The Freedom of Flexible Traditions


My mom is the original Martha Stewart. She has a great eye and palate, crafting lambs out of butter for a Spring table and stuffing huge globe vases with tulips overflowing and spilling out onto a precisely pressed linen tablecloth. I once overheard a guest in our home telling her daughter, “Pay attention to what Mrs. Hopper does. Her gatherings are just wonderful.”

 They really are. But what makes my mom’s mad entertaining skills so appealing is her ability to remain flexible, adding or subtracting guests according to their needs and scrapping traditions that feel more like a burden than a blessing.

Traditions can be a wonderful thing. In fact, there are many resources around for helping you start some of your own, but what I love about the traditions in our home growing up is that they remained in flux; they grew or shrunk with the reality of our home life and the needs of our family.

So when my mom created a gorgeous sit-down Christmas meal the year my oldest brother brought two kiddos under two years old to the table, she laughed about their inability to sit with us and dine. You know how it goes with a two-year-old — down from the table in 3.7 minutes. Next Christmas she created a casual buffet that allowed us all the freedom to pop in and out of the room to nurse a baby and put the toddler down for a nap.

Traditions become a burden when they cannot morph and change with a growing family. If baking your homemade cinnamon rolls with the dreamy cream cheese frosting for Christmas morning seems daunting this year because of morning sickness, a dying relative, a shocking life change, or for any other reason, then a can of ready-to-bake rolls will not be the death of your family life. Neither will buying them from the mall, popping them in the freezer, and warming them up after the gifts are opened.

Loving our families well often means learning to let go of our grip. Traditions that cause unnecessary stress or conflict amongst family members serve one thing: the tradition itself. And what good is that?

This year our family has swelled by one college-aged “big sister” who has been living with us, bringing our family total to 11. Add in-laws next door, family coming in from the Bay Area, plus a musician friend from Nashville, a lot of traveling and speaking this spring, and I’ve got a major recipe for overwhelmed.

Despite whatever the Easter traditions have been in the past around here, I had to choose to major on the most important one of all — Jesus. We talked about Him, read about Him, quietly pondered His gift and mercy during a Good Friday service, and then rejoiced with abandon on Sunday. All the other details were periphery. Whatever I used to make for Easter brunch doesn’t matter. This year, it was a picnic in our sunny California backyard where everyone’s happy to pitch in, making the menu even more doable.

The tradition of gathering and celebrating remains firmly in tact, but there is freedom in the details. Your joy and ease will be treasured for years by children who understood that your relationships always trumped the china and the table setting. 

In this season where God has reminded us with every new blossom and leaf that he makes all things new, how can we renew the heart of some of our traditions to fit the current needs of our families?

What did you learn from your celebration this Easter?



photo credit

Children do not accidentally become righteous leaders or emotionally healthy and productive adults – any more than seeds thrown randomly to the wind grow to be part of a thriving garden. Someone needs to take responsibility for their nurture, protection, nourishment, intellectual development, manners, recreation, personal needs, and spiritual development. Someone needs to commit time and energy into staying close to them as they grow, encouraging and correcting and teaching. Sally



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Simplify: Avoid Burnout


“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” 
― Leonardo da Vinci

The voices of culture are ramping up. The  ideals espoused by countless tell us what to do, what to read, how to spend our money, how to educate our children and the chaos created from the frenzy of trying to do it all is killing the souls of mamas.

Perhaps we need to live more like “Mary” and who has chosen the good part, instead of Martha who tried to carry so much and live in constant activity.

When I was a young mom, without the internet, cell phones, facebook, and twitter, I had so much more undistracted time. My life was still busy, but I lived by my own ideals and followed the wisdom I held in my heart. I was not as tempted to look to the right and to the left to see what others were doing. I was the pioneer, the standard for my own family.

Often, people who know our children, want to know, “How did your child score a perfect score on a Harvard entrance exam?” “How did Joel become composer of the year at Berklee when he entered without even reading music?” “How did Nathan produce a movie at 24 years of age and write the script himself?” “How did Joy get a debate scholarship when she only competed in speech for 3 months?”

I am realizing more that I do need to begin speaking more on these issues again, just as a stewardship of what God has taught me. Of course, it has been the grace of God that they are all doing well, as well as a lot of hard work and diligence. But, I tried to focus on what was of the most value–to go for the gold, so to speak. My idealism led me to seek that which was the most excellent, and also the most simple and time tested.

I used to come home from conventions with swag bags full of stuff that promised to be amazing. It usually cluttered up my shelves, floor, and I rarely ever used even a portion of what I brought home. I was reflecting this morning about how the clutter of other voices usually brought confusion or comparison of myself to others–and that rarely produced good fruit in my life.

Simplicity brings order. Simplicity brings peace and rest. The more we focus on the “one thing” or at least the few things that really matter in our lives, the more we will see great fruit in our lives and the lives of our children.

