So Many Are Starved for Love

An aching longing pulses beneath the surface of every person, where no one can see. As the body requires food to stay alive, so in his depths, a child hungers for love in order to stay alive. Love that embraces, validates, affirms, whispering, "Just as you are, I adore you. You delight me. I think about you all the time. I cherish the memory of the day you were born. You are my beloved and always will be, no matter what."

Though no one can see from the outside whether our soul’s cavern is empty, desolate, or full to overflowing, each of us has the capacity to fill up another's with kind words, gentle touch, sacrifice, and generous gifts. When full, we are more likely to understand and worship God.

Without that filling, we will search for it all of our lives, sometimes in the wrong places--places that promise to give love and fill hearts, but steal and destroy instead.

A mother's love is the most constant resource that can sustain, strengthen, heal, and restore a child.

Over 500 times, God speaks to us of love in His word.

God is love.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

If you have not love, you have become a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.

They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Let us remember that love moves, inspires, shapes dreams, gives hope, and holds us for eternity--for heaven.

Every child, whether small or grown needs an expression of love in his or her life. As mothers, giving love is our heritage, our duty, our service of gratitude. Love keeps us all alive.

When we by faith invest love in others, our own souls become full of His love--we pour out, He pours in.

Why do I focus on God's love and grace so much? Because Love is the source of all life. It is Him moving through us. Love fuels faith and hope and inspires to overcome..

Love never fails. May our love muscles grow stronger and stronger until we see Him, Love incarnate, face to face.

Stepping Into His Story: A Shepherd's Meal (Lifegiving Table #12) and podcast!

potato soup.jpg

Christmas found five of us—Clay and I, toddler Sarah and newborn Joel, and a young friend who was having an adventure on a break from college and living with us for six months—squished together in a tiny (nine-hundred-square-foot) gray stucco bungalow. The foundation had settled, leaving the basement steps slanted and uneven, with a bit of effect on the rest of the house. Most of the rooms were about as big as a large walk-in closet. Rain would pour down our walls—inside!—when it rained. Pigeons often found their way into the attic and then got stuck there. But the energy of young love, youthful ideals, toddler glee, and discoveries every day with a newborn son sang happiness and vibrancy into our lives.

Joel had a funny way of crying when he was hungry—a kind of a growl. That gave us pause; we had never heard of a baby who growled instead of crying. But we thought he was adorable, and Sarah was absolutely smitten. She toddled around telling everyone who would listen that “Dod dave us a baby boy—just like Desus was when He came to Mary on Christmas!” Having heard the nativity story in the dark of our chapel one evening, she was sure that Joel was our own Jesus, and she would watch by the window each evening for the angels to appear to sing him a song.

Maybe it was her childlike love of the story that inspired me to host our first Shepherds’ Meal that Christmas Eve. To be honest, I can’t remember. But I’ll never forget the evening itself.

We thought our little orphan home had never looked more beauti- ful. Flames on crimson candles shivered and waved each time visitors rang our bell to signal their arrival and pushed open the front door. Our tiny antique table was laden with winter bounty—red apples, golden pears, and large polished hazelnuts—that gleamed in the candlelight. Seven of us in mismatched wooden chairs crowded around a table built for four, content to share in the friendly companionship of a festive evening. No one wanted to be alone on this frigid Christmas Eve.

We were something of a motley crowd, but so happy to be together—a young Austrian woman whose spouse had just abandoned her for another man, a Taiwanese secretary who worked at the United Nations headquarters, a refugee from the Middle East, and a young missionary from England, lonely on his very first time away from his family. Sarah sat chattering in my lap and talking about the angels. The friend who was living with us helped me serve the simple meal, and we all sang “Silent Night” as a prayer, because it was the only carol everyone knew.

Four different languages were our mother tongues. As to religious conviction, we had one Catholic, one Evangelisch (Lutheran Reformed), an Asian Baptist, a British Anglican, and one agnostic who looked on and listened with curiosity. But hearts were opened by the simple beauty of bread, cheese, and warm herbed soup as we spoke of the shepherds who had found and worshiped Jesus on that first Christmas so long ago. And my own heart was warmed by the gathering of friends from such different cultures who shared our table and celebrated the love that whispered His reality through the moments of the evening.

