The Ministry of the Ordinary Life

Coffee-2-cups

There is much beauty to ponder at Christmas. The beauty of the Christ Child coming to earth to save the souls of men–His name shall be called Immanuel, God with us.

As the holiday season comes to a close, it is so wonderful to remember that Jesus is with us every day of our lives. He is in the warp and woof of the everyday life; He is the fabric of our essential being. This is one of my favorite parts of Christianity, the fact the we have the Holy Spirit who dwells in each of us and helps us to walk out the Christian life. We are never alone; Christ makes His home in our hearts.

As I reflect on the New Year, I find myself thinking about the days to come and wondering what my heart desires to fill each of them with this coming year. At the core of my thoughts and dreams is a desire to make a difference for the Lord.  I think that, as Christians, most of us would say this is our desire, but for the most part our daily lives get in the way of what we think holiness and serving the Lord should look like.

So much of the time, our hearts want to minister, to make a difference for the Lord, but we find ourselves knee-deep in the music of the everyday life: laundry, cleaning, meals, sibling squabbles, sick children, discipling our children, listening to our children, helping in-laws to feel connected to the children, meals needed for friends, and making time for our sweet husbands… just to name a few.

My desire is to challenge each of us to readjust our thinking, to realize that these things, the seemingly insignificant things of life, are the notes that make the music of our ministry. This is the time in our life where we are creating our greatest symphony of ministry, our grand Opus.

What if we all looked at our lives differently? What if we all could be like Brother Lawrence, a monk who live 300 years ago and taught about the presence of God being in the ordinary life and said “The time of work,”  he said, “does not with me differ from the time of prayer.  In the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great a tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Supper.” Brother Lawrence had the uncanny ability to look at each activity or chore he did as worship unto the Lord, as his ministry of the everyday life.

Scripture says this perfectly in Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

And Jesus simplified this concept of the ministry of the everyday life when he said, “This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you.”  John 15:12

Beloved, may I suggest that we all look at our lives differently this year? May I suggest that we walk with Jesus, one day at a time, and pray for God to give us a heart for everyday, ordinary ministry? We could all pray at the beginning of each day for the Lord to help us to be others-centered, humble, and aware of the needs of those around us, to see the hearts of the people God has placed us with, and to know how to minister to them in a way they feel loved.

Here are some simple ways I have found to truly bless the people God has placed in our lives:

1. Hug your children and tell them each something you love about them. Look them in the eyes when you talk to or listen to them. Make time in your day to just be available for your children. A good saying is “Put down the work and pick up the child.”

2. Text your husband at work and tell him that you are so proud of him and some of the reasons why. Better yet, make known the fact that you are very attracted to him.

3. Take your teenager out for lunch or coffee and ask them how their heart is doing. (Ask God ahead of time for the ability to see your child’s heart and what they might be struggling with or concerned about)

4. Try to get in the habit while your children are young of asking them to sit with you at the end of each day to tell you all about how they are doing, and what’s on their minds, even if it’s trivial or silly. This habit comes in handy when your children are old enough to drive, and will automatically know that when they get home you will want to sit with them and hear all about their day. It’s important to know the details of your children’s lives and how their friendships are doing and how their hearts are.

5. Call a friend or family member to pray, even if it’s just a quick 5 minute prayer. Let them know that you will be keeping them in your prayers that day.

6. Send a note to a friend telling her what you love about her and how she has blessed your life.

7. Double one of your meals to keep in the freezer to take to a friend when she is having a bad day.

8. Pray a silent prayer for people you see when you are out and about during your day- the cashier at the store the next time you buy groceries, the mom of the child that is throwing a fit at the mall, the homeless man on the street corner, or anyone the Holy Spirit brings to mind to pray for. Ask God to give you a heart of compassion for the people around you so you will know how to pray.

9. Have the children make a card for their Grandparents. Also, Skype can help them to feel connected to their grandchildren if they are far away.

10. Make time for your friends. Pray for your friendships; for God to strengthen and protect them. Ask God to heal the ones that are strained or broken. Have a friend over for a quick cup of tea. Light a candle, put on some beautiful music, and have a cookie or simply a piece of delicious chocolate. God-ordained friendships are worth the effort, and close, lifelong friendships are a blessing.

These things may seem small and insignificant, but they make up a beautiful life and encouraging ministry to those the Lord has entrusted you with.

What are some small  ways you create beautiful and minister to those in your life? 

These Few Sheep

These Few Sheep

In the midst of raising little ones, a mother may find herself at odds with the future. Often, dreams and gifts are shelved in preference of little people with constant needs.

Conflict ensues between the privileged nature of motherhood and the long pause in what was a productive, somewhat predictable life.

How does a mother measure success?

Some say life is made up of defining moments. A typical Sunday revealed itself as one of those moments for me. While the speaker expounded on the life of David, I did not expect to be singled out by the Lord. No one around me suspected the arresting that took place that Sunday morning – of my mind, will and emotions – held captive by a thought which transformed into a desire to take the Lord at His word – at home.

