A Recipe Approach to Family Culture


Many years ago when Clay and I were first living in Vienna, I began an interest in bread making. Though we loved the different choices of bread available in the local bakery, we really missed our American sandwich bread. The Europeon breads available for sandwiches, at the time, were either white-flour wonder type of bread, or very chewy rye or doughy whole grain bread. (I just returned from a trip to Vienna and found the variety to be much wider than when we first lived there many years ago!)We longed for a normal, soft wheat bread for our sandwiches.

The drive for familiar bread sent me to several cook books. I read many articles on bread, tried many recipes and started an adventure that turned me into a full-fledged baker. In our small neighborhood market, I could go and have my wheat ground fresh and then take my flour home to use for my bread. One of my fellow missionary friends had my favorite recipe, but I decided to start experimenting with it and added my own touches to our very own bread recipe. Oats, eggs and milk supposedly added to the bread’s lightness. I incorporated them. Honey was a preferred taste. Our children preferred the golden 86 wheat in recipes.

Over the years, I tried whole kernel breads, but found my family preferred not having seeds get stuck in their teeth! (Sarah and I love whole kernels all through our bread!) So I started another experiment—grinding millet, rye, brown rice, spelt and flax seed into fine powder and putting it into my bread, as well.

So making bread, whole grain rolls, pizza dough, herb-onion bread and dinner rolls and pancakes became our family favorites that evolved after years of experimenting, reading, and copying other good bakers. But in the end, my goal was to come up with what suited us. (Please don’t ask me if I give out my recipe—I get those requests all the time, but since I am an “add a little of this and a little of that” person, I don’t know how to come up with an exact recipe. I also use a Bosch, which not everyone has, so I have promised everyone that by the time my next book is finished (and will hopefully come out next spring,) I would perfect my recipe in such a way that others can try it. Promise!)

However, I have noticed that I have never seen anything like my recipe in the books I have searched. It is uniquely mine! As I was thinking about this, I was also thinking of how much scope there is for all sorts of recipes---spaghetti sauce, chocolate cakes, chile, etc., for a great variety of different things combined together, but still taste good! No one recipe is right----they are all different, and yet good to the taste to those who prefer them.

Some are more intellectual, some athletic, some very active, some more practical, others more introverted. Yet, all of these possibilities and more are valid and worthy within the bounds of their own unique family culture. God is a God of variety and diversity as can be seen in so many different aspects of creation. Yet, I have seen many families, and more particularly moms, who are always comparing themselves to others and falling short of someone else’s list of attributes.

Comparing ourselves to others will almost always lead to disappointment. God made us for His glory as we are and as our children are within the limitations of their own personality. My children are so vastly different from each other---in personality, looks, body type, preferences, growth and development, intelligence and skills. To compare them or discipline them the same or to expect that they would all behave the same would place undo pressure on them to conform to a box that they could not fit into.

When Sarah was a little girl, if I just glanced the least bit disapprovingly in her direction, she would immediately repent of whatever she was doing—often even thinking I was disappointed in her because she had such a sense of her own internal excellence. Joel is such an abstract person, that often he would be in his own thoughts and totally oblivious if I had even been talking to him. To train him, I had to make sure I had his attention and then he was willing to obey. Nathan was my confident, strong willed child, much like me. I had to spend lots of time with him talking, playing and doing his school work, and training personally, because his extroversion and active little mind and body required different focus. Joy started out very self-sufficient and calm and is very intuitive about our expectations and what we expect of her. I motivated her by giving her the opportunity to spill all that was on her heart and just pointing her in the right direction. All children needed a different twist in their recipe to make them adequate. No system or formula exactly fit any of my children.

I believe that God offers us great freedom in exercising our authority over out children and home. There are “many ways to skin a cat,” as the saying goes. There are also many ways to love and discipline and instruct children. The result of many ways of such training is excellent.

Many women with whom I speak and work live under a phantom all the time that there is only one way to get it right. I find it unfortunate when speakers or books place great burdens on women’s shoulders to live up to or who define success by such rigid rules, that most feel like failures not living up to the standards. Satan is the one who loves to use these standards to kill the spirits of moms so that they will live constantly under the “feeling” that they have disappointed the Lord. Many seek to live by formula—the exact rules and values and decisions of some arbitrary leader who has spelled out such lists for others to follow. Such legalism kills the spirit of a family, produces an atmosphere of performance and uses guilt to motivate. Not only that, but such an atmosphere of strictness and regulation can ruin our testimony with other non-believers.

That is not to say we throw all rules out! God is a god of order and variety. But we must balance them in order to have a good result through the recipes of our family lives. I have to keep my water from being boiling hot or icy cold if I am going to see my yeast rise. Yet, I have a pretty big margin to work within in order to insure my yeast rises.

If we are too lax in the training of our children, they will be puff-balls and have little self-control or personal strength in their character. If we are too harsh in our discipline and instruction, our children will become performance and works based in their desire to receive our approval and will be subject of great criticism of others---future Pharisees of America, as I have said before. Yet, both are needed to bring a balance, resulting in great souls—love and grace; discipline and training.

How does this work itself in real life? I must establish my standards on scriptural principles. For instance, we have always used the verse in Phiillipians, “Whatever is true, whatever is lovely, whatever is pure,” and so on, as our standard for the kinds of things we should allow into our minds and hearts. Yet, when Clay and I decide what standers those are for our family, some of the movies my children are allowed to watch may be too offensive for your family. Some of our standards may seem too strict. Our choice of clothes style might fit well with your values but might compromise the values of others. Same with choices about books, food, school, college, internet limitations, and so on. . There is not an exact way to make these choices. We are expected by God to operate from our hearts and our consciences and to live by faith and allow the word of God to inform our decisions.

I was praying about an issue with my children one day. The Lord made it very clear to me that my children would be used by Him in different ways to reach different people. Sarah leans more to the introverted-intellectual side of things; Joel is an artist and musician and loves to espouse a certain value system in his preferences; Nathan is quite gregarious and very people oriented and a performer and actor and musician—a little more contemporary and extroverted in his clothing and behavior; Joy is still in the process of choosing her values and ways of expressing her own personality, but loves speaking, ministry and influencing people. Each child has had their own areas of Achille's heal, but as long as each is progressing in their heart, I validate their unique personality and design..

Yet, I judge how they are doing not by the externals alone, but by their hearts—Do they love and respond to us? Do they love the Lord and are they advancing in their walk with God and developing their heart for others. If the answers to these questions are yes, then we allow them freedom to be who they are. As young adults, they are learning to forge their own “recipes” of life if you will. There will be a Clarkson value system at the base, but I am sure they will add their own imprimatur to the living out of their stories, because they were uniquely made by God for His purposes.

Through this process of growth, over the years, I have had to understand that not all of our own choices of how to live will please everyone. Yet , as long as we feel we are obeying and pleasing God, we are free to express our faith through the integrity of our own family culture. Variety indeed is the spice of life—may we celebrate the unique ways we reflect God’s glory, enjoy life to His glory, and live in the freedom He has provided. Each family culture will have its own flavor, but hopefully, by God’s grace, each can be flavored with God’s beauty and unique design.

Indeed it is a true statement, “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.” Romans 14: 22