I remember thinking that this was what heaven would be like—all unified, all tied together by the sharing of friendship and food as we celebrated Jesus’ first coming, each worshiping from our own tradi- tions, but grateful for the divine Love that had kissed our evening with His presence.

There was something so special about that first Shepherds’ Meal that we couldn’t wait to “do it again next year.” And so we have. In the thirty-plus years since then, our family has enjoyed a Shepherds’ Meal every Christmas Eve, no matter where we lived. Even the preparation has become a tradition—a family affair.

Guiding & Giving Discernment On The Path of Righteousness & 24 Way 22



Memory Verse:

He who walks with the wise is wise. A companion of fools suffers harm. 

Proverbs 15:20

"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.

When your children are not sure which way to do, how to respond, or  what is right or wrong, do they come to you for guidance? Do they know that you are the one to ask for wisdom in difficult moments?

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

Are You In Over Your Head, Too?

Here’s the truth on this lovely May morning … maybe it’s true for you, too?

I am in way over my head in every way. More to do than I can do. More people to write than I am able. More phone calls to make than I have time for, more tasks than I have energy for, more expectations than I am able to meet.

I am only one person. I cannot cope with all that is on my plate.

What does God require of me today?

"I am humble and meek, learn from me … “ says Jesus.

Unless we become like children, we cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Perhaps, right now, God would have me rest in this day that He has made and delight in the moments He has given. Perhaps He would have me live with my limitations and know my fragility as well as His strength. Perhaps I could admit my frailty and choose to live in His compassion and mercy. Perhaps I might acknowledge my failures while living in His redeeming, generous love.

God is opposed to the proud and gives grace to the humble.

Today, early this morning, I have found rest and peace in the midst of my flurry--a cup of warm tea and a bit of lovely music soothing my weariness. There are tiny spring leaves budding outside my window, and I am crawling up into the arms of my Father and seeking peace.

Only as I live in Him will I find peace today. I will seek to stay here as I go about my business.

The meek man will attain a place of soul rest. As he walks on in meekness he will be happy to let God defend him. The old struggle to defend himself is over. He has found the peace which meekness brings.-- A.W. Tozer

May you find rest today, friend.

The Gift of Us: A Family Day Celebration (Lifegiving Table # 11) and podcast!

Family Day, A Couple of Years ago! Joy, Sarah, Thomas, Clay, me, Joel, Nathan

Family Day, A Couple of Years ago! Joy, Sarah, Thomas, Clay, me, Joel, Nathan

The flicker of candlelight, the luscious aromas of hot cinnamon rolls and strong coffee, and lots of noise and laughter filled the kitchen as we tucked into breakfast together. Thus began our twenty-fifth year of celebrating the story and heritage of our family. Family Day, as we call it, is a time of remembering who we are as a family as well as documenting what God has done in our family and committing to Him our hopes for the future.

It all started back when our kids were little, with a passage from the Old Testament. We read that Joshua, commissioned with the difficult task of overseeing the Hebrew people after Moses’ death, knew that his people needed to constantly be reminded of who they were—God’s chosen people who had been called to possess the land

God had provided for them. So Joshua came up with a unique way to make the abstract truth of God’s promises very tangible and real to the Israelites. They would gather large memorial stones and place them as a monument to stand throughout many generations, documenting God’s faithfulness to His people (see Joshua 4).

Clay and I wanted our children to have that kind of palpable reminder of God’s commitment to our family. So we began setting aside an annual day to name and remember the important events of the previous twelve months. In the very beginning we used actual pebbles for our “memorial stones” and had the kids draw pictures of the events. As the kids grew older, we just listed the events, although we persisted in calling the items in the list “stones.” We thanked

God for every stone and preserved all of our pictures and lists in a family album. This tradition gave our children an expectation that we would always be purposeful and intentional about who our family was, what we stood for, and how we would approach our future.

