pdf of Issacharian Daughters – ID053 – click on link below for correct layout and photos
Monday, 16 April 2007
Interview with Sally Clarkson
Sally is, first and foremost, a full-time, stay-at-home-schooling mom. Her life revolves around her four wholehearted children: Sarah 22, Joel 19, Nathan 17 and Joy 11. These were their ages at the beginning of 2006 when I interviewed Mrs Clarkson. In addition to her ministry to her family, God has also given her a ministry to other families and to homeschooling mothers through speaking and writing. She and her husband Clay wrote the homeschooling classic, Educating the Whole Hearted Child, and they operate Wholeheart Ministries (www.wholeheart.org) from Monument, Colorado in the USA.
Genevieve: You homeschooled all your children. What key pieces of advice can you give as a result of all your years of experience?
Mrs Clarkson: I think that the most important thing for a mother to do is to have a quiet time. Read the Word every day. Spend some time praying over your children. Read good books. I haven’t had many mentors, and so I have read a lot of books about spiritual people and by people who have really caused me to love God more. Any book that I can have in my life that makes me want to be more Godly, to love God more, is excellent because our children are drawing from our heart; and if we have an empty heart, then we will have nothing to give.
What are some good books that you would recommend for parents to read?
There is a book called Hints on Child Training. Read that and any book by J C Ryle. He wrote a great one called The Duties of Parents. My husband has a collection of books written by J C Ryle which he has obtained from all over the place!
What are some other books that you could recommend for Mums or Dads or even for young folks who might read this interview?
I do love the writings of Edith Schaeffer for women, for mothers. There is What is a Family? and The Hidden Art of Homemaking. All of us have read L’Abri numerous times. It is just a great picture of a life of missions. I am really enjoying an author just now called Eugene Peterson. I love the writings of C S Lewis and of Richard Foster. I have enjoyed some books by Phillip Yancey.
You mentioned not having many mentors. There are probably lots of homeschooling mums out there who were in the same position but who are coming out the other end of homeschooling and beginning to think about their Titus 2 responsibilities. How do you view your work now as being part of your role as an older woman?
I often think that God uses people who are available more than He uses people who are spiritual, because if He uses me, it is mainly because I’m available! I really do think that a lot of the women in the homeschool movement are leaving and going on their merry way when they are through with their children. However I think that the Biblical pattern is for us to comfort those with the comfort with which we have been comforted, to teach them, to instruct them, to encourage them. Even though I didn’t have mentors and I didn’t have a lot of family, I wish that I had. It would have made my life a lot easier. I do feel like God wants women to step up to the plate and do this. It is kind of why we wrote all of my last few books, Seasons of a Mother’s Heart, Mission of Motherhood, Ministry of Motherhood, with a Bible study at the end of every chapter. We wanted to make it easy for women to gather a group of women around a coffee or tea and to be able to read a chapter and discuss it or have some Bible study questions. Not all women are confident or feel like they are speakers, but I think that all women who walk with God are competent to create an environment where the Holy Spirit mutually encourages them through each other’s friendship. So I do feel passionately about the importance of older women encouraging, loving, praying for younger women and being a part of bringing the word of God to bear in their lives.
Now you have a couple of daughters. Tell us about being an older woman in terms of your daughters. How has Titus 2 influenced your training of them?
My girls are my best friends. My training of them has been through discipleship, through living together and through having them alongside me through all the aspects of our home. Sarah is 22 now and is just an incredible picture. She decorates beautifully. She writes beautiful books. She brings life wherever she goes. She brings beauty wherever she goes. I’ve heard it said before that discipleship is best taught when caught. But I don’t think that is true. I think that discipleship is best taught and caught. She needs to hear the words, and then she needs to see me acting them out. It is both instruction and living the life together. I feel like my girls are my best disciples.
Your children are beginning to come out the other end of homeschooling. How has this changed or molded your view of homeschooling?
I think that homeschooling and launching your children out in the world is just another part of the path of faith. There are no guarantees. I don’t know what is going to happen. I don’t know how they are going to end up or who they are going to marry or if they are going to marry. I just see that it is a time to enjoy them; to trust God and to know that He will be there every step of the way. I think that we always want a formula or a list or closure. I don’t think God ever gives it. Every day is a walk of faith.
What encouragement can you give to mothers who still have a ways to go to see the fruit of their labours?
The more you homeschool and love your children and discipline them, the more you realize how it is just a natural part of God’s design, and your children become your best friends and you see these great ideas and talents and things in their souls that you can’t even take credit for. It is like the verse in Proverbs which says that the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn which shines brighter and brighter until the full day. Homeschooling is like that. When you watch the sunrise you see tiny evidences of it at the beginning, and then it starts filling the sky, and eventually it is throughout the whole horizon. I feel like it has been like that for us homeschooling in that the more we just learn to love as a family, become friends and live life together, I just saw so many more tangible results than I ever thought I would. And it wasn’t about school. It was about life.
What ways have you found to balance schedules, nutrition, exercise, etc., for yourself and your family?
We have a saying in our family that you can only have so many ideals at once, so you need to make sure that the ideals you can have are the right ones. The Lord first. My husband and children next. But I realized that I needed to take responsibility for my health so that I could be the best I could be long-term. Somewhere along the way I began exercising more, eating the right foods, drinking water. I learned that it was more important for me to get enough rest at night than to finish drying the last dish.
