Just a tiny little note before I get into the tradition that shaped our children's heart to loyalty.
I was so very touched and moved by your many comments from my last blog post. I wish I could adopt all of you or at least have you as neighbors. What fun we could share together, what encouragement we could give to one another. I am praying that each of you will find someone, an angel friend, who can come along beside you in this very demanding and long journey. Thanks ever so much for leaving your comments. The Lord is keeping you on my heart. Grace and peace in your day!
Always, bubbling around in my mind, were ideas of how to build a legacy and memories deeply into the pathways of my children's hearts. The purpose was that they would have a sense of security, ties to the Clarksons and our heritage, a Biblical sense of self, and lots of love. Consequently, each birthday was full of tradition.
Birthday breakfast was the sacred time of family celebrating each other no matter what else transpired the rest of the day. Each child would be greeted in their rooms with a cup of tea or hot chocolate and one child would wait with them there while we finished up the breakfast feast. No one was allowed to come down until all was complete.
The table would be laden with presents, cards, and all would be wrapped, even if it was something from the dollar store. Our special china or tea dishes would be used to heighten the splendor of the occasion. Breakfast was almost always the same: Mama's special scrambled Eggs (sour cream, cheese, bacon and eggs) and of course our famous Clarkson cinnamon rolls. (Really just a recipe of rolls I concocted over the years, but became bigger than life from me sharing our tradition in our books.)
The birthday child is then marched down the stairs, blindfolded, and then presented to the table. The feast is consumed, the presents opened and then follows the best part.
Each year, since they were wee little people, all of us would individually give a verbal encouragement and intentional love gift aimed at the heart of the child. "I really appreciate you because".....and then follows specific character qualities all of us have observed over the year, strengths that have developed, ways that the child has blessed our family. I would not have expected young children to do well at this, but after a couple of times, all of the kids took it very seriously and really invested their words. "You are such a talented singer-songwriter and I admire the way you have developed as a pianist." or "You have really been an encouragement to me this year when I needed to know I had a friend." or "I have really been inspired to walk with God more closely this year because of the thoughts and ideas you shared in our family devotions."
You can almost see the soul and heart of the child being filled up, and the personal appreciation and confidence swell in front of you. Then we would all hold hands and pray blessings over the child. Everyone at the table prays--for their future, their dreams, their desires, their marriage, all that they have asked.
As I have pondered the death of my mom, and the various relationships influenced by her death, I have realized that words have consequences, as do lack of words. Today is the time to invest, as there may never be another time and then a heart can be empty for lack of initiation. Consequently, I have recommitted to speaking to those I love ,of their worth to me--taking the initiative to let family and friends know that they really mean a lot to me or have invested deeply in my life. Words should be said, words should be planted in people's souls. Words not said can leave a vacuum.
One of the wonderful consequences of years and years of practicing this together has built a habit amongst my children of becoming free with their encouragement to me and to others. I have received the most wonderful cards where they freely articulate my worth in their lives, and have greatly sustained me in my own times of need. Pretty much, my children have grown into my best friends, and it has been so worth the investment of love aimed at their hearts, because now, it is coming back to me. I do not have a lot of outside family or strong relationships, because of distance that has separated us, but I did not know the depth of gift I was giving myself ,by creating my own inner circle. And all of this, just by investing lots of love and grace and appreciation in my precious children, so that they would feel a safe, life-giving place where our friendship could bloom.
PS If you set the table the night before and wrap the presents the day before (and all of the other kids help), and make the cinnamon rolls--the dough, and freeze it and then let it rise the morning of over a pot of simmering water, you don't have too much to think about when the day arrives--just scrambling a few eggs and making a pot of tea! Most years we did get up at the crack of dawn to celebrate before Dad left for work--he left here around 8, but sometimes he delayed going to work until 9, or when they were older, on occasion we would wait till the weekend. But to the child, having it on their day, made it very special. Because they were usually excited, they were up early anyway!