We still have Family Day every year even though our children are now grown and living away from home, and we still begin the day by listing our “memorial stones” together. This practice reminds us not only of God’s faithfulness to us individually and as a family but also of the fact that we are inextricably tied to one another, bound in loyalty.

It is a renewed annual commitment to always be there for one another. Our Family Day celebration also helps us reaffirm our family culture—our values, traditions, tastes, words, and music, and the infinite amount of other things that define us as Clarksons.

Throughout the Old Testament, God was always commanding the Israelites to remember. His feast days were all about recalling what

He had provided in His faithfulness to His chosen people, and they were admonished to remember His teachings as well. I believe He wants us to remember, too, because forgetfulness is the fastest way to failure. Remembering is an act of rooting ourselves deep in the soil of our spiritual heritage.

When our children were growing up, we wanted to empower them by repeating the stories of God’s miraculous intervention throughout history and in our own lives. We shared with them how

God had taken our loaves and fish—a desire to start a ministry with no money, no books, and no conferences—and multiplied them beyond our wildest imaginations. We created a constant narrative of God’s desire to use them to change the world. And throughout the years we used our annual Family Day lists to affirm the little miracles along the way.

Personal Integrity: Choosing What is Right, Even When It Is Not Popular & Podcast (Way 21)

See no evil, Speak no Evil and hear no evil—-well, almost! :) Live innocently as far as possible.

See no evil, Speak no Evil and hear no evil—-well, almost! :) Live innocently as far as possible.

Way # 21 We do what we know if right, regardless what others do or say.

character quality: Integrity

Verse: Memory Verse: 

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,Nor stand in the path of sinners,Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord,And in His law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

Sometimes it is a bit humbling or perhaps testing to have older kids. The ways they tease or roll their eyes at ways that you always said this or ways you trained them can subtly feel a little personal. Yet, as I look at all of my sweet ones, I know that they are so very grateful for having been given foundations of ways to think, to live to develop their own sense of integrity—and here is an important one—to give them a sense of their own potential influence, self-government and virtue in a very dark world. They have to own the messages of your hearts in their own hearts. And so it happens by love, spending time to listen to them and winning the right to speak to them because you have been cultivating relationship with them. Godly influence is not won by force or authoritarianism. That sort of influence is usually lost. But it is won the way Christ did it in the lives of his disciples—by giving his life to them.

I remember recently we had a time that was like so many other times with my adult kids in the last few years…..

With warm mugs of coffee in hand, ease of mood and cheer of heart, the kids were sitting around repeating all of the mantras they heard over and over again throughout their lives.

"Mama, the funny thing is, I hear your voice every day of my life, everywhere I go. And the funny thing is, it keeps directing me to make good decisions."

Sometimes we don't think our children are listening to our repeated in instruction. Yet, I believe that "Train up a child in the way he should go," is a part of shaping brain pathways of truth and morality in the minds and even the souls of our children as they shape their values.

One of the mantras they heard over and over again was, "Wrong is always wrong even if everyone is doing it. Right is always right even if no one is doing it."

Each of my children, as they have gone into very compromising places of thought and behavior, (Hollywood, New York City, Boston, Oxford, Cambridge), have said that developing this wisdom as a part of making decisions has helped them not to compromise. Understanding that the world is a place of compromise, and that we were called to be holy, set apart--light in the darkness, salt in a tasteless world, prepared my children to go into very challenging arenas, armed with an understanding of what the battle would become, and how they would be tested.

In a world of relative value and constant compromise, ("Oh, everyone I know who is a Christian watches this kind of show." Or "Everyone else I know says it is ok." And then follows, "I am a liberated Christian. I can do this in the name of religious freedom."), we must give our children a sense of absolutes in the areas that are important to God. If we listen to the voices in the world, on blogs, on facebook, even in Christian culture, we must understand that such voices create compromise.

