The Clarkson Kids--Nathan, Sarah, Joy and Joel
Candles flickering, luscious smells of cinnamon rolls hot out of the oven, strong coffee and lots of noise and laughter marked one more gathering of the Clarkson clan. Thus began our 25th year of celebrating the story and heritage of our family. Family Day, we call it. It is a time of remembering who we are, as well as to document what God has done in our family to give us hope for what He can accomplish in the future.
When a child knows the heritage of faith and cherishes the messages of the heart that has been passed down to him, he feels a powerful connection to the past which gives a spring board to his future. Joshua knew that the Jews who were allowed to leave the desert to enter the promised land, needed to constantly be reminded who they were--the chosen people of God--and that they were to called to possess the land God had provided for them. Consequently, he had them gather memorial stones to document all of the miracles God had performed and teh ways He had faithfully led them in their lives.
When our children were still young, we started this tradition of having an annual Family Day. It was inspired by God's power, faithfulness, sovereignty, and love (Joshua 4:19-24).
Even in the midst of four children on spread across the United States, we all made it a priority to gather together last week for Family Day. Our Family Day is a whole day of family togetherness. Homemade whole wheat cinnamon rolls start the day, a tradition for all of our breakfast holidays each year. Remembering just what defines the "Clarksons" and reviewing our values, traditions, tastes, memories and pictures reminds us again why we are all tied together by invisible and unbreakable strings at the heart. Taking time to affirm all the things we like about our family and one another builds each person's sense of worth and belonging to this tribe! Photo albums from the previous year or two are admired, while favorite memories of family times are rehearsed and remembered all day.
Next is the trek to our favorite mountain spot. Singing familiar songs with the cd player blasting--Rich Mullins, Chris Rice, Andrew Peterson songs are the favorites from times gone by. Winding our way through the mountains to Mueller State Part, with Pike's Peak in view, we smack our lips in anticipation of yearly fried chicken, chips, baked beans and Texas chocolate sheet cake. Tromping on the trails and taking about 1000 family pictures takes up most of the afternoon. Coffee stop is a must on the way home at the same place each year. And then of course, we eat again!
Later in the day we might play games or watch a good family movie. Then we have a special dinner to lead into our Family Day memorial stone time.
First, Clay reads the account of Joshua and the memorial stones to teach the principle of taking time and making a way to remember all the ways that God has been faithful. After the story, we all begin to share and discuss all the ways we see that God was faithful to us as a family in the year since the last Family Day. Each thing becomes a memorial stone of God's faithfulness written at the top of a piece of paper. Those are parceled out to different family members, who draw pictures on those papers to illustrate each of the memorial stones.
The memorial stones are all stored in a Family Day notebook. Each year we review them and we are amazed as we read our family history together at all the ways God has worked supernaturally. It is so easy to forget. We also select annual verses for each family member. We then write down prayer requests for the year ahead, pray, and end the day with a fun activity and a favorite dessert.
Giving our children a story of the miracles God has performed in our lives has enlarged the hearts of each child to be willing to trust God for even bigger things. Understanding how we started our ministry with no money, no books, no conferences--just a thought and a prayer, always inspires our children each year to imagine how god will work in their lives.
Thanking God in the circle of family is one of my sweetest moments each year as I hear the deep voices of my boys praying fervently for all of us and the girls passionately speaking to God with thanks and anticipation of how He will be faithful the next year is the memory that I take to heart. Here, these sweet ones, in whom I have invested for so long and given so much, are now living vibrant lives of faith.
And so, this year, as we prayed blessing and sent everyone out again, we have much to trust God for--
Nathan is filming his first Christian movie this week on a shoe-string budget, but with hope in his heart that His movie might just redeem some prodigals and bring families back together. (Confessions of a Prodigal Son).
Joel is working with a composer in Hollywood on some projects for PBS with amazing music and is hoping to write some choral music that will be sung by choirs all over the world.
Sarah is foraying to Wheaton, with her eye to attend Oxford next year, to see if God will open doors for her to become an academic who can write messages about the incarnation of Christ in a technological world.
Joy is in training her second year of college where she will be an RA and have the opportunity to disciple and challenge 45 young women.
But all of them love and support each other in their dreams of bringing God's light to their own arenas, because they know our family history and story, and it has launched them to continue to write a new chapter.