Richard the Lionheart and taking time to make memories afresh

Today, I am home after 4 weekends away out of 5 weekends. Whew! So happy to have had the conferences, and speech tourneys and have finished the book–but now, even though my house awaits cleaning and mail is in stacks and suitcases need unpacking and cabinets empty of food, I know that if I do not regularly rest my body and soul and heart–I will not last well and I will burn out. Life pulsing through patterns of light and dark, spring and winter, busyness and laze–illness and health–disaster and mundane–whatever seasons come my way, I lean into them and ride their waves instead of fighting against their patterns of washing through my life.

And so now, weary to the bone, but content of soul, I ponder just how I might visit my daughter, Sarah, who is in Oxford, before she returns. I think I may have a free overseas ticket–of course I will find a way to justify my secret pleasure–time alone with my kindred spirit, who always fills my soul and inspires me, as do her siblings, and so I plan my course. As I was searching, I came across this memory–(doesn’t Joy look young! Oh, my–just a few years ago, and now gone!)

So, I am thinking, a trip to my beloved Austria would be just the remedy to this soul in need of fresh stimulation, pondering, dreaming and rest–so I share this memory with you today. And maybe this is the day you need to take a break and make a memory, too!

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All work and no play makes Joy, Sarah and Sally dull girls. Recently on our mission trip, we had spent an endless stream of days speaking and giving out books and then hopping on another train or plane to go to another group of women with whom we would speak, minister to, give out books and serve. My children usually have to take care of other children, help serve meals, haul boxes of books and wait patiently for me to be through.

How delighted we were, at the end of our trip, to find a whole day free to do as we please. Since we had one free ride left on our train ticket, we decided to take a train to one of our favorite little towns that sits right on a quiet curve of the Danube River. Durnstein is the name of the town. It was a medival town with one narrow road passing through the small, ancient houses. Even today, only one car at a time can fit through the narrow passageway. Once when Clay and I were very young, we visited this town on a free weekend and stayed in the home—(bed and breakfast) where a wine press, over 900 years old, filled the middle of the house.

We chugged along through prim and predictably orderly Austrian villages. Flowering bushes, tulips, and daffodils marked the roadways and pathways and towns. Finally, we arrived at our destination. Story has it that Richard the Lion Heart went to the Crusades through Austria. When he reached his destination, he unearthed Leopold of Austria as the ruler in charge of the Crusades. In retaliation, when Richard was on his journey back home, he was capture by Leopold and place in a prison cell in the castle at the top of the mountain in Durnstein. He kept the whereabouts secret so that no one could rescue the English monarch.

Blondell, Richard’s beloved friend and servant, was a musician, seeking to discover the whereabouts of his master. The story tells us that Blondell strolled throughout the Austrian countryside strumming his lute and singing songs that were familiar to his king. He hoped that his king would hear him through the cell windows and respond. Sure enough, as he climbed around the mountain castle of Durnstein singing, Richard heard and sang back as a sign of his whereabouts. Blondell was then able to bring a group of English soldiers to rescue the King and take him back to England.

The morning we started our hike up to the top of the castle was chill, but sunny. The hike was straight up and arduous to my worn-out knees. Yet, with the encouragement of my younger hiking companions, Sarah and Joy, I completed the hike one more time to walk among the ruins of the old, remains of the legend tale. The views were incomparable as we looked out over the budding vineyards and caught the curl of the Danube winding its way through the sleepy valley. Rewarding ourselves with a hot, marrillen (the small town boasts of its apricots!) and cream cheese pancakes, lathered in whip cream, satisfied our overwhelming hunger. Then, seeing that the time was late, we literally had to run at full speed, a quarter of a mile, fearful of not being able to run another step, to barely catch the last train of the day that would return us to our friends in Vienna. What an adventure to put in our memory books.

Cultivating Civility

Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.
C. S. Lewis

As I pursue the idea of building foundations of truth and beauty and loveliness into the souls of our children, I have to say that we cannot pass on what is not a part of our own lives. A mom is the CEO of her home, the one who determines and cultivates the life, activities, values and soul, she must be working from the depth of her own soul. This is a long term call–a long distance run, and so pacing ourselves, making sure our own emotional cups are full, seeing that we are growing in grace and beauty is essential to modeling that to our children. I will be more intent on writing about how to build foundations in little ones, but first I would suggest that a mom must define, “What kind of a woman do I want to be? How can I become more excellent? How I am doing on growing more in grace and civility each day?” I suggest that each year, moms who want to grow in wisdom, must take a morning or afternoon away to think through personal goals for themselves and the plan in time to make those goals happen. I will be writing more about that after I finish writing about how to establish values that build children into strong, godly leaders. But, first, you must define who you want to be, so that the influence you give to your children will come from your own soul-set values and convictions. Below I share a story of my own life from a few years ago–and I see that my children love it when I am a picture of civility–it draws them to their finer selves! Enjoy.