The Ten Commandments are a great place to start--no adultery, no idols, setting themselves apart to remember their God, and to honor Him, as well as honoring their sweet mama, (Me) and their great Daddy, Clay. And such voices create compromise--

Our family considers ourselves also to have great freedom, yet we also have strong standards of holiness and morality because we have focussed on seeking to please the heart of God. The only way you can create freedom to live righteously and give wisdom in knowing how to behave in life is to teach about Jesus and His instruction every day. Only when we have pondered His words, can we understand His heart towards life.

Psalm 1 is a passage I used over and over again to train my children to walk not in the counsel of their friends or the world, but to delight in the heart and rightness of God's words in order to have a sensitive conscience to what He wanted them to do. We acted out and memorized through verse 4 and it became a picture of what a righteous person looked like in a culture that was cynical, criticizing, compromising---the blessed man walks in the counsel of the Lord.

My children had to say "no" to certain age-inappropriate movies when we were not around. They had to learn to be the ones who would not participate in certain activities of other groups. They learned, by practicing, not to engage in immoral images on the computer, (this usually will eventually accost all children--but they need to learn to say no! And they need to know they can trust you to tell you what they have seen to ask for your help.)

We talked about media, peer pressure, foolishness and read proverbs together many times to find wise ways of living.

Learning to be righteous is a heart issue, not a rules memorized issue. If it feels wrong to their heart that has been shaped on righteousness, then it is probably wrong. But you need to talk to your children as they grow, about choices, trusting you, listening to God, living above reproach in a culture that is evil.

We cannot force righteousness on our children by legalism and harshness. This only makes them want to hide from us. But instead, we nurture and cultivate a love for goodness by cultivating it in our home each day.

In all of our ideals, righteousness is progressive. In other words, we make mistakes, we fail, sometimes we do foolish things because they are so accepted in culture. Sometimes, wickedness jumps after us like Potifer's wife chasing Joseph. And our children learned the concept of fleeing--just drop what will burn you and flee--run immediately away from the temptation.

Yet, Proverbs reminds us, "The path of the righteous is like the dawn which shines brighter until the full day."

We train our children in our home, we help them and love them even if they fall, we pick them up, we protect them, we walk with them on the paths of righteousness, and they grow stronger day by day, year by year, and learn for themselves to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, who leads them in righteousness.

Maturity if a muscle built strong by much exercise.

How have you taught your children the concept of being holy--set aside for God's purposes and glory?

Wishing You Joy, Sweet Mama! & Podcast with Joy & Nathan


Today, as I think of so many of you sweet mamas and women with mama hearts serving, giving, loving, I wish I could personally:

*Serve you a cup of tea, with a vanilla candle lit and shimmering in the breeze, a scone, and talk on my Colorado front porch for hours and hours

*Give you a dozen of your favorite flowers in your favorite color

*Grant you one year of a housekeeper (not a once a week cleaner) but someone who would shop for all the groceries and make all the meals and do the dishes and wash the laundry and put it away.

*Provide you with 3 whole nights of sleep without any interruption

*Give you 5 certificates to have a back massage

*Buy you 5 meals at an adult restaurant where you could be spoiled

*Tell you that every kiss you give, every song you sing to a baby or toddler, every word of encouragement given is going into eternity as an act of love that will be remembered inside a little soul forever.

Truth is, women with mama hearts are heroes who civilize, hold together, love generously, give hope, bring giggles and laughter into life, and light the spark of faith in the hearts of those they serve with such faithful hearts.

You matter. Your labor matters. Your life is not hidden but seen and cheered on by the angels in heaven that daily see the face of Jesus.

Nathan, Joy and I put together a little podcast just because we want to wish all of you well this Sunday when women with mother’s hearts will be celebrated.

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Introverted Mom: Your Guide to More Calm, Less Guilt, & Quiet Joy & Podcast


When I was first pregnant, I was almost 31, had been in ministry for 10 years and considered myself a fairly mature woman for my age—and then I had 3 children in less than 5 years. I was caught in a whirlwind of life, with never a stop, noisy, overwhelming life and sometimes I just wanted everyone to go away—for a little while. And of course then I would feel guilty!

