A Dayspring Exclusive for You, Our Readers at Itakejoy!

EXCITING UPDATE: Dayspring marked down the entire Love Came Down line today (12/6) by 60%!  That means you can use my code, TakeJoy30, to get an additional 30% off those incredible prices!!  Please note: this code is only good on the Love Came Down line.

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As the year winds down towards its end and we all make our preparations for celebrations, gifts, and traveling, I am happy to let you in on a little secret.  (Shhhhhhh!)

Dayspring is offering an exclusive code just for you, my dear readers and friends!  For one week only, December 4 through 10, you can use the code TakeJoy30  to get 30% off anything from the Love Came Down Collection.

This beautiful line of gifts is fun–serving a Christmas cup of tea with a lovely design in dishes in  festive cups!

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The teapot and tea cups would make a lovely gift for a friend, or to set your table for an intimate Christmas teatime with your loved ones.

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This adorable plate makes me want to have tea time every day, just so I can see these cute little red birds!

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Of course, for my hot chocolate drinking friends, there is this red mug as well.  Don’t forget to use your exclusive code, TakeJoy30, to receive 30% off anything from the Love Came Down collection between December 4 and December 10.

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Another collection from Dayspring that I think would make splendid gifts are these new wall plaques called Lyrics for Life.  Each plaque has lyrics from a worship song, artistically arranged on a wall hanging.  (In Christ Alone is one of my favorite songs.) Having the truths of scripture in front of our eyes and in our minds each day, can deeply impact us.  Music and worship are an integral part of the Clarkson family heritage and traditions.

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This song, Mighty to Save, is one that we sing each year during our conferences.  It is strikingly powerful to hear hundreds of women lifting their voices in song together.  What a reminder!

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The Peanuts Christmas Special is a tradition in many families.  Little ones would enjoy setting up and rearranging and rearranging and rearranging this cute felt nativity.

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These hairpins are a bargain for less than five dollars.  A lovely reminder to a young woman that she is a daughter of the king! And a great stocking stuffer.

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And for the young men in your life, this mug is a proclamation of God’s truth for them!  Fill it with candy or another treat, and you have a simple and pleasant gift. One of my favorite passages that I made my boys memorize.

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For those of you with toddlers that enjoy coloring, Crayola now offers a coloring book to go along with the sweet books, The Princess Parables. (Written by one of my dear friends.)77644

And lastly, this book is a family favorite.  It tells the story of the three trees that will becomes Jesus’ manger, boat and cross.  This recordable book has your own voice reading the story as the child turns the pages.  A meaningful gift for any child, but especially a grandchild that lives far away from extended family or a child with a parent on a military deployment.

May you enjoy this season of giving! And don’t forget to use your coupon code, TakeJoy30, on anything from the Love Came Down Collection between December 4 and December 10, 2013.

Thanks, Dayspring, for giving Itakejoy this opportunity!

 

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.

 

 

Sunday Tea Time

Ostfriesische Rose ~ Stefan Scheer

Tea, though ridiculed by those who are naturally coarse in their nervous sensibilities will always be the favorite beverage of the intellectual.   ~Thomas de Quincey 1785-1859

Don’t you think Sunday afternoons are just the right time for a steaming cup of tea, hot, fresh cream scones straight from  the oven, clotted cream, Blackberry jam, classical music, candles and a soothing memory made? Sounds so very civilized, doesn’t it? Happy Sunday afternoon tea time to all!

The Perfect Cuppa

I almost blew a gasket yesterday. Somehow eventually got off on the wrong foot, got irritated at a silly thing, ranted and raved about it, rushed around too much, griped and complained, got lost going to a new place for piano lessons and offended one of my children sort of day. Do you ever have that kind of day?

I know people have asked if I just sit around and drink tea and read and have all my ducks in a row–but that isn’t real life for me. But it is why (and I learned it when I lived in Europe for 6 years), having a cuppa tea in the middle of the afternoon, is a sort of anchor. It brings a few minutes of quiet, sitting still, trying to catch my breath, centering again.

But if you make it in a real china cup, turn on some soothing music, light a candle–all which takes about 30 seconds, then it is not just a serge of caffeine, but it becomes an experience, an event in your day. And of course I have passed this habit on to all of my children. An aaaaahhhhhhhhh moment to save the day.

There is actually a “right” way to brewing this cup of tea. My favorite tea has been Yorkshire Gold for several years, but now I like regular Yorkshire and Barry’s Gold, too. And sometimes in a pot, I use 3 bags of one of the above and one of Earl Grey. It gives it a little zing of a taste to a whole pot. I ever travel with my own china tea cup and bags just to make sure I stop sometime to have my little moment, even when I travel. Saves my attitude many a day.

I have a fun link for you about making the perfect cuppa. Click here to learn the secrets of tea brewing bliss from Yorkshire Gold, my favorite tea! Just like the perfect cup of tea, this website takes a while to load.

Enjoy!