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Excitement bubbled up inside as I considered the day I had charted for myself. A morning away as a real, live friend, around my own age! Carefully applying my make up, smoothing my hair to its most beautiful style and dressing up in something a bit more sophisticated than my regular jeans marked an adult day out with a beloved friend. Time away from my work-a-day world of children, dishes, teaching, writing and then doing it all over again, is rare. I am one who sometimes likes the predictable on such days–depending on those places I know will bring pleasure and comfort. Meeting my friend in a favorite cafe promised to provide a spot for catching up and sharing dreams and ideas. Now the reason I am telling you this is that I was looking for a day off–a day without conflict, a day of rest before the “busy-ness”  of the year starts again!

High-backed, overstuffed chairs provided privacy from the other customers and just the settling in we needed for our morning together. A steamy pot of tea, warm apple-caramel coffee cake all went down easily. Times like this help me to find my center. A busy and passed-too-fast summer had left me a bit fragmented and out of breath. I was storing up this pleasure and goodness and relaxation against the very busy next few months of a new school year, which is upon me!

After an hour and a half of conversation, we were ready to proceed on to our next pleasure–a stop at a lovely gift shop, filled to the brim with china tea cups and pots, delectable bits of jams and jellies and tea; a beautiful array of cook books and biographies and children’s books, feminine clothing and an array of other girl-pleasing artifacts. We hoped to exchange some ideas with the owner about books and art and other future projects.

Just walking in was a pleasant sensate experience, because of all the pretty and fine gifts scattered around the shop. As we chatted with the store owner about our day and some of the books and one of my new projects, she engaged with us in lively conversation. I looked at my watch and realized that I needed to be home to take Joy to a choir practice and so I tried to savor my few minutes as of quiet heart-sharing with my friend. We left the shop and I drove home. Much to my pleasure, the traffic was much less than usual and I found myself home with a half-hour to spare.

I chose not to glance in the kitchen to see what messes were there, but instead, made myself a cup of hot tea. I knew the messes would be there to tame when we all got back home later. I walked over the backpack and a small stack of books on my stairs to my bedroom. They could be cleaned up before dinner. I walked in, lit my candles, turned on my cd with the soothing piano melodies rising and flowing from my Pride and Prejudice cd (very beautiful, by the way!). Joy, who had been in her room reading, heard me and gently knocked on my door.

“Come in, sweetness!” I responded. “Here, have a few sips of tea with me before we have to leave.”

She sat down, and began to bubble all over me with thoughts and ideas and incidences that had happened in her morning. I intentionally took a deep breath and observed with thanksgiving at my child who has so much become my delightful friend. We had fifteen minutes together in peace and pleasure.

“Mom, I am so glad you take time for civility–it makes me feel special, and most of all, it really makes me feel like you like listening to me and just celebrating life together.” (Has she been around Sarah lately? And now, she regularly lights candles, sips tea and reads–hummmm–where did she get the habit?)

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I taught my monthly mom’s group and we were discussing chapter 8 in Mission of Motherhood. Our topic was becoming the gardener of your children’s souls. Even as you would not expect a garden to emerge from throwing a handful of seeds into the wind into your back yard, so we cannot expect our children to have excellence in their own personal lives by just hoping it happens. Though education is important, it is mostly the way we invest in the other moments of life when our children’s souls, manners, habits, skills will determine who they really become. When we become the gardener of their souls, we plant beauty, memories, confidence, and  winsome ways of living that  will capture their own imaginations. (Mission of Motherhood)

First, we must take time to be civilized. I know that my soul dries out if I don’t plan in time that fills my own emotional cup. Getting away from my home (where all the chores cry out my name!), to a lovely place where I can think or read or share time with a friend is something I try to plan into my schedule. It doesn’t happen as often as I like, but I need it so that I can get back to my center and fill the cups of all those who are in my life to take from my own heart–children, husband, friends, and ministry. I will have nothing to give if I don’t take care of myself first. So each year as I plan my children’s needs and schedules and activities, I take time to get alone and evaluate, “How am I doing–physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally? How can I simplify my responsibilities so that I can make it with grace through the next months.