Life as Mom is LOUD, but you long for quiet .

Jamie and her husband and 3 children.

Jamie and her husband and 3 children.

Today, in my podcast, I talk with my friend, Jamie Martin, about her new book called:

Introverted Mom: Your Guide to More Calm, Less Guilt, and Quiet Joy 

I wish I had this book when I was a young mom because I think it would have given me permission to seek some quiet, soul filling time without guilt. It took me years to learn this truth. So many moms I know have said, “You know, I used to think I was an extrovert but now I think I might be an introvert.”

I think that having round the clock children can be so draining at times that we just long for peace and quiet and that is why we consider ourselves introverts—even when some of us aren’t.

When the volume of family life clashes with your personality, frustration, guilt, and overwhelm naturally result. In Introverted Mom, author Jamie C. Martin lifts these burdens from your shoulders, reminding you that your steady strength is exactly what your family needs in this chaotic world. 

Jamie shares vulnerable stories from her own life as well as thoughts from other introverted mothers, letting you know you're not alone. Her practical suggestions and creative inspiration are enhanced with quotes and insights from four beloved writers--Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, L. M. Montgomery, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Together, Jamie and this band of fellow introverts gently point you toward hope, laughter, and joy.

Whether you've just realized you're an introvert, or if you've known it all along, this book is for you. It's time to honor who you are and savor life as an introverted mom.

Links that might be helpful:

Book landing page - (includes information about the bonus offer for those who order before Mother’s Day)

Simple Homeschool - 

Instagram - Facebook - 

Mother’s Day bonus description: Order Introverted Mom before Mother’s Day ends and receive five “introverted mom” beautifully designed prints ready to be printed and framed!


Hope you enjoy the podcast today.

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Grace: The Gift that Opens Hearts 24 Way 20 & Podcast

John Robert Dicksee

Gracious: characterized by kindness, thoughtfulness, and warm courtesy.

Tea-time-relationships: serving someone thoughtfulness, time and kindness has opened many hearts in my life-time.

"Graciousness is that quality in a person's behavior towards others that shows them their worth, their value in God's eyes and honors them based on God's image and imprint on their lives. "

Sally C.

WAY # 20: We choose to be gracious, even when we do not feel like it! 

Memory Verse:

"Let love of the brethren continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some haveentertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:1-2

Deep throated shouting, the shrill screams of a woman, dust flying, crowds running to see the spectacle, left the terrified woman fearing for her life. The Pharisees were bringing a woman caught in adultery and were attempting to test Jesus to see just how liberal He was--to see if He would defy the law and extend his hand of grace to a woman waiting to be killed by the stoning the law required.

Perhaps this woman was poor and had stooped to make money the wrong way. Perhaps she was abused, or deeply wounded and lonely. Or even just selfish and caught in lust. But, in the crowd of men, screaming, jeering people, she must have felt terror, shame, fear and grief all at once.

Jesus, the God who had formed her, looked into her eyes, saw her heart, knew all of her days and acts, and knew her deep need for forgiveness. I imagine Him giving His hand to her to pull her off the ground, helping her brush the dust off of her garment. And then, he extended a gentle but authoritative voice of graciousness.

"Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either." John 8: 10

Jesus, the perfect one, who "while we were yet sinners, died for us." Jesus, who, "although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God to be grasped." Jesus, "while being reviled, did not revile in return, but kept trusting Himself to God."

When Jesus looks into the eyes of my heart, He invites me in--to know His love, His wisdom, His truth, His admonition, His correction. Always, He is gentle and meek, as that is His way. Being in His presence does not call me to want to sin more, quite the opposite. His example of dignifying me and all of us of His children by seeking us out, redeeming us, being gentle and long-suffering with us, causes me to want to be more righteous, more sacrificial, more generous, more of a servant. His life transforms me. But His life is one of gracious behavior.

How many people are in our lives who have felt the sting of condemnation, criticism, abuse and we might be the only ones who show them the gentle, gracious, humble love of God.

