My guest today is beloved mom and mentor, author Sally Clarkson. Her most cherished friends are her husband and 4 adult children who live all over the world. Be blessed as you hear from her today!
"...through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures."
Proverbs 24: 4
Sally says, "Proverbs teaches me that my home is a laboratory of life. It is the staging place where I fill every corner of my home with the reality of Christ's love through relationships, HIs creativity through colors, textures, art in my rooms, the wisdom of Christ through the discussions I create, the stories I share and the books I read aloud. The daily table celebrates tastes, and delights bodies by making it a place of comfort, fun and inspiration. The traditions I keep, daily devotions, nightly blessings, hugs and kisses all speak of what He is like. This verse teaches me that I am to craft all of these things that God's reality might speak through all the moments celebrated in my home. My home is a small kingdom where His reality is reflected in everything I do."
Many of us know you from your long-time ministry to mothers, but please tell us a little about your sweet family!
My four children have become a delight to my heart, and now as adults, they are truly my best friends. Now they mentor me! Clay, my husband, and I started a ministry, publishing house and conferences to women all over the world 22 years ago. Our kids grew up working at conferences, learning how to be entrepreneurs and serving others alongside us. I think working in ministry alongside our children shaped their faith and sense of self-confidence profoundly.
Sarah, 32, is married and finishing her degree in theology at Oxford, where her Dutch husband is also studying theology. She is the author of 3 books. Joel, 30, is a composer and works in film scoring and producing his own albums of original music. Following his love of teaching, he will be pursuing graduate degrees in theology of imagination and the arts at St. Andrews, Scotland. Nathan, 28, is an actor, screen writer and film producer. He is in the process of filming his second movie after just finishing the launch of a book we wrote together, called “Different: The Story of an Outside the Box Boy and the Mama Who Loved Him.” Joy, 21, is finishing her masters degree at St. Andrews, Scotland (where Kate and William met!) and is pondering her future options. Another theology student and writer. It seems to be genetic for our children to be writers and musicians—and to love strong English Tea.
What is something you worried about as a young mom and how would you counsel someone who struggles with the same worry?
As I look back, I realize that there were so many pressures to measure how I was doing as a mom by legalistic criterion, conforming standards which focus on the external behavior of children. I think focusing on rules instead of heart creates pressure on our children to be a certain way. We measure our work by our children’s behavior, (my toddler throws fits, my elementary child is slow to read, my daughter seems rebellious) or question ourselves if our boys are too loud, if our middle school children have doubts; if our teens push against us when they are actually growing towards independence. And then in response to their immaturity and quirks, we can tend to be harsh and design punishments that create more havoc. We should not compare ourselves or listen to the voices of culture or facebook.
As an older mama, I see that children go through phases, they develop self-control and character at different ages and their personalities and drives cause them to act out their responses to life in different ways. I wish I had not judged my children’s motives for misbehavior but instead learned more quickly to study what was going on inside their hearts.
When I would study their personalities, hearts and what was going on when they were struggling, I could usually find a way to invest more generously in my relationship with them and then they would respond to me and my discipline more.
True heart influence starts with relationship, not rules.
What daily rhythms and routines would you encourage every mom to pursue?
Rhythms are the foundations of a sustainable life and the anchors for creating healthy relationships. I will mention three that gave stability to our days.
Making the habit every day to spend some time committing my day to the Lord and seeking His heart determined how I invested that day in my children. I also had a regular stream of wisdom to pass on because God’s word almost always taught me something. And having daily devotions with my children follows that as a pattern for our daily lives. Devotions should be engaging, life-giving and showing the creativity, the love, the wisdom, the grace and holiness of God in every aspect of His world, relationships and His work of redeeming it back to Himself.
Eating meals together every day was also an important priority. We most always had dinner together with table talk and relationship building engagement, and did not allow phones or texting. That means the adults, too. I think our children are pursuing the professions they are today and got into the schools of their choice mainly because of our dinner time discussions and discourse on every possible subject in the world. Creating a verbal environment. This habit created mental muscle and convictions in their lives, at least that is what they all say.
A third rhythm is to close every day in blessing. Even now, we kiss our adult children goodnight and bless them with our words. When they were small, we prayed with them each night, scratched their backs or kissed them and gave them a hug or hand rub and tied up the day well. No anger before sleep. Just love, peace-making and blessing and going one more time before God together. We followed the law of love—forgiveness and grace was always the end to our day and steadfastness in our relationships was the goal, amidst imperfect people.