Next, though, I make sure to plan in civilizing times with my family–traditions like family dinners or deserts that we will share with our friends, special Sunday afternoon tea times–the first Apple Pie time with a story book. (Giving my children the responsibility of decorating the dining table, writing little notes of encouragement  to their guests who will come, lighting the candles, making the meal.) We plan a time for making cookies or bread or flower baskets to share with those we know who are in need of encouragement or love. (We found cute pumpkin baskets and filled them with dried flowers–Joy sold a few to raise money for a dog she hopes to purchase and then we chose two for special family friends who need to know they are appreciated.)

Plan civility into the moments of your life this fall. Make time for you to have your own experience, however small, that will remind you that you are royalty–as a child of the king. And then, make time for your family, to have peace and beauty and manners and elegance in your home, however small. It will produce a soul that values taking the time to celebrate the importance and intimacy of friendship and fellowship. Happy weekend!

Filling Your Soul With Love and Grace Divine

Claude Monet, Woman in the Garden

 

“I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

I have received thousands of responses to my blogs on child discipline lately. I see how many sweet ones there are who truly want to do the best and be the best for their children. But before I do one more post on child discipline, I just felt I wanted to tell you how very precious you are and how much your own personal life matters.

I awakened this morning with you on my heart. I know there must be many precious moms out there who are reading these articles and are feeling inadequate or guilty or condemned–or just worn out!  I have been praying for you all morning.

Motherhood is very precious to the Lord. As a matter of fact, the more I mothered, the more I came to understand Him, His love, His sacrifice, His forgiveness, His patience. Motherhood is not an easy journey. I kept feeling that I needed to have more children so I could do it right at least once!

And yet motherhood is a long journey, a hard and challenging journey, that will require much endurance with grace, much forgiveness, much patience and just a whole lot of energy expended.

You are truly important to God in the midst of it all. He sees you and cares for your dreams and desires. And so I wanted to write a little post just for you.

When I had my first baby, I had never even changed a diaper. I did not know how to hold a baby. I was unprepared for the task. I also did not know how selfish and self-absorbed I was. And I have to admit that over the years, there were many times when I did not feel loving or feel like a good mother or even feel like I wanted to *be* a mother. I was always committed to my children and always committed to loving them, because I knew God wanted me to. But I did not always like them and sometimes that made me feel guilty.

I just put one foot in front of the other because I thought that is what God wanted me to do.

So if you feel that you are not a “natural” mother, or you enjoy doing things outside your home, or you have other ambitions, please do not condemn yourself. I felt all of those feelings and had to learn how to balance the different pulls on my life. But God has loved me and led me through it all.

I know that there are so many of you precious ones with deep scars. Perhaps you came from an angry family, where you were criticized or rejected. Or maybe you were ignored and you still wish someone would notice you and love you deep inside in those places that only you can feel.

Many of you made some bad choices morally that have deeply injured your own heart. Or you have a passive and indifferent or mean and abusive husband.

You are not defined by any of these things–not by what people have said to you, not by your flaws (we all have them), and not by your past failures or present difficulties. God loves you so very much. God is with you. God is your champion.

We read that when He looked out on the multitudes, He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus sees our needs. He loves us. He cares for how each of you feel deep in your heart.

You are so very precious to God. He is on your side. He will be your warrior God in all the battles in your home. He will help you and defend you and pour out His unconditional love on you. He is the source of your strength and joy. Nothing can separate you from His love. Romans 8

There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

The only way we can truly make it in this life productively is to tend to the garden of our own souls. The only way you can be a loving mother or friend is to have your soul filled with the deep, unchanging, unconditional love of God.

I love the picture above. I picture my soul as a garden that must be tended and cultivated and watered. If my own soul is healthy, then all who draw from my soul, will receive true nurture and strength. However, I do not know of any great women who have not been very intentional about cultivating and building themselves into godly women. They invested purposefully to become who they are.

A wise woman builds her house, but it starts with a plan!

You may find criticism from the world. But in Christ, you will find love, deep, abiding, unconditional love and all that you need for your task. But you must choose to invest your time wisely.

So what are some ways to fill your own soul so that you may have strength and love to give?