When we teach our children to be gracious, we are teaching them:

Not to judge but to see themselves as those who extend the supernatural forgiveness of God

Accepting the awkward parts of your loved ones personality or immaturity by giving gestures of love

Teaching them not to think about themselves but others

Training them to have self-control over their emotions--to choose to be gracious as a part of the values that inform their behavior

Showing them how to face the world as Jesus did--not as a legalistic Pharisee, but as the servant King

When someone is king or thoughtful or honoring of me, it ministers to me greatly. In a world of cynicism, easy judgement on facebook, (I cringe every time someone easily criticizes me--especially when many of my critics have never even met me.), and a world of back-biting and gossip, the graciousness of God which honors a person because God has honored them, is transforming and will draw others to Christ.

And so, we treat our children with respect, serve them in humility, choose to use honorable words to our husbands, to friends, because when they learn this attribute of God, they will become those who win the souls of others who are so longing for someone to validate their worth.

This is something we practice, we grow in. If you are like me, you blow it and lose your patience. But God Himself, humble, bowing His knee in the dirty ground, asks us to do as He did. The more I practice and ponder this attribute of His behavior, the more amazed I am that He would ever forgive me--but in knowing His gentle, dignified and generous honoring of His very own children, I have come to love Him more and appreciate my salvation more deeply because I understand each day how much I do not deserve it.

May God give each of us the strength today to behave in a gracious way, so that the world may see what Jesus is like through us every day.

Winning Your Child's Heart, as Jesus Won Yours

I remember when I first took Sarah into my arms. I was literally shocked at how much love I felt for her. I kissed her over and over and wept and held her and sang to her and stroked her at every moment. I was not prepared for my heart to be filled with so much wonder, such depth of emotion. Maybe it was because I was in my 30's and had wanted to get married for so long, and now found myself starting a family, which was a miracle to me. A baby from my own body created a life in the love channels of my heart that is beyond explanation.

When a baby is welcomed into the world and cherished and embraced and prayed over, it begins a pattern in the baby's brain that literally communicates and establishes brain pattern expectations of life: I am loved, I feel good, it makes me happy, I belong. These very patterns cause that same baby to already have patterns of significant theological implications that will be responded to when this same child is confronted with the reality of God. He is love, He accepts me, I have a place to belong, I can feel good about responding back to God's love, as it is already familiar to my brain.

When babies begin growing, and the issues of child discipline and training come to the fore, I have observed that many often leave that relational, heart-felt attachment and begin to behave differently toward them. I have seen that many, many moms, because they do love their babies and want to get it right, begin at a very early age responding and initiating to these very babies as though they are a challenge to be overcome, a contestant to be ruled over. And since so many extra-biblical books of advice (suggestions--but not necessarily taking into account the full counsel of scripture) abound in Christian circles, moms follow the rules and expectations of the voices they are reading and hearing. We all long for an easy formula to make parenting quick, predictable, and long-lasting.

I do not see that in my own relationship with God as my Father. He works slowly in my life to train, love, test, teach and to conform me to the image of Christ. It is little by little, bit by bit, one lesson at a time.

However, in all relationships, (parenting, friendship, marriage, work), people are designed by God to respond from their heart. If their hearts are attached and served by the people relating to them, and their felt needs are met, people will tend to respond to that love.

Let me give you an example. Suppose my husband came to me at home and said, "Now, Sally, we are married and I am your husband and these are my standards of what I expect in our home. I want a clean house, a homemade dinner on the table, with my preferences for food noted. I expect you to rule over the children so that they will behave, memorize scripture, be read to, learn to play a musical instrument well, be mannerly, have godly character, and learn a good work ethic.

Since we are also a Christian home, I expect you to read a chapter of the Old Testament every day and a chapter of the New Testament and I want the kids to have 3 books of the Bible memorized by the time they are 10. I will be checking with you every day to correct anything you have done that is not up to my standards and I expect you to live up to these goals because you are my wife. We are a Christian family and if we keep all of these ideals, our children will turn out to be moral, spiritual, hard working adults, agreed?”