I love these three simple but profound rhythms, Sally! You speak often of family culture and "family ways" how would you encourage a young mom to begin cultivating these values in her own family?
As you know, I wrote the book, The Lifegiving Home, because I wanted to help women begin to think about creating their own cultural values for their home. I would suggest getting a journal and writing down what legacy you would like to leave through your life, your home, your mothering, your stewardship of ministry. What character qualities are important to you personally.
I also sought to find books that challenged me to the values I wanted to embrace. Wise women copy or emulate wise women. Filling your own heart and soul with practical ideas and wisdom on a regular basis means your soul will be filled when you have to keep giving out on a regular basis.
Make plans and goals in these areas:
- A work ethic (chores to learn this when they are old enough)
- Creating a Reading Environment and making regular time for it
- Creating a culture of Words of love and encouragement
- Meal time traditions
- Birthday traditions that focus on blessing and speaking forward in the lives of their children
- Church culture and attendance
- Holiday Celebrations
- Family Fun times (park, movies, game nights)
- Ways to serve others or to minister together
I would also encourage women to learn to live by faith and to follow hard after God and what His voice tells you to do. Most of the work we have accomplished in our ministry and through the lives of our children came from following His voice, not the voices of others.
You are quite free to be yourself.
You travel, collaborate, and minister with your own adult children. What has surprised you most about working with your own kids?
Honestly, I did not know how much our hard work of seeds that were planted would bear such amazing fruit and that our messages were really taking effect in their lives. Sometimes in the messes of life and the constancy of challenging days, it does not always look like heart transformation is actually taking place. I am surprised at their deep passion for Christ, though of course that was our hope. Their wisdom, their strength of conviction and ability to think and process ideas floors me. I am also surprised at how hard they work, because it seemed like we never got all the work at home finished. But they were learning through the practice of working every day. They are indeed my adult best friends and of course, because we lived so intentionally together, we all love the same things and love doing life together. I never knew how much they would become our most cherished friends.
You have such a beautiful heart for mentoring younger women, Sally. How would you encourage a young mom to seek out a mentor, and how would you encourage an older woman to seek out a mentee?
Look for women who are ahead of you in your church, friends, family and ask them to meet with you for coffee or tea. Then share with them that you would appreciate it if you could spend some regular time with them occasionally and pick their brain. I always tell young women it may take three tries, but eventually someone will respond. Don’t wait for others to come to you—I have had to initiate in most strong relationships I have ever had.
I also cultivated mentors through books.
I have to ask: Would you like to share an embarrassing mom moment?
There were those occasions when I went ballistic with my children. I was quite sure God Himself was very disappointed with me. Once one of my children said, “Mama, when you feel frustration building, you should catch yourself before you embarrass yourself and then have to apologize.” I also mentioned in my newest book, Different, of a time when I was so done with my different child, Nathan, I walked away from him in a restaurant and pretended I did not know him. We are all flawed and quirky, but God is so very gracious to work with us in our fragility. Humility comes from admitting you are flawed and weak and need His help. It also makes other mamas feel more normal to know your inadequacies and builds friendships.
When you feel weak as a mom what passage of scripture do you turn to the most?
“With God, nothing is impossible.”Matthew 19:26b
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”Phil. 4: 16
“The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:13
I find you full of surprises, Sally. What is something we don't know about you?
I used to sing in a band. I have been influenced by my international involvement in life and I am not as American in my values as some would suppose. I love and interact with a very wide variety of people, not just evangelicals. I simply love people of every background and see God’s fingerprints in their lives.
Any projects and plans ahead we can know about?
I love doing weekly podcasts and keeping up with my sweet audience of women—it is so much fun. (At Home with Sally and Friends).
I have a new book coming out in October about creating a Life giving table and cultivating great conversations in your home.
I am cultivating an active ministry and a series of conferences for women in the UK and Europe as an emphasis of my ministry in the next couple of years,
I am very, very grateful for the opportunity to be involved with so many wonderful, generous hearted women. I love the opportunity to be involved in encouraging them.
And I am really love what you are doing—you give me such inspiration, Ruth.
Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us, Sally. It's a privilege to glean from your passion to cultivate heart and home. Thanks for being a part of this series!
Because of grace,