1. Surround yourself with good and godly friends.

I once heard a speaker say that he will do anything to put himself in the company of people who make Him want to love God more, who make Him want to be a better person–who inspire Him. But that he would avoid all of those who spread poison or gossip or discouragement as much as possible.

I have a friend, Phyllis, who I know will always point me to God. Just being with her is like being in the presence of the Lord’s encouragement, because she walks with Him and points me to him. Gwen is such a friend, and Deb, Shelley, Lynn, Beth and Sarah and Joy, ……….I gather these friends over the years and invest in them because they invest in me.

Find those friends, challenge a friend to be a prayer partner, to study a book together, to meet with you on a regular basis.

2. Spend time every day with the Lord. Find books, resources, people who can help you with this. (Go though the Psalms and circle or underline every promise or character quality of God. Read one chapter of John or Matthew a day and write down one lesson you have learned. Read through Philippians and note all the ways Paul tells us to follow Jesus.)

3.  Clean out your soul on a regular basis–get rid of the rubbish that has kept you from experiencing God’s love. (If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us from our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.) Don’t hang on to bitterness or condemnation–it will poison you. I have a friend, Sarah Mae, who is dear to me as though she were a daughter. She has recently published an ebook called Core Lies, that she is offering for free. We must rid our hearts from lies that would keep us from experiencing the generous love of God.

4. Surround yourself with books, blogs, people who feed your mind on truth, who draw you to become a better self.  There are many, many women in my life who do that to me. But I wanted to point you to three of my favorites.

I love these women because they have chosen to have integrity in their lives when no one was looking. They have invested thousands of hours in the presence of God. They have chosen to love and serve Him, to always turn in the direction of faith. I know they are not perfect, but they hold fast to a Faithful God who carries them. They are also seasoned women who have chosen to faithfully love and serve their children, and husbands, even amidst challenging times. They have weathered life and from that weathering, have garnered stories of His faithfulness. Feed on their life-giving words. I do so love these women.

Brenda Nuland– a mother of two grown children, who cultivates life, beauty, goodness and faithfulness in her home.Brenda always encourages me, feeds my soul and gives me loyal friendship.

Elizabeth Foss–a sweet mother of 9 children, whose devotion to God, gentle mothering of her children, and great thoughts always challenge me. She is humble and loyal as a friend and has learned to persevere with grace.

Ann Voskamp-an artist with words and photography, who deeply cherishes her precious Lord and wants to sing his messages into the lives of those in her pathway. Her gentle, humble words are always filled with grace that she found from walking closely with Him.

5. Spend time in nature–his workshop. When I see the artistry of God, and rest in the glory of the canopy of His beauty, I find great peace. Creation was made for us. He designed the stars for us to understand His vastness–His strength and ability to be bigger than us, to show us His power. He designed color, flowers, mountains, waterfalls, snow, rain, to show us His design. When I invest time in His works of art, I am inspired to reflect His art and beauty in my home as a picture of His reality in an otherwise dark world. Creation nurtures my soul when I take time to observe it.

6. Restore, relax, recreate. Young moms need a break.(and old moms and moms of teens, and……..) They need sleep. Sometimes grumpiness or depression goes away with just a couple of good nights of sleep or time away with a friend. Moms need to have a friend who understands them and still loves them! They need to laugh and lighten up. Cultivate times of breaks in your life, times of just getting away. Don’t always be serious–it is exhausting.

Our bodies need a sabbath rest. I take my tea time every day with a candle, book or magazine. I collect videos and movies and series of stories that delight my soul. I surround myself with music everywhere–at home, in the car, at dinner, when I am in a plane. I love rhythms and movement. I make time for cherished friends. I make fun for myself with my children so that we can just laugh and play and store up humor–everyone needs a break. (Read my daughter, Sarah’s blog post from a couple of days ago–Christians need to learn how to lighten up and have fun.)

These precious ones are not just public figures to me, but in the privacy of friendship, offer such grace, humility, love and always make me want to love Him more.

This blog is way too long, but the point is, you are important. Your emotional, spiritual and physical health matters to God. If you cherish your soul and become a good steward of your needs, you will be stronger for your journey of life and more ready to meet its demands. But you are the one who must plan how to endure with grace and beauty. You must create a plan that best suits your puzzle of life. Grace and beauty and peace in the midst of it all.