What if, then,  every day when my husband would come to me, he would say, “I noticed that someone left a sock on the den floor and you have not succeeded yet in training our children well. And I also did not appreciate that fast food dinner last night--it had 1000 grams of saturated fat and was filled with chemical additives and I think you are becoming a little bit lazy for not making me a homemade meal. I also noticed that two of the kids misspelled a word on their thank you notes to the grandparents, and and and.................and you need to work harder, get up earlier, and make a better schedule, since we are falling behind on our goals."

Goals given to me as a list by a husband who dictated what my behavior should be, without consideration of a relationship, would produce death, not life in my relationship to him.

I would never flourish in this kind of relationship--feeling always a failure, always a disappointment. Eventually, I would feel like giving up.

This kind of  a relationship would demoralize me very quickly and defeat me, causing me to begin building up anger because the standards would be so far beyond what I could attain as a limited, sinful, selfish human being (and my children also being immature and unable to keep up with these high standards.)

All of these ideals are good as goals--they are filled with sound wisdom and can provide life and instruction, but as laws they would kill my soul if they were not given through a relationship of mutual love and respect.

Imagine instead if my husband invited me out to my favorite restaurant for dinner. When I got there, he had a vase with a beautiful rose on the table, a tiny gift wrapped up with ribbon, a new ipad with my wonderful playlists of music downloaded, a tiny speaker playing my favorite music. My heart would immediately be engaged. Now, if during the dinner we shared together, my husband communicated his love of me, his special commitment to me, his delight in me, I would have a heart ready to respond to ideals.

If then he said, "I want you to know that I am so excited to build a family with you. I will be here to support you in all of your hard work. I will see that you don't become exhausted. I will be your partner in this and we will build a great legacy together. We will not be able to accomplish this all at once, but I want to spend a lifetime with you building our dreams and vision. Whenever you need me, I will be there because I love you so much."

Please note— I am not writing this post to cause anyone to feel depressed because this is not their husband---there is no perfect husband and they all need grace like we do. I don't think this perfect husband exists--it was just an example! :)

But, as one of my friends has said many times, "A woman will do so much for so little if a man will just learn how to woo, love and communicate appreciation."

And so of course, when I feel cherished I am much more likely to give my all, especially if I have time  to grow and develop and get rest along the way.

God is that kind of lover.

He is a provider (look at nature--gardens, colors, animals, and foods that He crafted for our pleasure.)

He gave us ideals and purpose, as we see through scripture.

He saw that we were lost and falling and ultimately, He came amongst us, giving up any comfort or honor that He held in heaven.

He served, washed feet, fed, laughed with, lived with, and encouraged his own precious disciples.

Similarly, our life with God is not measured  in the rules or goals or laws that he gives. But, as the author of these ideals, and bound up in His love and care for us, God uses truth to work on our hearts in relationship.

He comes as the servant king, the one who lays down His life, the one who is humble and meek.

As a good parent, God gives us wisdom and guidance so that our lives will be healthy, strong, protected.

So God becomes our pattern for parenting.

He served and loved and sacrificed and gave of Himself, so that we would long to be holy out of our gratitude and reverence and love for Him. He called His disciples to serve, to love, to give and to be holy. He gave them true life, beauty, and love that filled their deepest needs and longings to live a purposeful life.

And so after 3 years of intense friendship, when He said, "Greater love has no one than this, that a man lays down his life for his friend," they had heard it, seen it modeled, felt the benefit of it, and seen the integrity of it in their teacher, and so they willingly embraced this high ideal.

Consequently, it is not in getting the rules right or in defining all of the right ways to do things, or believing perfect theology that will make our children want to serve God.

It is in laying down our life for them,

serving them,

listening to them,

giving them our time,

loving who God made them within their limitations,

calling them to holiness as we model integrity and worship in front of them,

that will secure in them a desire to love God with all of their hearts.

By seeing our love, they will more easily understand and receive God's love, as it will already be familiar to their hearts and brains because they have seen it and experienced it every day.