Mothers of young children can feel overlooked in the church setting. From the pulpit we hear of mission trips, service opportunities, small groups, worship bands and all sorts of public endeavors. But with a van full of car seats and nap times looming – I was in no place to serve in public. I knew it – but needed affirmation from above.

The speaker described in vivid detail the life of David. Not David the king, but David the shepherd. As the sermon unfolded – time stood still for me. I felt all alone – in a good way – personalizing the story.

David’s brothers mocked him for having such a small job – tending to his ‘few sheep’. They were fighting the big battles, had the upfront positions and represented little brother to the world. David had no voice for public ears. His thoughts were relegated to the mound of sheep off the beaten path of real life and no one expected more of him.

But David sought the Lord in his isolation. He used the years of serving and protecting his ‘few sheep’ as an opportunity to know God. He did have a voice – and an audience of ONE. On the backside of a mountain David learned to pray – not in the, ‘I’m asking for things’ kind of praying but in the, ‘Lord, I want to know your more ‘ fashion. He turned his thoughts into songs (Psalms) which soothed the sheep and brought heaven to earth.

David fought off lions and bears – archenemies poised to steal, kill and destroy his flock. His sheep knew his voice and he knew their limitations.

While David was being faithful in the little – God was training his hands for war and capturing the shepherd’s heart for His own. Culture would eventually be shaped and history rearranged by the actions of this unassuming sheep herder.

I remember the Sunday service, like it was yesterday. I left church with my pile of notes – and mulled over the facts, chewing on the hard truths of God’s ways.

Little becomes much – Up is down – The backside of the mountain is in the presence of the King.

My eyes were opened to the possibilities. What if?

What if I embraced this role of mom/shepherd tending to my ‘few sheep’ with everything I had? What if I learned to know God during these busy, quiet years? What if  I was all right with being misrepresented without a voice?

Fast forward a decade, or two, and this shepherd/mom is in a whole, new place. The little lambs are strapping men and lovely ladies. Some days I long for the season when life was simple, kids were little and God was so near.

I’m  thankful for a church leader who ministered the word of God in a timely fashion – fitly spoken for my hungry heart in need of a defining moment.

Young mom – use these tender days to watch over your little ones. Learn the dynamics of spiritual warfare by protecting them and get to know your God while in the quiet place on the backside of the world.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
 Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost–It has made all the difference!


Recently, at the webinar, a mom asked, “How did you face your friends and family who didn’t understand your ideals?”

Taking a risk to do life differently, better, following God’s trail by faith, has changed the course of the Clarkson history–but, by taking the road less travelled, we have witnessed the miracles and provision of the hand of God in amazing ways.

This, one of my favorite poems, (and I made all the kids memorize it) reflects the faith, following ideals, road.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both,
And be one traveler , long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
But as for that, the passing there
had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted I would ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two rods diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

IMG_0163

Since the first year Clay and I were married, we tried each fall to go drive through the mountains to see the aspen when they changed to the golden and read and bronze. A mother is the god-ordained professor who is to open the soul and mind of her children to the truths reflected in God’s creation. God has provided ample evidence of His wisdom, power and beauty in each season.

Last weekend, Clay said that he thought we should take the time to go for one day to the mountains before we left to make time to see the beauty together. Though we were all busy, we are so very thankful for the way it filled our souls to marvel at His handy work and to reflect that each season has its own beauty and evidence of God’s intimate involvement.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” What a beautiful poem this is–and such a rich amount of wisdom to discuss and reflect with your children—choices have consequences, whatever decisions you make will determine much of the rest of your life–it is so important to let God’s word and truth direct your priorities and decisions. And I love the last line, “And I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Clay and I took the homeschooling road when no one thought we should. We moved our family into ministry situations with us all over the world when no one thought we should. We raised support when certain family members thought we shouldn’t. We left a good job and security and insurance and went 5 years without a salary to start Whole Heart Ministries when it seemed crazy. We committed ourselves to idealistic discipleship grace-based parenting when others thought we would ruin our children. Obviously we have not lived a perfect life and have made mistakes along the way. However, we made our decisions by faith, based on convictions we found in scripture. Our desire was to please God, to build foundations that could not be shaken. God has been so faithful to us each step of the way–we took the road less traveled by and that has made all the difference.

Today, I celebrated the 93rd birthday of my oldest, sister type friend’s mom’s birthday. We had a chocolate party for her (brownies, cake, cookies, candy bars and mousse–it was her favorites) She has lived through two World Wars, the depression, breast cancer, the deaths of her husband and two of her three children. Yet, she has lived to see God’s faithfulness.