What are your main messages? What are the things on your heart that you like to share with people as much as possible?
The more they know God and fall in love with Him and relate to Him every day, the more capacity they will have in every other area of life to do a good job. When their soul is informed by Him, then they will be more creative, more energetic, more wise, more trusting in every other area. I like to speak on how to walk with God.
Sarah is finished with her homeschooling. But probably not with learning! What is your training/discipling focusing on now?
I have to say that I’m more of her companion than her trainer. She has become one of the most spiritual people I know. She has become my best friend. We advise each other. I try to come along beside her more as a spiritual companion to encourage, to validate, to give insight, to listen. Pretty much our training in a way is gone. She has absorbed so much of who Clay and I are and what our lives are like. I feel like she and I are almost like mirror images. I advise her because I’m her mother, but I don’t really have any goals for training for her anymore because she is such a complete adult.
How did your work in discipleship ministries with the young women at the University of Texas help prepare you for your training of your own daughters?
I think the most important thing I learned when I was on staff with Campus Crusade was the importance and the benefit of having a plan and setting goals and then training my goals in very specific things. Knowing that I could accomplish a lot more if I could define what it was that I wanted to accomplish. So Clay and I use a calendar. We use planning goals. So for Joy I say,??Lord, what does she need to grow in? ?? So the years I had in planning other leaders I learned that I needed to be very specific about exactly what it was that I wanted to do, and the more strategic and specific I was, the more I accomplished my goals.
Would you be willing to share more about your goals you have had for your daughters?
I wanted them to become mature disciples of Christ. My husband and I summarized our discipleship plan with the word GIFTS. It stands for Grace, Inspiration (viewing everything in terms of God’s Sovereignty), Faith, Training and Service. I hoped that my daughters would become really mature in graciousness, understanding God’s grace and really relating to others because I think that unless a child learns to relate in a mature way, they can’t really share Christ. They can’t be a good wife. They can’t be a good friend. So I really focused on developing a child who was socially gracious: loving, mature, serving. I wanted to give them a real sense that they were called by God and that in their lives they had a stewardship to bring His image to bear, to be a Kingdom Keeper so to speak. I wanted them to say,??Lord in the few years that I have on this earth, what do you want me to do? ?? And of course I wanted to give them a foundation of faith and to give them convictions and wisdom and to show them how to walk by faith and to give them a godly character, to give them the training so that they would know how to work hard to be diligent, to be trustworthy. I wanted them to learn how to serve. I wanted them to have experience in learning how to communicate in front of people. All of my kids have to do that regardless of personality. I wanted them to know how to teach a Bible study, how to be hospitable and cook meals, how to be a good wife and know how to encourage people who were discouraged and just that whole picture of learning to serve and love in different areas. Even beyond that, that they would also know how to create a wonderful life-giving creative base. Both of the girls are great at creating beauty and tastes and sounds and beauty and life. Look at them sitting over there. They are both so talented. I am just amazed.
Can you talk more about bringing an understanding of God to our children?
One of the greatest Bible studies I did was on God’s attributes. One of God’s attributes that I have been aware of and loved recently is His transcendance. So I teach my children about God’s attributes. I teach them that He is transcendant. That means that He is with my boys in Colorado while He is with me in New Zealand. It is that incarnational living. It is that Christ in me is living out in every aspect. Some areas that I don’t think people emphasise very much are that God created the senses of smell, taste, touch, hearing and sight. So I really would point out that the first thing about God that we know is that the Bible says,??In the beginning, God created. ?? He is the Creator; of beauty, of pleasure, of love, of fun, of good meals, of tastes. He created chili peppers and fish and corn chips and papaya! I have tried to make Him real. Not just in theology. Within His creation. And within His Scriptures. When we have devotions, we dramatise them. We read the Scriptures passionately. We read them with fervor. I just really wanted my children to know that God was incarnate in them. That they were to be the hands of God, the voice of God, the touch of God. The more I could make God’s attributes, His presence, His creation a real thing in their everyday lives, then they would learn to relate to Him in a more personal way.
You are an introvert at heart and yet here you are with this speaking ministry. This looks like the sanctifying work of the Lord in your life. Do you have any comments about this and what the Lord can do with us when we give ourselves to Him?
One of the things that is missing in Christians’ lives is that most people don’t feel a sense of stewardship for the world. From the time I became a Christian, I had this sense that what I knew, I was responsible to share with somebody else. There are a lot of times where my husband and I would rather sit at home and drink a cup of tea and read a good book and never leave the house or at least just go on a long, wonderful trip together. We get drained a lot of times by traveling and speaking together though we love people. The thing that really keeps us going in ministry is seeing people’s needs. An aspect of Christ’s heart is that when He looked out on the multitudes, He felt compassion for them. As long as we see needs and feel compassion for people, it is the love of God that drives us to keep doing this, because we are pretty individualistic, independent, introverted at heart. So I do think it is that drive that Jesus had to go into the world, seeing needs, to be a steward of all that I know that keeps us working rather than giving up to that desire to stay at home drinking tea and reading our books.
This has been a treat to hear your answers to these questions. Thank you for your comments and for sharing so much of your life with us in this interview.
Sally Clarkson’s books can be obtained in New Zealand from Christian Education Services by calling Carol Munroe on (09) 410-3933. The Duties of Parents by J C Ryle mentioned by Sally Clarkson in the interview can be obtained from me. Email me for details.
For the Greater Glory of God through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,