A favorite quote from a sweet southern friend who had a real Texas twang was, “We do not want to create children that are a mile wide and an inch deep.”

Perhaps the goal is to create souls that are a mile deep, even if focussed on an inch of width of their calling, so that they might be best in their field. The point is, focus and intention in cultivating what really matters will produce sure results.

Even when you observe the life of Jesus, He did not go to the leaders, and seek after the “influencers” of His day. He deeply impacted a few, he traveled less than 50 miles from home, he served the local, simply, every day, and yet the strength of His words, the purity of His kingdom message turned the world upside down. Judas wanted a country-wide revolution. Jesus created a heart revolution.

So it is with education, moral strength, leadership. Excellence is built on the elegance of wisdom, and not on the slippery, overwhelming, loud proclamations of the world. Peer pressure has rarely brought about brilliance or distinction.

I see so many women spending lots of money on activities, curriculum, classes for their children and I also observe they are exhausted, burned out, unhappy and spent–these are great, wonderful hearted women. But, flurry and busyness does not always mean forward motion. Sometimes our insecurity drives us to engage in activities out of the thought that we are not capable of accomplishing something by ourselves.

Yet, home is enough, simple tried and true literature still inspires, and children are less tempted by the things of the world and the peer pressures that come with so much activity if their lives are simpler and more focussed.

Join Sarah, my daughter, and me, next Monday night for 2 hours of discussion where we will speak about the things of elegant simplicity, the pursuing of the “gold” things of life, the ways I worked in my home, to reach the minds and hearts and vision of 4 such different children. I hope we can encourage you to take a deep breath, to cut back, and to enjoy your life that God has given you.

I hope you will join us for a night of focus and an evening of inspiration about what really matters.

May He bless you with strength, wisdom and encouragement today. He is the source of your strength as you go forward.

Register HERE

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The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle Has Begun! & Discipline is the key to a Happy Child!

Today is the day, my friends! I am excited to announce that the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle has officially begun! Life as a mother can be overwhelming, and we could all use a helping hand. This spring, with the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle, you will have access to numerous resources that will fill your life, and home, with joy.

10300518_10151992095987115_6638200117991535632_nWith 84 e-books, audio files, and printables {on decorating your home, cooking, parenting, faith, and other homemaking tips}, you will find just the encouragement and inspiration you have been seeking. The Discipleship and Discipline eCourse will also be included in the great resources you gain in this amazing sale!

Who doesn’t want, and need, a library filled with every aspect of homemaking for under $30?

Feather your nest this spring with this amazing bundle. I hope that these books inspire you and give you just the encouragement you need this season to be a life-giver for your family and home!

Simply click on the photos below {available on Kindle and as a PDF} to grab your books before they are gone, as this once-in-a-lifetime deal will only last for six days.

And, Be sure to register for Home-Centered Learning Part 2. HEREHome-Centered Learning Pt. 2 Graphic (1)

So many fun opportunities right now. I look so forward to being with many of you at the e-conference on Monday night! Be sure to sign up ahead of time as the price goes up when the conference is full and after we have video-taped it. (If you can’t join us live for the conference, you will receive an outline of the messages and a code for the video so you can watch it later.)

I am so thankful for all of the wonderful comments and emails and for each of you who come here each day, so,  I would love to give away 3 of Sarah’s newest book, which will come off the press in a couple of weeks. Just share this page, about the bundle and our e-conference and enter the giveaway! We will send you an e-version of the book.


Share on Facebook with your friends and let us know and you will get 5 extra entry points.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Weaving a Love of Reading into the Fabric of Your Family–an e-conference!

Attention, sweet friends! A New Registration Page is up as the other one crashed. All who have registered are fine! Can’t wait! Check below!
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Monday Night
April 28, 7:00 Mountain time, 8:00 Central, 9:00 Eastern (6:00 Pacific)
To register for the E-Conference, click here:
How can parents cultivate heroic hearts in their children? What is imagination, and why is it vital to a child’s education? What role do great books play in shaping a child’s perception of self? How do parents develop mental muscle in their children, helping them to learn to think clearly, build a vocabulary and cultivate convictions and critical thinking?
The Clarksons have cultivated conferences to address the need for excellence in educating children while reaching their hearts for God. Sally and Sarah will each speak for 45 minutes and host a 15 minute question and answer at the end of the two talks. Space is limited, so be sure to sign up soon. (This conference is a special price, as it includes two talks for the price of one. This time we have an extra video coverage in case the network goes down again! Trying to have our bases covered and hiring extra help and equipment to assure the best video! We had to cancel the Parenting e-conference when Clay’s mom had a stroke, but will host it sometime later this summer.)
Sally’s Talk

 Join Sally Clarkson will speak about Developing Mental Muscles as she lays foundational principles that were used in their home to inspire their children to become self-motivated learners and thinkers. Education is not just a matter of choosing the right curriculum, but instead a process of capturing a child’s attention, inspire their heart and motivating them to want to learn and to engage in great thinking skills.