This summer, fire devastated and destroyed 500 homes. Now we are in the midst of a crisis of flood over our whole state. This year, 3 precious ones have committed suicide that are dear to us. Several of my best friends have had cancer.  We could all be tempted to panic when life feels so uncertain. 

Yet, taking the risky roads less taken has taught me that God is trustworthy. He is in control, He will be faithful to us as we walk roads of faith. It is an important for us to teach our children to have the courage of their convictions to take the road less taken-the road of faith, the road of ideals. Life does not always turn out as we would expect it to, but God is always faithful. We all only have one life to live in which to live by faith in God, to trust in Him and rest in His peace when we are tempted to panic. We are given one life to live for His ideals and for His convictions. Then we will see Him face to face.

Let us be bold before His throne in this challenging time. Let us be of those who do not shrink back. Let us be of those whose hearts remain steadfast even in the midst of trials. God will be faithful to us. We will grow and be stretched and become less selfish and more mature and give our children a better model –if we stay faithful to his call upon our individual lives. He will call each of us to different ideals, but He will call us to step out in faith, in courage and in ministry. May His goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives and may we resist fear and live by faith until we see Him face to face. May God give each of you a special gift of His grace and peace in the midst of your trials. May He allow you to reflect on His beauty in creation as an example of His seasons and may each of you have a peaceful heart. Many blessings of His grace.

As Sarah recently wrote, “Hard realities–broken hearted facts are not ignored but faced with grace. This rises up with a lifestyle of hard work and community that, while never denying grief, yet seeks to move through life with a fragile but real hope.”

Indeed, God led us to take the road less traveled, and that has indeed made all the difference.

The Discipleship & Discipline Webinar

Over 1,000 moms joined us on the Discipleship & Discipline Webinar! If you weren’t able to attend the live course, now you can get it on-demand. If you would like to get access to the Webinar, simply click here. It was so much fun, and we are so excited to share this with you.
webinar

 

A Life that says, “Welcome!”

image

“Welcome” greets each weary traveler as they drag heavy suitcases awkwardly up our little entry steps. Candles flicker, music softly wafts through the air and chocolate almonds, tiny wrapped gouda cheeses all say, “you are a valued person and we want you to find rest and peace as you enter our home.”

The past few weeks, giggles, tears, antics and life-stories amuse the walls of our home, as countless friends have filed into this Clarkson homestead.  Bible studies, dinners for students visiting at a local ministry, a leadership intensive, sweet friends coming for a “cuppa” and a few minutes shared rocking on the front porch, sweet children home for limited days, and a friendship talk. all mark the occasions of a visit.

Always there is endless eating; and hearts wanting to be loved and encouraged. Sanctuary has been on my mind the past few months as I have sought to understand the importance of having a home where all can expect to come for life, beauty and peace–and to feel the touch of Him in a tangible way through our words, hands, and embraces.

Godly women shape their homes into sanctuaries where the love of God, the comfort of Jesus, the celebration of joy sings through the very oxygen of the cracks and corners of her home and brings just what each one needs as they enter there.

“We view the ministry of hospitality in our home as God’s tool for us to train our children in graciousness. When someone comes to our home, our children know that we expect them to be gracious and quick to serve. That means welcoming adult guests properly, asking if there is something they can get for them, taking their coat, or whatever is appropriate to the visit. (Hospitality drills are a helpful way to train them in this area).

Our children know that being well-mannered and gracious is more than just a cultural formality…it is the way we show respect to another person, affirm their value as a person made in God’s image, and strengthen our testimony to them not only as a Christian family but also as a homeschooling family.

It is the practical expression of treating others the way you want to be treated, regarding others as more important than yourself, and looking out for the interests of others. Even when we go to someone else’s house, we will still practice hospitality. We rehearse with the kids before they leave the car how to be gracious guests who are polite, respectful, and helpful.”
-Educating the Wholehearted Child

image

Even though my children are now young adults, they still help me every time we welcome anyone into our home. Joy will be bustling around, setting up for tea time, and before I know it, another child has already cleaned up the entire kitchen. The dishes will be washed, the counters tidied, and each guest is sure to have been welcomed and served.

image

This desire to serve, help, and host does not appear out of thin air. In order for your family to be a team that works together as a unit when you have guests over, your children must have TMI (no-not “too much information.”)

-Training:
Train in grace behavior (manners). Value and pursue priority relationships. Train your children how to pray.

-Modeling:
Moms-set the example. Be gracious and kind to family members. Show grace and love to strangers.

-Instruction:
About our relationship with God. About the power of the Holy Spirit–lived out through real people to real people.

Proverbs 22:6 states:

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

It is absolutely crucial that we train our children in the ways of graciousness. This also means that you must have patience and grace with your children as they learn how to serve others.

Start practicing by assigning your children different ways they can help the next time you have friends or family over for dinner. If you remember TMI, your little ones will flourish into adults who are loving, gracious, polite, and respectful.

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!

***********************************************************************************

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.