with life, celebrating moments with her children, and getting to watch the life she brings to so many through her messages and friendship. We also share a love for walking and hiking and being outdoors every day. Now, if she could just come to Oxford, what fun we could have on the canal, in the meadows and parks. And we would probably change the world with our conversations. I so enjoyed talking with her today about the profound importance of relationship as a foundation of strength for our lives.

We also talk about the reason everyone on Insta knows her as maandpamodern (Ma and Pa Modern) —I always wondered where that came from, and now, when you listen to the podcast, you will know!

You can find more from Greta here:

Website and blog : www.gretaeskridge.com

Instagram: @maandpamodern

Podcast: At Home

You can also find her writing and speaking for Wild and Free events, and at various other home school and parenting conferences around the country. To find where she’ll be speaking next, check gretaeskridge.com!

You will love this podcast with my lovely friend.

And be sure to pre-order your copy of Girls’ Club, here!

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

Kristen Kill; Cultivating Friendship with Teens (Girls' Club Podcast Series)

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“When we know that we are loved, we are ready not just to find a friend, but to be one.”

~ Girls’ Club

What a joy to have Kristen Kill joining me once again, as I continue this series all about the Clarkson ladies’ newest book, Girls’ Club! Kristen is a long-time friend to our family, and we’ve shared many a cup of tea and deep conversations all over the country. She’s settling into a new spot in the Pacific Northwest with her darling family after spending many years in New York City, and can be found on Instagram and Facebook as Kristen Kill. You can also find her book all about finding rest in the midst of a busy life here: Finding Selah.

Kristen is also very graciously giving away a copy of Finding Selah to one of our readers!

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Leave a comment here or tag a friend on this poster on Instagram for a chance to win.

And don’t forget to get a copy of Girls’ Club, here!

Girls' Club: Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World
By Sally Clarkson, Joy Clarkson, Sarah Clarkson
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How to Be A Friend Worth Having & Sarah, Sally & Joy Podcast

Greetings from Sally, Joy and Sarah of The Girls’ Club Book.

Greetings from Sally, Joy and Sarah of The Girls’ Club Book.

"Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.
For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up." Ecc. 4:9

What kind of friend are you? I have a wonderful friend who is my "go to" friend when I need to be with someone who I know walks with the Lord. She is a kindred spirit, has a busy life, many responsibilities and we don't get to see each other very often because of our mutually busy schedules. But, I take the luxury of making special time to get together with her because I know I can count on the fact that she has been in the presence of the Lord and whatever we chit-chat about or whenever we share heart secrets, I know that I will be exposed to a heart that has been shaped by scripture, watered by faith and dwelling in the presence of the Lord. 

I know that just being with her will fill my cup, point me in the right direction, give me perspective. I also know that it has been her habit to walk with the Lord for years and years, one day--one devotional--one prayer at a time--so her wisdom is cumulative--years and years of experiences of seeing God's faithfulness and learning how to live by faith, and insight on how to look at life.

"He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm." 

Prov. 13:20
 

I have had to look for these kinds of friends over the years. I once heard a leader say, "I will go to the ends of the earth to be around someone who makes me want to love God more and be more excellent. I will run quickly away from the kind of person who is always a drainer, complains and drags me down and depletes my desire to walk with God."

I have thought about this philosophy over the years. We must all minister to a wide variety of people. Yet, I have purposefully sought to find friends to spend time with, on somewhat of a regular basis, who have the life of Christ bubbling up.  This is to fill my own heart with wisdom from those who keep me seeking to pursue God in His holiness. Positive peer pressure, you might say. 

Excellent women are hard to come by, yet in each case, I find that these women are dedicated to pursuing God no matter what and their priorities show the investment they have made by making it a habit to spend time with the Lord on a regular basis--and then walk obediently, choosing to serve Him and His ways. Many of these women have terrible backgrounds and had to learn scripture and truth by pursuing it--but by pursuing the Lord in the context of His word and obeying it, they became reflections of Christ. Not about background, but about the priority of who you spend time with the most.

How do you become a "go to" friend? Determine that you will read the word every day. Choose to believe in God every day, every circumstance, because it is way to please Him. Pray for His guidance and live with His presence going with you. It is the engaged, loving heart--the one that hungers to know and live for God--that will become the heart that others will draw from. There is nothing else to replace it--no cleverness or self-strength or rules or formula can replace the palpable life that comes from living day by day, holding on to God's hand, and then being a well-spring from which other draw.

Do you want your children to draw from the Life that is bubbling over from your heart and mind and words and attitudes--then you must spend day after day with the Word of Life who will give you the true source of wisdom and love you long for. 

Even as a house is built one brick at a time and yet has the potential of becoming a mansion, so a wise woman builds her house one day--one brick at time into a home of spirituality that comes from rubbing up against Him so many times.

Thanks, sweet friend, for spending so much time with Him so that I could be with Him when I am with you. Thanks, too, to all of my other sweet friends who pour His life into mine. (Those who are in my stories, in my book dedication, in my ministry and projects and work at my conferences, my blog and email friends. It is a host of watching women walk with God that waters my own heart. I am so very grateful for you!)I treasure you. You have made it possible for me to keep going in this life of ideals and faith in my sweet Lord.

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

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