A home is  a natural place to cultivate academic excellence, critical thinking skills and the capacity to think and communicate clearly, with simple means. Education should be a natural process that cooperates with the home, without adding excessive pressure to consume large workbooks, or  working through impersonal text books and trying to cover too many subjects.

Sarah’s Talk

 We are story-formed souls right down to the roots of our being. We are narrative by nature, driven from birth to discover who told us alive, and to what good ending we are headed. But we lose sight of that in our practical and unimaginative age. In our pressured drive to do many things, we forget what we were created to be: heroes and heroines in the great true tale of God.

Stories remind us of our identity and they are deeply formative to the heart and soul of a child. They kindle children’s imaginations and help them to gain a vision for all they are called to do and become. My parents gave me the great gift of a childhood filled and formed by the best stories they could find. My goal in this talk is simply to help you give that gift to your children as well.

Sarah’s Talk: Caught up in a Story, based on her newest book,will inspire you to reach your children’s hearts with stories that will capture their hearts. Following the five points of dramatic arc, we will explore how great books can be a parent’s best ally in forming and filling their child’s mind and heart through every phase of childhood. We will explore the power of imagination, the way that stories drive character formation, and how the gift of a great vocabulary can expand your child’s ability to dream. I’ll even read aloud from a few of my favorite books as we celebrate the soul-forming power of story to help children imagine, and live, a great story of their own.



In her new book, and in the talk with the same title, Caught Up in A Story, Sarah Clarkson answers these vital questions, demonstrating how great books can be a parent’s best ally in shaping a child to love what is beautiful, pursue what is good, and grasp what is true. Drawing on her own story-formed childhood and her long study of children’s literature, Sarah Clarkson explores and celebrates the soul-forming power of story to help children imagine, and live, a great story of their own.


Sarah Clarkson, Sally’s oldest daughter

Sarah is a freelance writer and editor currently at work on Hope with Feathers, her first piece of children’s fiction. Sarah is the founder and editor of, an online community and resource center for families who want to discover the glories of imagination, the formative influence of story, and the soul-shaping power of beautiful words. As editor at Storyformed Books (an imprint of Wholeheart Press), she oversees the publication of a new line of fiction and essay collections designed for families ready to delve into the world of good books.

Sarah speaks regularly on topics such as story and imagination, the spiritual and educational power of beauty, literature, reading, and loneliness. She blogs personally at, and is also a regular contributor at the delightful Sarah has worked with Summit Ministries as a student mentor, and spent time as a student at Oxford University in England. When not traveling to exotic places, reading fascinating books, or sharing coffee and ideas with kindred souls, she can be found at home in Colorado, in the beautiful foothills of the Rocky Mountains.


Sally Clarkson, an author of 9 books, has educated her 4 children at home for 25 years. (Sarah, 30, is an author of three books; Joel, 27, is a composer and orchestrator for original compositions and has recorded 3 albums of original music; Nathan, 25  is an actor and just wrote and produced his first movie, Confessions of a Prodigal Son; Joy, 18, is a junior at Biola University and is on the debate team.)  Join Sally as she explains basic foundations of the educational principles she and her husband used to cultivate her children into independent thinkers, and to inspire them to own their own messages.

Clay and Sally are known for their book: Educating the Whole Hearted Child and have spoken to groups about Homeschooling all over the world for 20 years.


Whole Heart Ministry is publishing Sarah’s newest book, Caught Up in a Story: Fostering a Story-formed Life of Great Books and Imagination with Your Children. The book will launch in May.

To register for the E-Conference, click here:

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A New Season is upon me! I need your opinion!


I don’t know if I have ever been so ready for spring!

I am inspecting my yard every day for evidence that spring will actually come to Monument! Has spring fever hit you, yet?

I am also entering a new season of evaluation personally, as a mom and wife, in ministry and as a writer. God is at work and I am so grateful for being refreshed in my own vision and values for the ways I want to invest my life at this season.

I have had  letters and emails and messages from so many of you about e-conferences and more possibilities for doing things online. I would love to know what you would be most interested in hearing. God has so kindly invested in so many ways in my life and I want to be a good steward in helping, encouraging and teaching the messages that are most needed at this time. So, if you have a longing or need or wish for what you would like to hear me speak about or write about, let me know.

I am going to be making some changes in my blog and presence in the public world, but more about that later?

Would love to hear your ideas–


Traditions and Home Life?



Keeping Going in the road of ideals?

Home Education? What aspects?

Specifically what is on your heart? Other issues?

Sarah and I will probably be doing an e-conference next week –I will speak about Developing Mental Muscle in your children–cultivating the ability to think, reason, solve problems, think Biblically, and be academically strong and Sarah will be speaking about how to cultivate a strong literary presence in your home, developing a story-formed life. (Lots of women loved this talk at the mom conferences this year, so we have heard your requests and will do it very soon.) So stay tuned for that tomorrow!

Let me hear from you! Hope your Easter was wonderful!