 

 

The House is now “Christmas-fied” according to Joy

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God’s handwriting – a wayside sacrament.  Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The living room–the tree, wall of windows to the outdoors, lots of lights come together to make it a place of beauty.

So many words have been crafted about whether we devalue the beauty and simplicity of the Christ story through all of the contemporary ways we have marketed and made Christmas into a pagan holiday. Should we celebrate with Christmas tree and validate the pagan ways? I have prayed and pondered all of these issues over the years.

In our home, though, we use the magnificent Christmas story as one more way to celebrate God’s beauty, life, love, goodness and building memories together in our home. Home should be a haven, a storehouse, for creativity and the glory of workmanship that shows the divine spark of our ability to create an atmosphere that breathes the life of Christ. Home should encompass all that is good, inspirational, true, comforting, loving and real.

The world holds temptation and darkness. When we, as women, create an atmosphere that invites and welcomes our children, husbands and families every day, they will always see our home as a place of restoration, a haven in the storms of life. It is one of the glories of womanhood to craft, uniquely, her own home into that place that warms the hearts, stills the fears, captivates the imagination of those who live there for the glory of God.

As my older children have forayed out into this contemporary world where post modern thinking prevails, and there is temptation, darkness, cynicism on every side, they all long to come home to refuel, to find harmony with God’s design, to feel loved and to remember why they need to be warriors for His kingdom. Home art creates a legacy of memories and longings that ties the strings of our children’s hearts to our own home, values and faith, where they will return again and again to remember all that is of true value.

Creating a beautiful haven gives all who enter a place for their work, play, creating and living of life. And so, though the work is long, we seek every day, to create the beauty of His presence, not only in our words, but also in the atmosphere that supports our messages.

Child friendly–the Raggedy Dolls my mother made me as a little girl.

Swedish Elves to pull down and to pretend with on the den mantle.

A camel carrying gold, frankincense and myrrh

Interest to explore in every nook and cranny, collected and saved over the years to make this the unique, “Clarkson” haven.

Of course, beautiful books everywhere to cuddle up to read aloud together.

Beauty and candlelight adorning every available space.

A pedestal cake plate transformed into a candle-holding centerpiece.

Treasures from past days–my grandmother’s ceramic handiwork!

The nativity scene my granny hand-painted so painstakingly so long ago, is celebrated every year.

The big old copper pot on the porch that held geraniums now holds the smells and greens of the winter outdoors.

So much more, but each item lovingly placed with hopes that all who come here, especially my boys who will return home to celebrate life, will feel welcomed, embraced with the peace, beauty, and life of the Lord Jesus, who so meticulously worked to make our own home on earth such a place of beauty to behold, a soul-filling masterpiece of His own handiwork.

Peace to you this day.


Amazing Music: The source of health and academic excellence!


Jean-Marc Nattier French painter

Every night at my dinner table when I grew up, my mom would light candles on the dining room table and put on some kind of music. My father used to play a “horn” as he would call it, and was of the Glen Miller sort of musician. He wiggled and danced and always whistled through life. A businessman in the day, but played at life and always loved having music around.

This is one habit I picked up and found myself providing in my own home: music every night–even if we had cereal or toast and cheese, we just made music and candles and talking an anchor in our day. Without realing it, this music had profound influence on my children’s tastes and appetites on their lives. I then began to see that music helped in so many areas.

Giving my children Michael Card’s lullabys at night (sleep sound in Jesus) when they went to bed, Steve Green’s music to verses for children as they readied for bed; or Avalon or Rich Mullins or Josh Groban when we washed dishes or cleaned house, seemed to smooth the way.

Riding in cars on long trips to conferences found all of us constantly listening to and sharing music of every sort–from classical to celtic to Christian worship music to indy artists. We all got through so much of life with music as our companion. With Clay as a guitarist and both of us singers, we had melodies surrounding our home morning, noon and night.

Scripture tells us to, “make melody in our hearts to God,” and he commanded the Levites to have those who played music every hour of the day. Angels sang at the birth of Jesus, David had an orchestra playing with choir singing when bringing in the arc of the Lord. Music honors God, and somehow is a mysterious part of life and beauty for us in His design and creation. Even the stars sang, Job tells us, at creation–melody must have been in God’s heart from the beginning.

How fun it was to me to read these articles and see just how important music is to our brains and to helping cultivate happiness, well-being and even undergirds intelligence development. Enjoy these articles.

Amazing Power of Music Revealed

Classical Music: An effective antidepressant